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Cathedral of Santa Eulalia history

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia is one of Barcelona’s largest religious buildings. The cathedral is also known as La Seu Cathedral based on its location in front of Plaça de la Seu. The site of the cathedral has long been a place for worship, as the first basilica was built already during the Roman occupation in year 343 A.D. This basilica was later burned and destroyed during a Moor invasion, but it didn’t take long until a cathedral was built in its place.

Construction

The construction of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia started in the late 13th century, when the existing cathedral was demolished. The old cathedral included a chapel, known as the Capella de Santa Llucia, which was actually kept and incorporated into the cathedral of today.

Due to civil wars and the Black Death, which hit the city several times, the construction of the cathedral progressed rather slowly. The main building wasn’t completed until 160 years later. The massive façade didn’t stand complete until year 1889. The last part, the 70 meters high central spire, was completed as late as in 1913.

Even though some parts of the cathedral were built rather recently, the design of both the facade and the spire were based on the original cathedral design.

Architectural style

The cathedral is built as a typical Gothic cathedral. The most evident part of this is the magnificent façade. By taking a closer look at the façade, visitors will see that its spires, pinnacles and arches all are pointing upwards.

This typical Gothic feature was a way of trying to reach up to heaven and connect the cathedral with God. The cathedral’s main entrance is dominated by a statue of Jesus, surrounded by the apostles.

Why visit Cathedral of Santa Eulalia ?

The cathedral is one of the most stunning buildings in Barcelona.  However, while the exterior of the cathedral is absolutely beautiful, the same is very much true for its interior. The interior consists of one wide nave with more then 20 side chapels, each one dedicated to a specific saint or a catholic event. One of the more well known chapels can be found to the right, just as one enters the cathedral.

Dodgy statue

It is known as “Capella del Sant Crist de Lepant” and depicts the figure of Christ crucified. The statue was taken aboard on one of the Christian galleys who fought in the sea Battle of Lapanto in 1571.

When looking at the statue, visitors will see that Jesus has a rather strange, tilting pose. The legend has it that this pose was created when the figure of Christ slightly shifted to the right during the battle to dodge an incoming cannonball.

Santa Eulalia

The cathedral has gotten its name from the co-patron saint of Barcelona, Santa Eulalia. According to the Catholic tradition, Eulalia was a young virgin who suffered martyrdom during Roman times in Barcelona. She was killed at the age of 13 for refusing to dismiss Jesus as the son of God. In front of the altar, visitors can find stairs leading down to the cathedral crypt. Inside this crypt lies the actual, beautiful sarcophagus of Eulalia.

The cloister

This site has more to offer than the cathedral itself. Adjacent to it lays a 14th century cloister, which is what many people rate as the best part of their cathedral visit. The charming cloister courtyard is a lush garden where one can find different types of trees and a small statue of a mounted Saint George, the other patron saint of Barcelona.

Also located in the courtyard is a small mossy pond known as the Well of the Geese. The name originates from the fact that it houses a flock of white geese, whose ancestors have been living in the courtyard ever since its creation. The flock consists of thirteen geese, each one representing a year in Santa Eulalia’s short life. The courtyard has, quite fittingly, been called the “loveliest oasis in Barcelona”.

To the top

What some people don’t know is that it is possible to take a lift to the roof of the cathedral. Up there, special made walkways allows visitors to wander around while at the same time enjoying a great view over Gothic Barcelona.

While Antonio Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia may be Barcelona’s most famous landmark – and rightfully so – the Santa Eulalia still holds it own as one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain.

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia location

The Cathedral of Santa Eulalia is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The building can be found in front of Plaça de la Seu in central parts of the city.  For the exact location of Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, check out the location map to the right.

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia Video

Sagrada Familia history

The initiative to build a new grand church came from the bookseller and chairman of the Holy Brotherhood, José Maria Bocabella, in the mid 19th century. The church would be devoted to the child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, which is why the church is named “Sagrada Familia” – “The Holy Family”.

Chief architect

The planning of the church began when the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar offered to design the whole structure. He planned a more typical gothic church, but was later forced to resign from his job due to fundamental disagreements with the founder Bocabella. A few months after del Villar’s resignation, a young architect by the name of Antonio Gaudi took over the work in 1883.

What Gaudi didn’t know at the time was that his new project would take up almost all his time and effort for the rest of his life. Once the construction phase started, he soon became obsessed with the project and set up an office on site which became his permanent residence.

