The Piazza dei Miracoli (English: Square of Miracles) is a walled 8.87 hectare area located in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. It is recognized as an important center of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. Considered sacred by the Catholic Church, its owner, the square is dominated by four great religious edifices – the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistery, the Campanile (world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa) and the Monumental Cemetery. The whole square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the heart of the Square of Miracles is the medieval cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption. The church is known also as the Primatial, the archbishop of Pisa being a Primate since 1092. The construction of the Cathedral began in 1064 by the architect Buscheto which set the model for the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. The mosaics of the interior, as well as the pointed arches, show a strong Byzantine influence. The church contains the bones of St Ranieri the patron saint of Pisa and tomb of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII. Pope Gregory VIII was also buried in the cathedral, but a fire in 1595 destroyed his tomb.
The Baptistery, dedicated St John the Baptist, stands opposite the west end of the Cathedral. The round Romanesque building was begun in the mid 12th Century. The architect was Diotisalvi, whose name is mentioned on a pillar. However the construction was not finished until the 14th Century, when the loggia, the top storey and the dome were added in Gothic style by Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano. It is the largest baptistery in Italy, with the a circumference measuring 107 meters. Taking into account the statue of St John the Baptist atop the dome, it is even a few centimeters taller than the Leaning Tower.
The Bell Tower (The Leaning Tower of Pisa)
Of course the most famous structure in the square is the Bell Tower, commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is located behind the cathedral. The last of the three major buildings on the square to be built the construction of the bell tower bean in 1173 and took place in three stages over a period of 177 years, with the bell chamber only added in 1372. Five years after construction began, when the building had reached the third floor level, the weak subsoil and poor foundation led to the building sinking on the south side. The building was left for a century, which allowed the subsoil to stabilize itself and prevented the building from collapsing. 1272, to adjust the lean of the building, when construction resumed, the upper floors were built with one side taller than the other. The seventh and final floor was added in 1319. By the time building was completed the lean was approximately 1 degree (2.5 feet) from vertical. When measured in 1990, the lean was 5.5 degrees. As of 2010, the lean was reduced to approximately 4 degrees.
The Monumental Cemetery
The Monumental Cemetery also known as Old Cemetery, is locate at the norther edge of the square. This walled cemetery is said to have been built around shipload of sacred soil from Calvary, brought from the fourth Crusade by the archbishop of Pisa in the 12th Century. The construction started in 1278 by architect Giovanni di Simone over the earlier burial ground. The cemetery was only completed in 1464. The outer wall is composed of 43 arches. There are two door ways.
Other than the square of miracle and these monumental buildings there are much more to explore outside the walls of the square. Outside the walls of the square there are ethnic markets which sell souvenirs and other curios.