The cemetery of Pisa Cathedral – begun in 1277 by Giovanni di Simone – is the last of the monumental buildings in Piazza dei Miracoli. It is called Campo Santo because this is where the Holy Land of Golgotha would have been brought by the Pisan ships returning from the victorious Third Crusade.

The Structure

The exterior is in white marble, with 43 blind arches and two entrance doors. The main entrance is decorated with an elegant Gothic tabernacle above the portal. The interior shows the striking cloister with decorated pointed arches.

In the corridors there are numerous Roman sarcophagi used for the burials of important people. Here are exposed some rings of the chain of Porto Pisano that after the defeat of Meloria (1284) was broken as a sign of mockery and brought to Genoa, which returned it to Pisa after the unification of Italy.

The cycle of frescoes

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the interior walls were enlivened by the marvelous cycle of frescoes on the theme of Life and Death, the work of Bonamico Buffalmacco, who staged the sermons of the Dominican friar Cavalca and the frightening visions of Dante’s Comedy (in the Triumph of Death and in the Last Judgment).

Curious to note that Buffalmacco was the protagonist of Boccaccio’s novellas, the friend of Calandrino. The cycle continues with the Stories of the Pisan Saints to which Spinello Aretino also worked and with Stories of the Old Testament, begun by Taddeo Gaddi and concluded by Benozzo Gozzoli.

Restoration works

The pictorial cycle was seriously damaged in August 1944 by an artillery bullet that hit the lead roof of the Cemetery, causing it to melt and drip down the frescoed walls.

During the detachment of the damaged frescoes from the walls, the original preparatory drawings (sinopie) of the works were brought to light. Restored to their beauty sinopie constitute an exceptional historical and artistic document kept in the nearby Museum of Sinopie. The Triumph of Death, the most important and best preserved fresco has been returned to its original position after a long restoration.

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