Design

His plan was to build facades which would represent the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. The church would have a total of eighteen towers symbolizing the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the Virgin Mary and Christ.

The one representing Christ would be the tallest and would stand 170 meters high, crowned by a large cross. The tower would be one meter less than the Montjuïc, a hill in Barcelona, as Gaudi said he didn’t want to suppress the work of God.

Antonio Gaudi

Gaudi devoted his last 15 years fully to the Sagrada Familia, until he by accident was hit a tram. This accident led to his death, a few days later in 1926 – 74 years old. What made Gaudi’s architectural style so exciting was his sense for shapes. Instead of designing buildings with straight lines, Gaudi worked much with loose vivid design.

The Casa Mila and the eastern façade of Sagrada Famila are perfect examples of this. Arguably, no other architect in history has ever had such an absolute influence on a city as Antoni Gaudi has had on Barcelona. There are great works of his Modernist style all over the city but the greatest of all his works is of course the impressive Sagrada Familia.

Post Gaudi

After Gaudi’s death, work continued as planned. However, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, work came to a halt and parts of Gaudi’s models and plans were destroyed. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.

Today, computer technology is being used to pre-shape the stones off site, rather than shape them on site by hand. This has significantly affected the pace of the construction and it’s now scheduled to be completed around 2020-2030.

Many believe the deadline is set to June 10th 2026, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s tragic death. On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudi is said to have remarked “My client is not in a hurry.”

Why visit Sagrada Familia ?

The full name of this site is Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, but it is often simply called the Sagrada Familia. Many say that if you only have time to visit one site in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia should be it. It is easy to understand why when looking at it. Even though the church is still under construction, it has become a symbol for Barcelona and the Catalonian region.

Full of symbolism

If there is something the church is full of, except enchanting beauty, then it is symbolism. Themes throughout the detailed decoration include words from the Christian liturgy. For example, the towers are decorated with words such as “Hosanna”, “Excelsis” and “Sanctus”, but the most detailed parts of the church are the magnificent facades.

The façades

When completed, the Church will have three grand façades: the Passion façade to the West, the Nativity façade to the East and the Glory façade to the South. The latter is the one still under construction.

The Passion

The Passion façade, also known as the Façade of the Suffering Way, is most known for its unorthodox sculptures. The façade is actually designed by Gaudi during the time he suffered from a serious illness.  The work was carried out later in 1989 by the sculptor Josep Subirachs, based on Gaudi’s drawings. As visitors can see, the sculptor’ style is – in contrast with Gaudi’s – very much based around sharp edges.

The façade is based around telling the story of the suffering of Christ, showing different stages of the suffering with the help of sculptures, in an “S-shaped” pattern. Starting on the first level, to the very far left of the entrance, stands statues depicting the last supper. The next step in the “S-shaped” story telling is to the left of the entrance, where one can see how Judas the betrayer is kissing Jesus.

Behind them one can see a magic square, filled with different numbers. Before reaveling the square’s secret, try to find it out yourself. Can you solve the riddle of the magic square? On the pillar in between the entrances stands Jesus tied and tormented. The statues to the right depicts Peter’s denial and to the far right Jesus trial.

Above the trial stands the three Marys and above the entrance, Golgotha; the place where Jesus was crucified. To the left is a statue depicting the mounted solider Longino – the man who the legend has it pierced Jesus side with a spear.

Above him is several soldiers depicted while they were gambling for Jesus clothes, and to the right of them – the crucifixion. The last sculptures to the far right shows the entombment of Christ.

One little detail many people don’t notice can be found far above the entrance, at the archway between the towers. By looking closely to towards the right side, one can see a golden statue of the risen Christ. By taking a look at the main doors, visitors will see that they are filled with words from the Bible in various languages, including Catalan.

The Nativity

The Nativity façade was built before work was interrupted by the civil war. This is the façade which bears the most direct Gaudi influence. It consists of four bell towers and three large portals. From left to right stands the Portal of Hope, the Portal of Charity and the Portal of Faith. By looking towards the top of the portals, one can see that they symbolize grottos.

In fact, throughout the whole Nativity Façade, there is a clear theme of nature, as many of the sculptures symbolize vegetation, people and birds. This is a celebration to the ever changing nature and to the creators of all forms of life.

