The church, which is today the Duomo of San Miniato, was erected in the 12th century, possibly on the remains of a more ancient chapel. Initially named for Santa Maria, it was cited for the first time in a seal by Pope Celestine III in 1195, which remembers the dependence of the Pieve of San Genesio of Vico Wallari. When in 1248 the Longobard village, which stretched right up to the border of San Miniato, was destroyed, Santa Maria bought the baptismal font and the name San Genesio. Thus the building was restructured, the façade was decorated with ceramic basins, as in all of the best Pisan architecture. When San Miniato fell under Florentine rule in 1369, the rearranging of the fortress area included the church, which became inaccessible to the faithful. It was only in 1489, once the political situation had stabilised, that the vicar returned the church to the local clerics. Reopened after expansion, including the bell tower, was a stronger building with rectangular floors: it was called the Tower of Matilda, in virtue of a legend, which was later retracted, as it was believed that Matilde of Canossa had been born in the ancient Vicari palace. The bell tower, an integral part of the apse, is supposed to have been built in the 12th century as a watch tower and adjoined with the cathedral only at the end of the 15th century.
The façade has salients and presents brick masonry, home to 26 decorated ceramic basins (originally there were 31), mostly from Tunisian furnaces, today substituted with reproductions (the originals are in the Diocesan Museum). Most of them has a white enamel background with decorations in cobalt blue and manganese brown, notable for their elegance and originality. The lower part has three 16th-century sandstone doorways, each of which is topped with architraves and pillars. Above each of the two side doorways there’s a circular rose window; there’s a mere trace of a third one above the middle doorway. In the upper part of the façade, by the middle nave, you’ll find a fourth rose window.
The interior has neo-Renaissance architecture, a result of the 19th-century work by Pietro Bernardini, with Baroque style decorations. The church has a Latin cross plan, divided into three naves. The internal terracotta masonry and original octagonal pillars were covered with new decorations in the 18th and 19th centuries. The three naves are separated by two sets of round arches that stand on top of ionic columns in false multicoloured marble, covered with a gilded and inlaid coffered ceiling, dating to the 17th century.
On July 22, 1944, a U.S. missile entered the church through the half rose window in the south wing of the transept, and exploded in the right nave, killing 55 people. The cathedral was full of people whom the Germans had gathered in the sacristy. Until the so-called “case of shame” was opened, the massacre has been blamed on a German weapon.