The Pisan Romanesque Style: Other churches in the city of Pisa


The Church of San Paolo all’Orto

This Church is documented from 1086. It was run by an order of Augustinian Dominican nuns living a convent in via Romea from 1472 to 1808, when the convent was suppressed. The lower part of the façade is decorated in the style typical of Pisan Romanesque architecture, first  used in the Cathedral: rounded blind arches, pilasters, architraves, rhombs and roses, two-toned marble inlays and human or animal heads with symbolic meanings, carved on capitals, from followers of Gugliemo (end of 12th century). The massive brick bell tower was probably built in the 13th century.

Inside, columns with medieval capitals mixed with remains of 18th -19th stucco decorations are visible. Recent renovations have recovered traces of 12th and 13th century painting.

The Church of San Frediano

According to contemporary accounts, this church was already standing in 1061. It was built in the form of a basilica supported by two arcades with columns and capitals in the classical style running down the two sides of the nave. Its façade is one of the oldest and most interesting examples of Pisan Romanesque architecture. The higher, central section corresponds to the nave and is divided into three tiers. The imposing ground level section is decorated with a series of blind arches resting on columns and corbels, the second with three blind arches pierced by a tall mullioned window, and the third section with two round windows above a fine cornice. The arches are embellished with recessed diamond-shaped lozenges.
The height of the original façade was raised at a later date. It has three portals, each decorated with a lunette. The main portal is surmounted by a large lintel dating to the Roman period, to which an intertwining decorative motif with animals was added in the Middle Ages.
The architectural style of the church bears affinities to that of the Cathedral of Pisa and therefore its construction can be dated to the same period – between the end of the 11th century and ca. 1120. It can be linked to the arrival of a group of monks of the Camaldolese order, who established their seat in San Frediano.

The Church of  San Nicola

The Church of San Nicola was built next to a Benedictine monastery that was founded around the year 1000. Its Romanesque origins can be seen in the lower section of the façade, which is faced in gray and white marble. Its sculpted ornamentation consists of a blind arcade of semicircular and pointed arches resting on pilaster strips and geometric and plant motifs in marble inlay dating to the second half of the 12th century.
The church possesses an unusual octangular bell tower that was constructed during the second half of the 12th century. Originally freestanding but now embedded in nearby buildings, it rests on a circular base and is decorated at the top by a blind arcade and lozenges. The tower is surmounted by a 16-sided marble loggia consisting of an open arcade of columns in the classical style. This supports the tower’s hexagonal belfry, each side of which is decorated with a niche and three blind arches. The roof is built in the form of a truncated pyramid. One can reach the loggia by an elegant marble staircase that winds up the tower.
This is the third leaning tower in Pisa, whose precarious angle can be attributed to the same problem as the main cathedral’s bell tower in the Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Church of San Pietro in Vinculis

This church was built in the first decades of the 12th century on the foundations of an older building dating to the 8th century (San Pietro ai Sette Pini). It is a fine example of an unusual typology of church architecture designed with two levels. Upon entering one climbs a set of steps to reach the main body of the church, which is divided into a spacious central nave and side aisles by two arcades of columns and pilasters. Beneath the church lies an impressive crypt, whose architecture consists of groin vaults decorated with frescoes and supported by heavy columns.
The external façade visually unifies both levels, and is similar in style to the transepts of the Cathedral of Pisa, with three portals surmounted by mullioned windows and a row of blind arches with recessed ocular windows and lozenges. Above this façade is a section that takes the form of a triangular tympanum pierced by one mullioned window. The floor of the nave is decorated with marble mosaics laid out in geometric patterns with circular designs typical of the Romanesque period and known as the Cosmatesque style (named after the Cosmati family). These mosaics date to the middle of the 12th century.
The crypt of the church, which is at street level, also served as a place where civil business could be conducted, in particular the drawing up of contracts by notary lawyers.