The Portal of Hope

The leftmost portal, known as the Portal of Hope, is covered in flora and fauna from the Nile. The portal shows the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and to the right stands Herod murdering innocent children. The portal also displays some hope, in form of Joseph standing together with his son above the doorway. In the top of the portal one can also see the marriage between Joseph and Mary.

The Portal of Faith

The rightmost Portal is known as the Portal of Faith. The sculptures’ surrounding the portal depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Family in their house at Nazareth and the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple. In the very top visitors can see the Immaculate Conception – a Roman Catholic Dogma which says that Virgin Mary is without any original sin.

The Portal of Charity

The portal in the middle is the largest one. It is known as the Portal of Charity. In the middle of this portal stand two doors, supported by a beautiful pillar. Lower part of the pillar depicts a snake sinking its teeth into an apple. This is the symbol of original sin which is the reason Jesus came to earth. On the left side of the doors stands the Three Kings, bringing their gifts to the newborn Jesus, and on the other side the Three Shepherds.

The sculptures above the doors represents the birth of Christ and the top depicts how Jesus crowns the Virgin Mary Queen of Heaven. Above that, closer to the very top of the portal, stands the letters “JHS” – an anagram for Christ’s name.

The Portal of Charity is crowned with a large tree of life. On the pinnacle of the tree stands a large red “T”; the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet which reads “tau”, the initial of the name of God. On top of the T is a smaller X, which represents Christ. At the very top you can also see a white dove, which represents the Holy Spirit. Thus, the three persons of the Holy Trinity are represented at the top of the tree, symbolizing the creators of life.

Between the tree portals stands two massive pillars. The pillars are resting on the backs of turtles. Turtles have long been seen as a divine animal with connections to the heavens and the cosmos, known for their longevity.

Half way up, the columns bear the inscriptions ‘Joseph’ and ‘Mary’. The columns are crowned with palms to symbolize triumph and the coming of a new light. In the old days, palms symbolized the martyr and his or her triumph over death.

A lot to discover

As clearly shown, the whole church is absolutely full of symbolism. Giving all the details about all the symbols covering the church would need a smaller essay. One thing is for sure; visitors to Sagrada Familia will have a lot of things to discover!

Remember the Magic Square located on the Passion façade, behind Judas? In case you haven’t solved the riddle, the answer is that all the numbers adds up to 33; the age Jesus was when he died.

Visitor magnet

Today, even though it’s unfinished, the church has become a top tourist attraction, not only in Barcelona, but in whole Spain. The visitors are an important source of income as the project is not supported by any government or official church sources. An estimate of more than two million people visits the site each year.

For a small fee, one can enter the church and take an elevator – or climb the more than 400 steps – to an observation point. It provides a great view over the beautiful city of Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia location

Sagrada Familia is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain.For the exact location of Sagrada Familia, check out the location map to the right.

Sagrada Familia Video

Leaning Tower of Pisa history

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built as a part of Piazza dei Miracolli and is the piazza’s third oldest structure, after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. More precisely, an inscription located to the right above the entrance to the tower, tells us that the construction started on august 9th, 1173.

A symbol for wealth

One of the purposes of the Leaning Tower was to serve as the bell tower for the cathedral. However, the main purpose of the Leaning Tower was to show the world the wealth and power of the city of Pisa.

During these times, Pisa with its mighty fleet was one of the strongest and most powerful Italian cities. They had successfully waged war all over the Mediterranean Sea and the new tower needed to reflect these victories. This is why the Leaning Tower of Pisa looks completely different compared to an ordinary bell tower.

The leaning tower

A few years after the construction started, the tower began to lean towards the southeast. This due to the fact that the tower was built on a poorly laid foundation, only three meters deep.

The tower was also built on weak, unstable subsoil which allowed the foundation to slightly shift direction. This caused one side of the tower to sink into the ground. When this happened, five years had passed since the start of the construction and the tower had progressed to the third floor. With this, the construction halted for almost a century.

Saved by war

The halt in construction was not because of the problems with the Leaning Tower, but because the inhabitants of Pisa were almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. The halt in construction allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. This most likely saved the tower, as without the interference of wars, the tower would almost certainly have toppled.

Completion

In year 1272, the construction of the Leaning Tower resumed. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. With the new change, the tower began to lean in the other direction; instead of southeast it began to lean southwest. The completion of the Leaning Tower would however take another 100 years, as several smaller wars interfered. With the completion of the bell chamber in 1372, one of the most unusual monuments of all times stood finished.

