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After the famous and always crowded Piazza dei Miracoli, the most important place of all Pisa is the Piazza dei Cavalieri, also known as the Piazza delle Vie Sete or Plaza de las Siete Calles.
The square is located where the Portus Pisanus forum once stood, as it was known at the time of Roman domination. Historically, the locals gathered here to celebrate their victories and mourn their losses. And even from the Middle Ages the most prestigious civil and religious buildings were constructed here, which were later rebuilt, joining them and breaking them apart to adapt to circumstances arising throughout history.
Also in this square, in 1406 an emissary of Florence proclaimed the end of the independence of Pisa, a key point in history from which Pisa would be reborn. In the middle of the square you can see a commemorative marble statue of Cosimo I de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and real founder of the Medici Dynasty.
In the sixteenth century the square underwent a major refurbishment to adapt it to the new Renaissance style by Giorgio Vasari, the famous Medici architect. He was responsible for designing the Church of the Knights of the Order of San Sebastián, replacing the Church of San Sebastián, although it was later designed by other architects. Today it is the only Renaissance church in all of Pisa and, curiously, it contains a Turkish standard taken by these knights in the Battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571.
The main building of the square is the Palazzo della Carovana, also called Palazzo dei Cavalieri, or Palace of the Knights, also modernised by Giorgio Vasari on the old Palazzo degli Anziani or Palace of the Elders. This former palace was not homogeneous as it was made up of different buildings in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Vasari used this structure as the basis for designing the palace that can be seen today. Look closely at the facade, its decorations and the busts of the six grand dukes. It is an authentic architectural treasure. The building’s symmetrical harmony is reinforced by the monumental two-wing staircase leading to the main entrance, built according to a model by Michelangelo, but replaced in 1821.
Aspiring knights have lived and studied here since the sixteenth century, functions that since 1864 have taken place in the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa today. Besides the palace, many other buildings in the square also belong to University of Pisa: libraries, faculties and lecture rooms. So if you walk around you can enjoy the virtues of a quiet university life, except at exam time, of course.