Discovering the Jubilee in Tuscany: Pisa, San Miniato and Volterra

To celebrate the Year of Mercy, every diocese will open "Holy Doors" in its territory. A perfect opportunity to visit some of the finest regional churches

The Jubilee of Mercy is a truly unique opportunity to discover, by visiting the Jubilee churches, corners of Tuscany capable of transmitting a historical, cultural and architectural wealth that has left behind majestic, sometimes secret, traces. In this route, we'll be looking at the buildings that will open wide the "Holy Doors" and provide redemption to the faithful in the Dioceses of Pisa, San Miniato and Volterra.

 

We start in Pisa, where only one temple has been chosen to exercise the Jubilee function, but it is one of the most unique places in the world: the Basilica Metropolitana “Primaziale” - better known as the Duomo – with its rich history and strong Byzantine influences. The church is a true masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and testimony to the prestige and wealth achieved by the Maritime Republic of Pisa in the moment of its greatest splendour.

 

 

Begun in 1063 and designed by Buscheto, it merges numerous stylistic elements from classical to Lombard-Emilian Byzantine and Islamic, proof of the international awareness of the Pisan merchants of the time. The cathedral was built outside the city walls for a simple reason – to show that the power of Pisa did not require any protection. Consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasius II, it was, already in the first half of the twelfth century, enlarged by Rainaldo, who is also responsible for the design of the facade. Inside the look is one of repeated restoration. Early interventions followed the disastrous fire of 1595, after which the roof was rebuilt and three bronze doors were made. Among the various works, we have to mention the dismantling of the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, reassembled in 1926 in a different location from the original one. Successive restorations took place in the nineteenth century and have involved decorations both inside and outside. Like the tower beside it, the Basilica has sunk perceptibly in the soil. We conclude with the 27 paintings that line the grandstand behind the main altar, created between the sixteenth and the seventeenth century by some of the greatest painters of Tuscany, including Andrea del Sarto, Sodoma and Domenico Beccafumi.

 

 

We move on to the Diocese of San Miniato, which will open its "Holy Door" in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Genesio, perhaps best known for the Allied bombing of 22 July 1944, which killed 55 people trapped in the church by the Germans. The facade is salient and has masonry brick, inside of which are 26 ceramic basins sourced from Tunisian furnaces notable for their elegance and originality. In the bottom section are three sixteenth-century portals, each topped by lintel and pilasters. The interior, however, shows neo-Renaissance architectural development, the result of nineteenth-century restorations by Pietro Bernardini with their Baroque-style decorations. The layout is a Latin cross with the room divided into three naves. The three aisles are separated by two series of arches resting on Ionic columns in fake polychrome marble and covered with a seventeenth-century coffered, carved and gilded ceiling.

 

 

The last stop on our Jubilee tour brings us to Volterra. Again the Cathedral, this time dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, will welcome impulses of redemption from the faithful, pilgrims and tourists. We'll cover it briefly so as to not ruin the pleasure of visiting this beautiful church, which dates back to the ninth century. Rebuilt after the earthquake of 1117, the Cathedral was enlarged in the second half of the thirteenth century. In the transept, the basilica has a traditional decoration, which includes lunettes decorated with the flattened ornamentation technique and sloping diamonds housing ceramic basins. The same diamond shapes are also present in the salient facade, which is divided into three sections by Lombard pilasters. The interior has a Latin cross and a late Renaissance appearance. The space is divided by twenty-two columns covered with stucco made to look like pink granite, while the capitals were made in the sixteenth century. The nave and transept are covered by a magnificent coffered ceiling, a wonderful set of geometric, decorative and floral elements, the figures of saints and two big ovals of the Assumption and of the Holy Spirit, designed by Francesco Capriani, carved by Jacopo Paolini and made in gold by Fulvio Tucci between 1580 and 1584. On either side of the aisles are six chapels, which house art works from painters from the 16th century.

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