Tourist in Pisa
One of my favorite incidents in Pisa occured as I was on my way to the Lucca tour bus. Someone stopped me and seemed to ask me for directions. I say “seemed” because he was speaking in Italian. I considered this a great success; despite the large camera hanging from my neck, he though I spoke Italian! I had succeeded in blending in! My joy from this was short-lived because I had to reveal that since I spoke no Italian, I could not help him.
Pisa is obviously best known for its leaning tower, which is actually the bell tower of a cathedral complex known as the Field of Miracles. I toured the site on Friday afternoon after the end of the conference before I took the train to Florence. In addition to the tower, like many such complexes in Italy, it also contains a baptistery, a cemetery, and a cathedral.
The baptistery, as its name implies, was built for baptising of people into the Catholic church. If you look closely at this picture, you will notice that the baptistery seems to be leaning. Due to the soft soil and shallow foundations in the Field of Miracles, all the buildings lean, but the tower’s lean is most visible.
Above is a photograph I took of the interior of the baptistery. I was looking down from the upper level of the baptistery. You can see the large pool for baptising adults and the small wells for baptizing infants.
On the side of the large octagonal well, I photographed the intricate patterns above. I am not sure what they represent, but they are beautiful and represent much skilled work.
The baptistery also has a pulpit, and it is also octagonal and covered with biblical artwork. I think the side shown in this photograph portrays Gabriel’s
announcement to Mary that she is about to conceive Jesus. To the right, you can see another panel; it shows the adoration of the Magi.
As I mentioned in my post about Lucca, ornateness and biblical narrative are two constant themes in the art I saw. This is the side of the exit from the baptistery. The detailed human figures forming the vertical column are various biblical characters.
The Cathedral that forms the center of the Field of Miracles was quite beautiful, as you can see from the photograph below. I took it from near the top of the Leaning Tower.
For me, the most interesting part of the cathedral was this chandelier. This entire trip had a recurring Galileo theme, which began here. In most tourist attractions I visited, several coin-operated boxes allowed listeners to pay 1 € (euro) for a recorded audio introduction to the attraction.
According to the recorded tour information available at the Pisa Cathedral, Galileo watched this lamp swinging and noticed, using his pulse as a timer, that each swing took the same amount of time regardless of its amplitude. In other words, the period of a pendulum is independent of its amplitude. While this is an approximation only valid for small amplitudes, it is good enough to make the pendulum clock possible.
The Field of Miracles also has a cemetery. I visited it primarily to see the grave of the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, of the Fibonacci Sequence.
The cemetery was mostly indoors. It was a square U-shaped structure with many monuments from ancient Roman and Renaissance times.
I do not know who made the sculpture below or over whose grave it once stood. However, she had two of the most realistic and haunting eyes of any sculpture I saw in Italy. I don’t think the photograph does them justice.
Of course, the highlight of my tourist time in Pisa was the famous Leaning Tower. I was pleased to read that it was open to climbing after many years of renovation and stabilization. After I had finished visiting the cathedral, baptistery, and cemetery, I waited in line to climb the tower. I was somewhat surprised by how much the lean can be felt when one is inside the tower. The spiral staircase makes several complete turns on the way up, and my inner ear was made very aware of which way the tower was leaning. Some others in the line were quite vocal about their discomfort on the way.
The left-hand photograph above shows the view from the top of the tower and its afternoon shadow. The photograph on the right shows me in front of the tower. As you can see, the tower is not only leaning; it is also sligtly curved.
The final photograph I took in Pisa was the one below. It shows the Arno River flowing through the city. This river also flows through Florence