Stabilization projects

The Leaning Tower is been subject to several restoration and stabilization projects; not only due to the towers instable nature, but also due to its age and exposure to wind and rain.

The first stabilization project was initiated in the 1960ies, when the engineers realized that the tilt was increasing in combination with a softer foundation. Many methods for stabilizing the Leaning Tower were discussed, including the addition of 800 tons of lead counterweights to the raised end of the base.

Later, in 1990, a massive restoration and stabilization project was initialized. During this project, the Leaning Tower was closed to the public and the bells were removed to relieve some weight. The plan was to straighten up the tower by removing 38 cubic meters of soil from underneath the raised end using special drills. In order to keep the Leaning Tower stabile during this daring project, several heavy cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were also vacated for safety.

In 2001, the project was finally completed and the Leaning Tower had been straightened by 45 centimeters, returning to the exact position it had in 1838. After these massive reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public in December 2001 and was declared stable for at least another 300 years.

Why visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa ?

The 56 meter high Leaning Tower of Pisa is world famous, not only for its beautiful looks, but mainly for its heavy tilt. It is one of the heaviest leaning towers in the world – and for sure the most famous one.

Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the Leaning Tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans about 4 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is almost four meters from where it would stand if the tower were perfectly vertical.

If one feels ambitious, and isn’t afraid of heights, a trip to the top of the Leaning Tower is highly recommend. While almost 300 steps will take some time to climb, it provides a great view of Piazza dei Miracolli and the city of Pisa.

Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the region’s number one tourist destination – attracting people from all over the world. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and without a doubt one of the world’s most famous towers.

Leaning Tower of Pisa location

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is located in central Pisa, on Italy’s west coast. The tower is situated on the famous Piazza dei Miracoli.  For the exact location of the Leaning Tower, check out the location map to the right.

Pisa Baptistery history

The baptistery was the second building to be constructed in the Piazza dei Miracoli, after the Duomo Cathedral but before the tower It was built to be a worthy addition to the cathedral and a further sign of the city of Pisa’s wealth and magnificence.

The structure is almost 55 meters high, which is actually slightly higher than the Leaning Tower. At a mighty 107 meters in circumference, it is the largest baptistery in whole Italy, so in scale it certainly delivered on the city’s ambitions.

Main architect

The construction of this magnificent building started in mid 12th century, as a replacement for an older baptistery. Inscriptions on a pillar inside the building tells us that it was built by an architect known as “Diotisalvi” – the same man who built the Church of the Santo Sepolcro, located in central Pisa.

Founding

While the vast majority of the construction project was founded by the city of Pisa, rumors say it was partly funded by the citizens themselves. In 1163, an order was given that on the first day of the month every family of Pisa should pay one denaro to the construction project.

Completion

Just like many of the other structures here at Piazza dei Miracoli, construction took longer time than expected. The baptistery stood finished in mid 14th century, as several events interrupted the construction phase.

Why visit Pisa Baptistery ?

The fact that the construction spanned over 200 years actually shows in the way it is designed. The outside of the baptistery is contains different architectural styles, depending on which style was popular at the time.

The lower levels of the baptistery are made up of an open gallery, supported by classical pillars and round arches – very similar to the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower. This is a typical sign of Italian Romanesque architecture.

However by looking at the upper levels, the round, smooth figures have instead transformed into very sharp angles. The arches are also pointing upwards, towards the sky. This is a typical sign of Gothic architecture, a style which became very popular during the later stages of the construction phase.

Beautifully decorated

The outside of the baptistery is decorated by several beautiful ornaments and sculptures. The main portal is flanked by two classical columns, covered in beautiful relief.

Just above the entrance hangs a relief depicting several episodes in the life of Saint John the Baptist. On top of that relief, several smaller sculptures can be seen. The middle one represents Christ, flanked by the Madonna, Saint John and several angels and evangelists. The entrance crowned by a large statue of the Madonna with the child.

Interior

While exterior of the baptistery is highly decorative, the same cannot be said about its interior. Unlike the interior of the Pisa Cathedral, the baptistery is surprisingly plain and lacks ornamentation. The few decorative elements that do exist are however extraordinary.

The baptistery is known for its brilliant stained glass windows and its massive baptismal font. The octagonal font at the centre dates from 1246 and is so large it could qualify as a swimming pool. This due to the fact that the baptism conducted here was done by immersion. In the middle of the font stands find a beautiful bronze statue depicting Saint John the Baptist. The full name of Pisa’s Baptistery is actually Baptistery of Saint John.

