Recent visit to Pisa, part 2

Continuing my walk along the Lungarno Galileo Galilei on my visit last week to Pisa, I came upon the distinctive church of San Sepolcro.


The Church of the Santo Sepolcro (literally meaning the “Church of the Holy Sepulchre”) is shaped to resemble the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which was conquered by the crusaders in 1099. The Pisan church had relics carried to Pisa by archbishop Dagobert, after his participation in the First Crusade.

Built in the early 12th century (it is known at least from 1113), it was designed by Diotisalvi, who also designed the Baptistery of Pisa Cathedral forty years later. It has an octagonal plan and, until the 16th century, was surrounded by a portico. The central tambour, supported by eight ogival arches, is super-elevated and is surmounted by a conic cusp.

The portals have decorations with animals and lions’ heads in marble. The interior, restored in 1720 in Baroque style, was destroyed in the 19th century. What remains include a bust-reliquary of St. Ubaldesca (15th century) with a pail which, according to the tradition, belonged to the saint; the tombstone of Marie Mancini, Mazarin’s niece; and a 15th-century panel of the Madonna with Child.

The unfinished small bell tower is in Pisane-Romanesque style, with rectangular plan.

Unfortunately, the church wasn’t open while I was in Pisa, so I’ll try to visit it on my next trip to this interesting little city.

This plaque is embedded int he wall near the church, making reference to Jerusalem.

Above, the bellower attached to San Sepolcro.

I admire some interesting door ensembles on the fronts of various palazzi along the Lungarno.

I find these palazzi fascinating, especially when you can see the remnants of older buildings along the facade. See the arches and stone parts on the righthand image in the first row below?

The well-known Palazzo Blu is located along this stretch of the Lungarno, shown below. It surprisingly happened to be open on the day I was in Pisa, with a current exhibition on De Chirico. I didn’t take the time to see the show, but I hope to on my next visit. It is hard to make a plan with museum reopening after Covid. You never know what you to expect or plan for! The palazzo really is this blue. A surprising contrast with the ochre and golden buildings elsewhere along the Lungarno.

Lots of little medieval alleys and passageways beckon the passerby. You need amble time to follow all these attractive routes.

As surprising as the Palazzo Blu is with its blue stucco walls, this lime green palazzo was also a stand out.

As I continued along the Lungarno on the south side of the Arno, I found this lovely, tiny, gothic church, the Santa Maria della Spina. It is a Gothic style masterpiece.

I looked the church up in Wikipedia:

Santa Maria della Spina was erected around 1230 in the Pisan Gothic style, and enlarged after 1325, was originally known as Santa Maria di Pontenovo for the newer bridge that existed nearby. That bridge collapsed in the 15th century, and was never rebuilt.

The name of della Spina (“of the thorn”) derives from the presence of a thorn, putatively part of the crown of thorns placed on Christ during his Passion and Crucifixion. The relic was brought to this church in 1333.

In 1871 the church was dismantled and rebuilt on a higher level due to dangerous infiltration of water from the Arno river. The church was altered in the process, however, and John Ruskin, who visited Pisa in 1872, was outraged about the restoration.

The church no longer houses the thorn relic; it is now in the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, which is on Via Roma.

This little church has one of the most outstanding Gothic edifices in Europe: it has a rectangular plan, with an external facing wholly composed of marble, laid in polychrome bands. The exterior appearance is marked by cusps, tympani and tabernacles, together with a complicated sculpture decoration with tarsiae, rose-windows and numerous statues from the main Pisane artists of the 14th century. These include Lupo di Francesco, Andrea Pisano with his sons Nino and Tommaso, and Giovanni di Balduccio.

The façade has two gates with lintelled arches. Among these lies the tabernacle with the statues of Madonna with the Child and two Angels, attributed to Giovanni Pisano. Two niches open in the upper part of the façade: these house the statue of Christ among the two Annunciation ones, and two other angels.

The right side has also a rich decoration with cusps and thirteen statues of the Apostles and Christ, from Lupo’s workshop. The small sculptures portraying Saints and Angels over the tympani are from Nino Pisano’s workshop, while the niche in the right pillar has a Madonna with Child by Giovanni di Balduccio.

The back side has three round arches with simple windows. The tympani are decorated with the Evangelists’ symbols, intervalled by niches with the statues of the Saints Peter, Paul and John the Baptist. The high pyramid-like spires end with the statues of the Madonna with Child between two angels, by Nino Pisano.

My photos below are from the east end of the exterior, which is the back of the church.

The photos below are from the south side of the little church:

Below is the facade of the chiesa.

As I cross the bridge to the north side of the Arno river, this is how the little gothic church looks from afar. You can also see what a splendid February afternoon it was in Pisa! I feel so fortunate to be able to spend days in Tuscany, despite Covid restrictions.

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