Leaning Bell Tower
Leaning Bell Tower
As the undoubted landmark of Italy and even the whole Europe, I have seen its image so many times even when I was a kid.
Finally, when I stared at the real tower after so many years imagination, my first impression is that, 'Wow, that's it, such a short tower'! :-))
But I never imagined that its color is in such a white before...
Every year on the...
Every year on the night of the 16th of June the enchantment of the Illuminations of Saint Ranieri is renewed on the streets running along the river Arno (the so-called Lungarni). In fact, following an ancient tradition the Pisans celebrate their patron saint, St. Ranieri, of the following day.
There are about seventy-thousand wax candles which at every edition are meticulously set in smooth and white glasses and fixed then onto wooden white-painted frames, modelled in such a way as to exalt the outline of the palaces, of the bridges, of the churches and of the towers reflecting on the river. The exceptional appendix to this scenery is the leaning tower, enlightened in the same old fashion with oil lamps, set also on the crenulations of the city walls in the area encircling the Piazza dei Miracoli.
After the lighting, because of the reverberation of the myriad of trembling lights on the Arno and because of the candles that are left floating on its waters, the event offers the visitor a unique feeling impossible to describe thanks to the ecstatic enchantment that since antiquity makes the Pisan nights of the 16th June magic.
On the 25th of March 1688, the urn containing the body of Ranieri degli Scaccieri, patron saint of the city who died as a saint in 1161, was placed inside the chapel dedicated to the Crowned Virgin in the Cathedral of Pisa. Cosimo III Medici asked that the old urn containing the relic was changed with a more modern and richer one.
The translation of the urn was the occasion for a memorable feast, from which, following the tradition, started the three-year illuminations of Pisa, first called Illumination and that then during the nineteenth century took the name of Luminara.
The idea of celebrating the feast by enlightening the town with oil lamps was still not conceived at that time, but it was an ancient habit gradually consolidated during particularly solemn and joyful events having nothing to share with the worship of the patron saint. There is clear evidence of this tradition: on the 14th of June 1662 (before the translation of Saint Ranieri’s body) the Illumination was made in honour of Marguerite Louise, princess of Orléans and wife of Cosimo II, who passed through Pisa on her way to Florence. There is also evidence of some previous editions such as the one organised in honour of Victoria della Rovere on occasion of the night feast for the carnival in 1539.
Started as illuminations of the windows of the houses during parades or procession, the Luminara, following the new scenographical fancy of the time, in the XVIII century it became a free enlightened architecture placed on buildings, of which progressively they redesigned the outline creating strange shapes that transformed the city and especially the banks along the river. In some cases the illuminations still underlined the real structure of the buildings.
The history of the Luminara constantly followed the one of the city. It was abolished in 1867, then restored in 1937 on occasion of the resumption of the Gioco del Ponte and then suspended during the Second World War. In 1952 the Luminara of Saint Ranieri was resumed and the tradition lasted until 1966.
In November of the same year the violence of the floods of the river Arno caused the collapse of the Solferino bridge and of long stretches of the banks along the river. The Luminara was then suspended again, and finally revived in June 1969.
When traveling in a country where english is not the main language I try to make an effort to speak the local language. Italian is a beautiful language and it isn't very hard to pick up the basics. I got a phrase book and a CD, which I put on my i-Pod, to help me learn some phrases. And while I was shy about trying to speak the language at first, by the end of my 2 weeks there I was ordering meals and ice-cream (gelato) all in Italian!
So here are some helpful phrases to get you started!
Hello/Goodbye (informal): Ciao
Good Morning: Buongiorno
Good Afternoon/Evening: Buonasera
Good Night: Buonanotte
Please: per favore
Thank you: grazie
That's fine: Va bene
How Are You?: Come sta?
Where is...?: Dov'e...?
I didn't understand: non ho capito
Do you speak English?: Parla Inglese?
A tiny, ancient church easily pased by........
San Sisto dates from 1133, although it was an important site before the present building was erected. The exterior is fairly plain, apart from the Islamic-inspired ceramic roundels set into the frontage (now copies). Inside there are a few interesting bits: an Arabic graveslab, a galley rudder......
But what made this place special for me was its atmosphere. I walked in at twilight, when the passegiata was in full flow, and was immediately struck by the enveloping silence (even though the door remained open). I've been to many, many ancient churches and very few have this type of stillness and calm.
Worth seeking out to see if you have the same experience.
There are three leaning towers in Pisa. This one, at San Nicola, leans quite a lot but it's not so easy to see in photographs because of the adjoining buildings. From the street, though, it is very clear.
The 13th-century tower itself is strange: it begins as a cylinder, then becomes an octagon, then a hexagon. I wonder if the lean was obvious as it was being built and the change of styles was an attempt to prevent the whole thing collapsing?
The exterior is an intriguing mish-mash of marbels and bricks, clearly demonstrating the changes made over the centuries.
I understand the tower contains a magnificent spiral staircase, though I was unable to gain access. There are works by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano ( the wooden crucifix in my photo), as well as a couple of interesting paintings. I particularly liked the modern Peruvian nativity scene (I think it was made by a Peruvian community supported by the church). I loved the guy with a fag in his mouth, and the llamas lurking on the hillside (instead of sheep).