The Pulpit

Another piece to keep an extra eye on is the beautiful pulpit. The pulpit was sculpted in mid 13th century by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni Pisano – the artist who made the pulpit in the cathedral. By comparing the two, one can see distinct similarities in the way they are made.

Both pulpits are made up of a number of pillars and several pieces of beautiful relief. The one in the baptistery depicts several scenes from the life of Christ.

Perfect acoustics

However, what the baptistery is most known for is not any tangible feature. It is famous for its perfect acoustics. One can stand below the edge of the dome and sing a note for several seconds, and the sound will travel around and around the dome for many more seconds.

Likewise, applause creates a similar remarkable echo effect. This is usually demonstrated by the staff on a regular basis, so make sure not to miss hearing this wonderful phenomenon.

A perfect shot

Anyone looking for a great camera shot should look to reach the upper balcony. The windows there can provide an interesting view over the the Duomo Cathedralthe Leaning Tower and the rest of Piazza dei Miracoli.

The leaning baptistery

Today, the Baptistery, together with the rest of the Piazza dei Miracoli, has become Pisa’s and one of Italy’s most important tourist sites. What many people don’t know is that the Baptistery, just like the the cathedral and the tower, leans. It only leans around 0.6 degrees towards the cathedral, so it can be hard to spot for the human eye.

Pisa Baptistery location

Pisa Baptistery is located in central Pisa, on Italy’s west coast. The baptistery is situated on the famous Piazza dei Miracoli.  For the exact location of Pisa Baptistery, check out the location map to the right.

Pisa Baptistery Video

Pisa Cathedral history

The construction of Pisa cathedral, also known as Duomo di Pisa, began in 1063 under the architect Buscheto. This man was also the founder of the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style in which the cathedral is built.

The cathedral is also inspired by several other architectural styles. By looking at the four rows of open gallery above the entrance, visitors can find several smaller round arches, which is a typical feature in Moorish architecture. The inside also shows signs of Byzantine influences, especially the beautiful mosaic.

As Pisa was a strong naval power, historians believe that these influences were brought into the city by different travelers and sailors. The cathedral is, and was at the time of its construction, one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world.

There is no coincidence that this beautiful cathedral is located here in Pisa, as Pisa used to be one of the most powerful cities in the Mediterranean area.

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Assumption.

Why visit Pisa Cathedral ?

Pisa cathedral is truly a beautiful site which has a lot to offer. One of its most striking features is without a doubt the impressive exterior. By looking towards the very top of the west façade, visitors can a statue of Mary with the child. On either side of her stand the four evangelists.

Another thing that makes the façade stand out is the massive bronze gates. A closer inspection of the gates will reveal that they are covered in beautiful relief, depicting different biblical stories.

Interior

While the white, shining outside of the cathedral truly is stunning, the same must also be said about its inside. Inside visitors can experience the massive nave and the beautiful aisle. The nave of the cathedral is flanked by granite Corinthian columns. Unknown to many is that these columns actually comes from the mosque of Palermo. The columns were captured by the Pisans and brought to the city in year 1063.

Great works of art

The inside also holds some of the greatest medieval works of art in the world, even though a fire in late 16th century destroyed the majority of them. One that survived the fire is the mosaic in the apse. The impressive mosaic depicts Christ in Majesty, flanked by the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Evangelist.

Stunning pulpit

However, the most striking piece of art is probably the elaborately carved pulpit, which also survived the fire. The pulpit was made by Giovani Pisano and is highly regarded as one of the masterworks of medieval sculptures.

The pulpit is supported by plain columns as well as statue-like column known as Caryatids and Telamons. The upper part of the pulpit contains reliefs depicting dramatic scenes from the New Testament – all the way from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion.

Cathedral tombs

The cathedral also contains several tombs of important persons. One of them is St. Ranierius – Pisa’s patron saint and the patron saint of all travelers. The cathedral also holds the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII. Pope Gregory VIII was also buried in the cathedral, but the fire in 1600th century destroyed his tomb.

Much to see

As one can imagine, there is a ton of things to see both on the cathedrals outside and on its inside. A fun fact which the majority of the visitors do not know is that the cathedral, just like the tower, tilts. It doesn’t tilt nearly as much as the Leaning Tower, but visitors standing on the sidewalk should be able to see it.

