Monumental Churchyard

Coming out of the baptistery and looking once more at the majesto façade of the cathedral one will in the form of a rectangle. These boundary walls are composed of blind-arcades on pilasters similar to those of the cathedral, tower and baptistery.

Ancient sculptures, sepulchral monuments, works of art scattered around the city, were gathered inside the churchyard. Sarcofagi of famous men lined up against the walls, that were frescoed by great artist. Thus the "Camposanto Monumentale" (Monumental Churchyard) of Pisa progressively became one of the greatest and richest galleries of medieval painting and sculpture, besides representing a great masterpiece of architecture.

On entering the churchyard one's attention is immediately drawn to the great colonnade that opens out on an inner lawn with its great, round arcades. These latter are each adorned by quadruple lancet windows with fine, plurilobed, little arches.

The Monumental Churchyard or Camposanto created a 'cult of the dead'. It was originally designed in 1277 by Giovanni di Simone as a place for housing sarcophagi from the city's Roman period. Until this point, they had been scattered randomly around the Duomo as Pisan notables recycled them for their own burials.

The cemetery's outstanding feature was a long marble wall with 43 blind arches.

Legend says that the cemetery was actually created around a mound of soil brought back from the Holy Land by a crusader ship in the 12th-century.

During the Renaissance period, the walls of the Monumental Cemetery were decorated with biblical frescoes. In July 1944, a bomb caused extensive damage to the cemetery and its frescoes. 

Saddened by this thought now it remains to content oneself by imagining the precious art gallery as it was before the war and looking for the remaining works removed to be restored.

For some of these pieces, a special room has been arranged, collecting frescoes of Buonamico di Buffalmacco, such as "The Triumph of the Death", "The Last Judgment", "The Anchorets".

Concerning the sinopites (preparatory sketches of the frescoes, brought to light when the same frescoes were detached from the walls for restauration) it is to be said that they are of great interest and are collected in the Museum of Sinopites.

The arches of the Monumental Cemetery create a tranquil space that has long served as an art and sculpture gallery.

The sarcophagi, Roman epigraphs, busts, and sculptures act as memorials not only to past notables of medieval and Renaissance Pisa but also to the city's history. It was during the 19th-century that the galleries were designated as a public museum, one of the first in Europe.

Works of art were gathered from the city's churches and convents including the Baptistery and cathedral to add to the exhibits while others were sourced from archaeological sites and even antique markets.

On June 6, 2018, an outstanding highlight was added to the collection. The least damaged fresco, The Triumph of Death, was returned to the cemetery after a long and careful period of restoration.

Created: 09 Aug 2013
Last update: 25 Jun 2023

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MMXXIII Tèmperàntia Àngelus Sol