The Church of San Matteo in Soarta

The Church of San Matteo in Soarta is a large basilica adjoining a Benedictine convent that was founded in 1027. Parts of the walls of San Matteo, which are decorated with a blind arcade pierced by round and lozenge-shaped apertures, can be dated to the second quarter of the 11th century.
The edifice was reconstructed in the middle of the 12th century and portions of its side and eastern façades reflect the Romanesque style. The original architectural ornamentation of blind arches and lozenges is retained, but the execution is finer and realized in the polychrome stonework characteristic of the new style – white and gray marble alternating with a local, amber-colored stone, known as Verrucano.
The interior of the basilica originally consisted of a nave and two spacious side aisles, but in the 17th century was partially demolished and repartitioned in order to make room for an additional, smaller space with a new façade. The bell tower, which dates to the end of the 12th century, was partially dismantled in the 16th century.

The Church of San Michele degli Scalzi

This church was built on the outskirts of Pisa between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries at the behest of a group of monks from the Monastery of Santa Maria di Pulsano in Gargano, in the southern tip of Italy, who wanted to set up a community in the Tuscan city.
It is laid out in the form of a basilica divided into a central nave and side aisles by two arcades, some of whose columns and capitals  were salvaged from ancient Roman buildings and reused. The central nave ends in a semicircular apse and is covered by a trussed roof. The lower section of the façade is faced with marble and embellished with a blind arcade, lozenges and antique-style clipei (ornamental discs).
Above the central portal is an image of Christ the Redeemer carved in high relief by a Byzantine sculptor in 1204; the original is conserved in the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo di Pisa and has been replaced by a copy.
To the right of the presbytery is a freestanding bell tower made of brick; the lowest tier is faced in marble. The cornices of the third and fourth tiers were originally decorated with brightly glazed ceramic basins. Like the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa, this tower leans at a distinct angle due to the sinking of the ground on the side closest to the Arno River, which flows nearby.

The Church of Santo Sepolcro

This church was the seat of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, an order of knights that was founded in the Holy Land at the end of the 11th century to provide assistance and protection to Christian pilgrims. The presence of this order in Pisa is first mentioned in documents dating to 1113.
The octagonal ground plan of Santo Sepolcro was based on that of churches in the Holy Land, in particular the Dome of the Rock, which had been seen by the Pisans in Jerusalem during the First Crusade. Its architect was Diotisalvi, who also designed the circular baptistery of the Cathedral of Pisa. It was constructed during the second half of the 12th century, a date which is consistent with the style of the sculpted decoration.
The interior of the church consists of a octogonal  concentric chapel supported by tall, pentagonal pilasters ending in pointed arches. Over the altar is a fine dome which viewed from outside takes the form of an eight-sided pyramid. The portals opening onto the aisle that encircles the nave are decorated, both inside and outside, with stylized plant motifs in stone inlay. The bell tower bears an inscription with the name of its architect, Diotisalvi.

The Church of San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno

Built alongside a Benedictine monastery that is mentioned in documents dating as far back as 1032, this imposing Romanesque church consists of three naves divided by arcades, and ends in a transept and a semicircular apse behind the main altar. The crossing point of the transept and nave is surmounted by a hemispheric cupola. The main body of church, as it can be seen today, dates to the middle of the 12th century, while the upper part of façade was completed at the beginning of the 13th century.
The façade of this imposing edifice is partially faced in marble and beautifully embellished with sculpted decoration, similar in style to that of the Cathedral of Pisa. The first section is of impressive height, with three portals and five blind arches ornamented with recessed lozenges and round windows. Above the ground level section are three tiers of loggias with columns whose capitals are decorated with foliage elements. The upper and lower sections of the façade are divided by a cornice sculpted with animal motifs. A lower cornice runs above the portals, and includes human figures and monsters. The main portal and the portal of the left transept are embellished with geometric motifs in marble inlay.
The decoration of the facade includes two reliefs depicting the Virgin Mary with upraised hands sculpted in the Byzantine style on the façade. The left wall is embellished with two orders of blind arches, while the portal of the transept is surmounted by an antique sarcophagus.