Pisa Cathedral location

Pisa Cathedral is located in central Pisa, on Italy’s west coast. The baptistery is situated on the famous Piazza dei Miracoli.  For the exact location of Pisa Cathedral, check out the location map to the right.

Pisa Cathedral Video Guide

Camposanto history

The Camposanto has a very long and intriguing history. The Camposanto is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade in the 12th century.  An inscription near the right gate tells us that the construction of the Camposanto started in year 1277 and finished in the late 15th century.

The main architect of the Camposanto was a man named Giovanni di Simone – the same architect who worked on the Leaning Tower during its later stages. The Camposanto quickly became the burial place of the Pisan upper class and remained as such for several centuries.

The completion of the Camposanto also meant that the fourth and final structure in the cathedral square had been raised. With this, the Piazza dei Miracoli we know today stood finished.

Second World War

One of the things the Camposanto is known for is its many frescoes. Tragically, many of the frescoes have been destroyed or damaged. In 1944, during the Second World War, incendiary bombs dropped during an Allied air raid set the roof on fire.

The burning wood rafters caused the lead of the roof to melt. The molten lead caused severe damaged to everything inside the cemetery, destroying most of the sculptures and sarcophagi as well as most of the frescoes.

Restoration

After World War II ended, as massive restoration project began. The roof was restored as closely as possible to its pre-war appearance and the frescoes were separated from the walls to be restored.

Once the frescoes had been removed, the preliminary drawings, called “sinopie”, were also removed. These under-drawings are now displayed in the Museum of the Sinopie, on the opposite side of the Square.

Why visit Camposanto ?

The full name of the site is Camposanto Monumentale – the Monumental Cemetery. Many claim that this walled cemetery is one of the most beautiful in the world. After having visited it, it’s hard to argue against such a claim. The locals also refer to this place as Camposanto Vecchio – “the old cemetery” – as a way of differentiating it from the later established urban cemetery in Pisa.

Architectural beauty

The outer walls of the Camposanto are composed of 43 blind arches with two doorsways. The right entrance is crowned by a gracious tabernacle, designed in typical Gothic architecture. It contains the Virgin Mary with Child, surrounded by four saints. The piece is originates from the second half of the 14th century and was constructed by a follower of Giovanni Pisano – the man who made the amazing Pisa Cathedral pulpit.

The chapels

The Camposanto has a total of three chapels. The oldest ones are the chapel Ammannati and the chapel Aulla. The last chapel is found in the middle, known as Dal Pozzo. The small dome one can see to the east belongs to this chapel which also has a beautiful altar dedicated to St. Jerome.

Tomb location

The Camposanto is not like a normal cemetery, where the majority of the tombs and graves can be found in the courtyard. Here most of the tombs are located under the arches and under the floor, though a few can be found on the central lawn.

Roman decoration

The Camposanto is not all graves and tombs, but it’s also filled with other funerary monuments.  Visitors can enjoy several Roman sculptures and sarcophagi, most from the 3rd century.

The Roman sculptures were mostly brought to the Camposanto for decoration purposes in the early 14th century. Together with the Roman sarcophagi, these ancient artworks formed one of the most important collections of Classical art in Europe.

Famous wall paintings

What the Camposanto is perhaps even more known for is its many outstanding frescoes – its wall paintings. The first painting was applied already in 1360 and many more have been added along the years. The last one was applied almost 300 years later, in mid 15th century. Perhaps the most famous one is “The triumph of death”, by Buonomico Buffalmacco.

Naval traditions

One thing that surprises many as they visit the Camposanto is that there is a large rusty chain hanging next to the beautiful frescoes. This chain is actually an old chain from the Pisa port, takes by the Genoese and later returned to Pisa in 1860.

It’s just one of the many signs of the strong naval traditions in Pisa, so don’t be surprised to find more similar features in the city of Pisa.

Camposanto location

Camposanto is located in central Pisa, on Italy’s west coast. The cemetery is situated on the famous Piazza dei Miracoli.  For the exact location of Camposanto, check out the location map to the right.

Camposanto Video

Piazza dei Miracoli history

The piazza is also known as Piazza del Duomo – the Cathedral Square – which is actually its real name. However, in 1910, the Italian writer and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio described the square in one of his books. He wrote; “The Ardea rotated over the sky of Christ, over the meadow of Miracles.” Ever since, the piazza is more known as the Piazza dei Miracoli.

