Pisa's Historical Churches Tour, Pisa

Pisa's Historical Churches Tour (Self Guided), Pisa

The city of Pisa is one of the richest in Italy when it comes to church heritage. This historic city is home to many great churches and cathedrals that have the most wonderful paintings, sculptures and architecture. Take this self-guided walk walking tour to see the most beautiful houses of worship in Pisa.
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Pisa's Historical Churches Tour Map

Guide Name: Pisa's Historical Churches Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Pisa (See other walking tours in Pisa)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: nicole
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri (St. Stephen of the Knights Church)
  • San Michele in Borgo Church
  • San Pietro Vinculis Church
  • San Paolo all Orto (St Paul in the Garden Church)
  • Santa Cecilia Church
  • San Francesco de'Ferri Church
Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri (St. Stephen of the Knights Church)

1) Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri (St. Stephen of the Knights Church)

Visiting Pisa is a rich and rewarding experience, as it is steeped in history and full of beautiful buildings. One not to be missed is the Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri on Knight’s Square. The church was built in 1569 on the site of the former 11th century church of San Sebastiano alle Fabbriche Maggiori. Commissioned by Cosimo di Medici, it was built by Vasari and Fortini for the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen. The white marble façade was designed by Don Giovanni di Medici and Pieroni. Vasari designed the bell tower which was built later by Fancelli. The building was added to and altered over the centuries; the final changes were made in 1859 when the Oder was abolished.

The interior of the church features many banners won by the Order in their endless wars against Saracen pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. The main altar was built by Silvani, behind which a marvelous statue representing San Stefano as Pope with representations of Faith and Religion, sculpted in 1709 by Foggini. The wooden ceiling was placed in 1604 and has six painted panels depicting historic events of the Order. These panels were painted by Allori, il Cigoli, Ligozzi, and l’Empoli. The pulpit was built by Fancelli in 1627 and is decorated with paintings by Lomi. There are five monochrome paintings executed in 1588 showing stories of San Stefano, Pope and Martyr. The font was designed by Vasari and built by Fancelli in 1568. The Chapel of the Holy Sacrament was added in 1837 by Galli.
San Michele in Borgo Church

2) San Michele in Borgo Church

The Stretto Borgo is a long, narrow street with shops under the arcades on each side of it. In the midst of this street you will find the ancient San Michele in Borgo. The church and monastery was built in 1046 outside the city walls. According to documents written by its first abbot, he had been invited to Pisa to take over the Catholic Church of San Michele Arcangelo and turn it into a Benedictine monastery. As the Vatican wouldn’t release the church, he turned to the ruins of a Temple of Mars to build his monastery. From 1046 until the mid 12th century it was the home of the Benedictines. When they left, it was taken over by the monks from the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli.

The façade was rebuilt in the 14th century, when three Gothic loggias were added to the upper storey and three Gothic portals were built. Above the central portal is the replica of a tabernacle containing a statue of the Madonna and Child by di Francesco. The original can be seen in the San Michele Museum. The interior is rather simple with a single nave and two aisles. The main altar is on a raised platform as under it is the crypt that belonged to the ancient temple. It once housed five antique sarcophagi, but these were later removed to the Camposanto Monumentale. The church has several fine paintings, including “Conception” by Rosselli, “Madonna with Child and the Saints” by Baccio Lomi, “The Virtues” by Aurelio Lomi and “Nativity” by Melani. There are also the remains of some of the original 13th century frescoes.
San Pietro Vinculis Church

3) San Pietro Vinculis Church

Although the San Pietro Vinculis is a simple, somewhat austere church, you shouldn’t miss visiting it for its ancient crypt. The church was built in the Romanesque style in 1118 by Buscheto, commissioned by the Augustinian monks. The façade comprises blind arches between pilaster strips, topped by occuli and lozenge forms. You will notice that the bell tower’s architecture isn’t the same as the church; this is because it predates the church and was once a civil watch-tower. The rectory was added much later. The interior has a single nave with two aisles and apses with the remains of early frescoes and a magnificent 13th century “Crucifix” painted on a wooden panel. The rectory has frescoes that date back to the 13th and 15th centuries. The church’s stucco work was carried out in the 18th century.

The crypt is to be found under the paved inlaid floor near the main altar. Before the church was built, the site was occupied by an early Christian temple that in turn had been built on the remains of a temple to Apollo. It has groin vaults with Roman capitals. You can see the remains of the original frescoes and an elaborately carved Roman sarcophagus.
San Paolo all Orto (St Paul in the Garden Church)

4) San Paolo all Orto (St Paul in the Garden Church)

San Paolo all Orto means St Paul in the Garden, and it is a lovely name for an exquisite church that was forgotten for years before being unconsecrated and used for concerts, exhibitions, meetings and other cultural events. The church was built in 1086 and has a Romanesque style façade of grey and white marble. Its arches, occuli and lozenges are delicately decorated with carved stone flowers and leaves. At the base of each arch are stone animal heads and on each end of the portals are stone lion grotesques. Over the central portal there are three circles depicting geometrical patterns in coloured stone. The bell tower has been rebuilt several times and the one you will see today dates back to the 17th century.

Between the 12th and the 15th centuries the church was a priory and the home of the Order of Augustinian Sisters. The interior has a single nave and two aisles. The apse fell into ruins at the end of the 15th century and was later destroyed. Although the walls are now covered with posters announcing forthcoming cultural events, you can still see the magnificent frescoes and sinopias that were executed in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Santa Cecilia Church

5) Santa Cecilia Church

You shouldn’t miss a visit to the charming Santa Cecilia church which stands on the corner of Via Santa Cecilia and Via San Francesco. The church was built in 1103 by the Camaldolese monks, although construction was finally completed in the 13th century. The simple façade is of stone and brick and you will notice many ceramic Islamic and Pisan bowls set into the wall around the lancet window above the entrance, along the edging of the roof and in various points on the bell tower. These are replicas of the 13th century originals, which were removed during restoration work after the church suffered extensive damage during the Second World War. If you would like to see the original bowls, you will find them in the National Museum of San Matteo.

The bell tower was also repaired and rebuilt after the war. It was completed in 1236 and consists of a granite stele with narrow mullioned windows and a pyramid-like roof. Above the door inside is the family crest of Agostini della Seta, who was a patron and benefactor of the church. You will also be able to admire the “Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia”, painted in 1607 by Ventura Salimbeni.
San Francesco de'Ferri Church

6) San Francesco de'Ferri Church

San Francesco de’Ferri church is beautiful and should be on your “must see” list while you are visiting Pisa. The original church probably dated back to the early 11th century but it was first recorded in 1233 because it was falling into ruin and there was a question of whether to shore it up or pull it down. In 1261 the archbishop Federico Visconti commissioned Giovanni di Simone to build a new church on the site, and because it was next to a Franciscan monastery, he gave the management of it to the monks.

When it was finished the church was used by the nobility as a private place of worship and they decorated it, adding or removing artifacts according to whim. The church received its marble façade in 1603 and the interior was remodeled not long after. It has a single nave with no aisles; the large space is relatively empty but for the wooden seating area in front of the altar and pulpit. Behind the altar are three magnificent stained glass windows. Although the floor space might be rather bare, the walls are not and you can admire paintings by Santi di Tito, Empoli and Passignano. The frescoes in the transept were executed by Gaddi in 1342. Other frescoes in the transept were done in the 20th century by Chini. In the Chapter Hall are frescoes and sinopias painted in 1392 by Gerini. The sacristy is decorated with frescoes painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1397.

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