Camposanto (6)

The Camposanto Monumentale is north of the Piazza dei Miracoli. The building looks like a cloister, surrounded by gothic arches which, in reality, is nothing more than a Medieval cemetery flanked by 45 arches, Roman sarcophagi and spectacular frescos.

This was the last of the four major buildings erected in the Piazza dei Miracoli. Its construction began in 1277 by architect Giovanni di Simone, though in reality it was not completely finished until 1464. One highly symbolic fact is that the earth covering the cemetery was brought there in the twelfth century by the Archbishop of Pisa especially from the Holy Land of Mount Golgotha, where Christ was crucified.

It is said that this cemetery was initially going to be the church of the Santissima Trinita. But curiously the purpose of the project changed mid-construction.

One of the highlights of this room is the splendid frescoes from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. Of course, the best are in the north gallery and are the work of Benozzo Gozzoli: the Stories of the Old Testament. In the southernmost arch, however, there are other works of Piero di Puccio: the Stories of Genesis. And probably the best known are those of Buonamico Buffalmacco: The Triumph of Death, which unfortunately was seriously damaged on 27 July, 1944 when the Allies dropped fire bombs. The restoration work has been tremendous and it is well worth stopping by to take a look.

On the west side are the chains that enclosed the city in medieval times. There is also an interesting collection here of 84 Roman sarcophagi with sculptures and Roman and Etruscan urns. As you can see, most are under the arcades, except a few strategically located in the middle of the enclosure. As a side note, in the beginning, before the construction of the cemetery, these sarcophagi surrounded the cathedral.

This building, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, represents all the stages of life. From birth with the Baptistery, to death with the Camposanto. 

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