The Baptistery of Pisa, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, stands in front of the west facade of the Primaziale, in the Piazza del Duomo, near the Campo Santo and the Campanile.
The construction of the building began in the mid-twelfth century: “1153 Mense Augusti fundata fuit haec …”, or “In August 1153 was founded …” (1153 in the Pisan calendar corresponds to 1152). It replaces a former, smaller baptistery, located north-east of the Cathedral, where the Camposanto is now located. It was built in Romanesque style by an architect who signs “Diotisalvi magister …” in a pillar inside the building. Later, Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, and Cellino di Nese, were the site’s master builders.
In the nineteenth century, together with a renovation that affected the entire Piazza del Duomo and its monuments, the baptistery was the subject of a radical restoration by the architect Alessandro Gherardesca, with interventions that led to the reconstruction of some portals and much of of the decorative apparatus. Despite the denunciations of some intellectuals and prominent personalities of the Pisan culture of the time, such as Carlo Lasinio, the works, directed by the master builder Giovanni Storni, led to the removal of numerous sculptures by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. The statues, placed at the top of the first order above and inside the vimperghe, were replaced with works that did not imitate the medieval taste, while the original sculptures were almost all lost except for those now exhibited at the Museo del Opera Duomo. The intervention should have extended also inside, with the creation of frescoes in the central basin, but the project was not concretized and was substantially limited to the removal of non-medieval furniture and the installation of new windows.
The interior, surprisingly simple and without decorations, also has exceptional acoustics.
The octagonal baptismal font placed on three steps in the middle is dated 1246 and was built by Guido Bigarelli from Arogno, then belonging to the diocese of Como. The bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist in the center of the fountain is an excellent work by Italo Griselli.
The pulpit was sculpted between 1255 and 1260 by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni Pisano with scenes from the Life of Christ, on the five parapet panels, while in correspondence of the columns are represented other subjects that symbolize Le Virtù. The scenes on the pulpit and especially the figure of the naked Hercules show well how the classical influence made Nicholas a precursor of the Renaissance. We must remember how, in the size of Nicola’s workshop, the gotha of the Italian two-fourteenth century sculptors was formed, starting with Tino di Camaino and Arnolfo di Cambio.
It is advisable to check the correspondence of the opening hours by contacting the structure directly.
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Nov. – Feb
9:40 to 17:40
9:00 to 18:00
8:00 to 20:00
9:00 to 19:00