Piazza del Duomo, Pisa (translated as Pisa Cathedral Square) was conceived in a time when Pisa held a dominant maritime position in the Mediterranean, boasting thriving trade and the largest navy in the sea. The piazza, or square, reflects the city's flourishing wealth.
The four monuments—the cathedral, the baptistery, the campanile (bell tower), and the Camposanto Monumentale (monumental cemetery)—are made from white marble and provide a striking contrast to the sea of rich green grass surrounding them.
Many prominent cathedrals in Italy face a public square where neighboring buildings lie close by on three sides. The Piazza del Duomo instead presents these monuments in a broad, open space. They are on show, like fine sculptures in a sculpture garden of a museum.
One generally approaches and enters the piazza on foot and moves about the space on the defined paths, viewing the buildings from a distance. This spatial expanse and viewing arrangement slows down time and creates a dreamlike experience. This effect is heightened by the magnificent, large cathedral; the round, fortlike baptistery; and of course, the gravity-defying leaning tower.
The architectural styles of all four monuments of the piazza testify to the passage of the three centuries that it took to build the structures, from the 11th to the 14th centuries. The bold, round Romanesque arches are found on the lower levels; slenderer versions typically appear above them and act as a transition to the more finely detailed Gothic elements appearing on upper levels.
James Howard Smith, an architectural photographer, designer, and founder of Cartio, aims to inspire an appreciation of classic architecture.