For nearly a thousand years the monuments of the Piazza dei Miracoli have been overseen by a group of people known collectively as the Vestry Board.
Today, the name usually refers to the cathedral museum or Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. This museum is housed in a former religious building and is home to many of the cathedral's most valued treasures but the exterior is also worth a second glance.
In the late 12th-century, rectangular buildings around a cloister were constructed of brick. Parts of this brick building can still be seen although much of the facade visible today dates from the early 17th-century when the building was converted into a seminary. Later, the building was once again transformed. First into a private house and then, in 1887, into a Benedictine convent. Signs of these last two transformations were removed when the building became a museum in 1979.
The museum contains works which used to adorn the monuments of the Piazza dei Miracoli and which, mainly for safety reasons, had been moved to the warehouses of the Cathedral Vestry Board. It was set up in 1986 in a specially restored building, between Piazza dell' Arcivescovado and Piazza del Duomo, which had been originally designed as a capitular seat (13th century) and then turned into an enclosure monastery. The exhibition takes up rooms on two different floors and the visit is made pleasant by the variety of works displayed and by an exceptionally good set of captions.
On the ground floor the following works are of particular value; the wooden crucifix by Borgognone; the bronze hippogryph; the Citharoedus David; the Madonnas by Giovanni Pisano, particularly the so-called "Madonna del colloquio" and the ivory small statue; the sculptures by Tino di Camaino, by Nino and Tommaso Pisano, Andrea Guardi, etc.; the precious objects forming the "Treasure", with the crucifix by Giovanni Pisano, the Limoges caskets and the "Cathedral's belt"; the silverware of the Cathedral sacristy.
On the upper floor: large paintings on canvas; some of the Cathedral's old fittings together with some of the Cathedral's old fittings together with some precious wooden marquetries; miniated parchmnents; sacred vestments; printings of the frescoes of the Camposanto and a rich archeological collection with roman, Etruscan and Egyptian ojects.
These works flow before visitors along the museum path, thus reminding them of the events which accompanied the life of the monuments and of the town of Pisa: the Islamic influences, the sculptures of the 14th century, the spiritual inheritance of the ancient Rome.