The first attestation of the Cathedral dates back to 748, although archaeological excavations have identified the remains of a large earlier religious building.
The Cathedral in Pisan Romanesque style was solemnly inaugurated in 1064 by Pope Gelasio II, after the victory of the Pisans in Palermo. In the Pisans’ intentions, it had to compete in beauty and majesty with St. Peter’s, the Mosque of Cordoba, and the Church of Santa Sofia in Constantinople. The building site was directed by two architects: first Buscheto and then Rainaldo.
The façade presents on the lower side six blind round arches on columns with capitals, polychrome inlays with lozenges. The external face, with marbles of different origins, is characterized by the high number of reused architectural elements and inscriptions of the Roman era. It develops on four orders of loggias supported by columns. The bronze doors are the work of Tuscan artists of the seventeenth century, while the Door of San Ranieri, in front of the Tower, is the work of Bonanno Pisano (1180) and is the only one escaped the fire of 1595.
Sumptuous the interior: a Latin cross plan, with five naves and 60 columns of granite from the island of Elba. The nave is covered by a splendid wooden coffered ceiling that after the disastrous fire of 1595 replaced the original exposed trusses.
There are many masterpieces inside: the first one is the wonderful pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, realized in 8 years of work (1302-1310), made up of 8 columns one different from the other with scenes from the Old and New Testament. The pulpit had been disassembled to finish the reconstruction of the roof of the church after the fire and was reassembled in a different position than the original in 1926 recomposing the pieces scattered in the Cathedral.
Another is the sepulchral monument of Emperor Arrigo VII (1315), the last German emperor who came down to Italy in 1310 at the invitation of Pope Clement V to put an end to the disputes between Guelphs and Ghibellines and to re-establish imperial authority over the rebellious communes. He died poisoned in 1313 near Siena. His remains were solemnly buried in Pisa, in the Cathedral which is also a basilica.
A curiosity is the so-called Lamp of Galileo, which would have inspired Galileo Galilei laws on the isochronism of the pendulum. In reality, it is a legend, like that of the weights from the Tower, linked to the figure of the great Pisan scientist.