Imagine you decided to spend a romantic weekend in Tuscany. And imagine you're driving around Pisa, hence deciding for a quickie visit to the Piazza dei Miracoli, a.k.a. Piazza del Duomo. Standing in a large green expanse, Piazza del Duomo houses a group of monuments known the world over. These four masterpieces of medieval architecture - the dome, the baptistry, the campanile (the 'Leaning Tower') and the cemetery - had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century and are today part of the UNESCO Heritage.
The Dome of Santa Maria Assunta, a medieval building, whose construction began in 1064 by the architect Buscheto (father of a distinctive Romanic style), is a Latin-cross shaped Cathedral, with a large structure of marble, calcar and stone more than 100 meters long, with a large dome. The different styles of the impressive facade are beautifully blended to create a unity of unsurpassed harmony. The interior of the Cathedral is solemn. There are five aisles (three in the transept) and two galleries overlooking the central nave. The columns supporting the round arches come from different places and belong to different times. In the middle of the nave, near the inner wall of the cathedral, is a long line of imposing granite colonnades, which are almost all antique and have capitals of Corinthian style. The women's gallery with little loggias is located above the nave. The spectacular XIII century Pulpit by Giovanni Pisano in the middle of the Cathedral, was reassembled in 1926. Its beautiful octagonal structure, with sculptures and reliefs, is an outstanding example of the transition period of European art from the Romanesque style to the dramatic Gothic forms.
The circular baptistry was begun in 1152 and finished a century later by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Recently Italian musicologists cracked a five century-old acoustic code to reveal that Christianity's largest baptistery is a musical instrument, designed to mimic the pipes of a church organ. The acoustics beneath the 75-meter (250ft) cupola are so perfect that it must be either an incredible coincidence or the work of genius.
For many years it was believed that the inclination of the Leaning Tower was part of its design, but today we know that the Tower was designed to stand vertically and started to lean during its construction, when three stories high; attempts to compensate for this during its construction give the tower a slightly curved shape. The 180 ft (55m) Leaning Tower is the bell tower, or campanile, for the Dome of Santa Maria Assunta. Its construction started in 1173 and continued, off and on, for the next 200 years. By the 1990s, the tower was tilting more than 13 ft from the vertical and restoration efforts were made in 1993 and again in 1995, reducing the tilt to 11'8". The present restoration is predicted to preserve the tower's stability for some 300 more years. Before leaving the Piazza, do not forget to visit the Camposanto and - if you do not suffer from vertigo - enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the Leaning Tower ...