Construction

The piazza and its buildings were constructed between the 11th and the 15th century. During this period, Pisa was one of the most dominant cities in Italy and the new piazza needed to reflect their power.

The city of Pisa spent huge amounts of money to construct a new religious complex. As the new complex was supposed to convey power and influence, they weren’t satisfied with only building a new cathedral. Instead they built no less than four amazing structures; the Duomo Cathedralthe Baptistrythe Camposanto Cemetery and the bell tower, also known as the Leaning Tower.

Symbolism

What many people don’t realize is that there is also a symbolic meaning in the different buildings. Together, they all represent the different periods in life. The Baptistry represents the start of life; birth. The Cathedral represents the life while the cemetery

Why visit Piazza dei Miracoli ?

The name of this outstanding square, Piazza dei Miracoli, translates to “the Square of Miracles.” Once one gets a good look at it, it’s easy to understand why.

This square is highly regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in the whole world.  Piazza dei Miracoli was rightfully so declared a World Heritage Site in 1987; not only for its beauty but also as it a way of recognizing it as one of the main centers for medieval art in the world.

A square full of life

Piazza dei Miracoli is not only visited for its beauty, but also for the many interesting buildings on the site, as it includes the Duomo Cathedralthe Baptistrythe Camposanto Cemetery and the world famous the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Few other squares can offer several masterpieces of that magnitude. It is not known as one of the greatest squares ever built without a reason.

The Meadow of Mircales

Even though many tourists visit the place, it almost never feels too crowded. The plain green fields together with the majestic white buildings always project an aura of peace and serenity.  It’s easy to understand why Gabriele d’Annunzio described this place as the Meadow of Miracles.

Piazza dei Miracoli location

Piazza dei Miracoli is located in central Pisa, on Italy’s west coast. The square is situated on the edge of Pisa’s medieval city. Entry tickets for the various buildings in the square are bought in the building on the south side. For the exact location of Piazza dei Miracoli, check out the location map to the right.

Piazza dei Miracoli Video

St. Peter’s Basilica history

The history of St. Peter’s Basilica dates back almost 2000 years. The basilica is named after Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and according to the tradition, the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter is therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.

Saint Peter

After the crucifixion of Jesus in the 1st century, Saint Peter took a leading position among Jesus’ followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church. It is believed that Saint Peter met his martyrdom during a travel to Rome in year 64. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. This obelisk is the very same one that still stands in the center of the St Peter’s Square.

The first St. Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter was buried near the Circus of Nero, less than 150 meters from the place of his death. A few years later, a small shrine was built on the site to honor him. Almost 300 years later, the shrine was replaced by a basilica on order by the first Christian Emperor of Rome, Constantine the first.

The St. Peter’s Basilica of today

Over the course of time, the basilica more and more fell into a ruinous state. In order to combat this, Pope Nicolas the 5th ordered the restoration and enlargement of the basilica in the 15th century. The work on the new grand basilica didn’t start until after Pope Nicolas death, when then new pope, Julius the second, laid the first stone of the new basilica in 1506. Throughout the project, several noted architects and artists were involved.

The most prominent one was the renowned artist and architect, Michelangelo. He was the chief architect and was responsible for its main design as well as several other features. Michelangelo never got to see his work fully completed, as he died in 1624, two years before the St. Peter’s Basilica was dedicated by Pope Urban VIII.

Why visit St. Peter’s Basilica ?

Many rate St. Peter’s Basilica and as the most beautiful building ever made. For centuries, this basilica has been the center for the Catholic faith and it is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites of all.

Impressive size

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the very largest religious structures ever built and it has the largest interior of all Christian churches in the world. It has an impressive total capacity of over 60,000 people.

The building itself is truly massive with its 218 meter long nave. The basilica’s dome is the world’s largest, measuring 42m in diameter and reaches an impressive 138 meters towards the sky.

St. Peter’s Square

The stunning square in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica was built between year 1656 and 1667. It was designed by the famous Bernini. The centerpiece is the impressive Egyptian obelisk one can see in the center, flanked by two stunning fountains. The obelisk dates back to the 13th century BC and was brought from Egypt to Rome in the 1st century. It was moved to its present location in the 16th century on order of Pope Sixtus V. The obelisk stands 40 meters tall, including the cross that crowns it.

The square is outlined by an open colonnade, symbolically welcoming the visitors into the Catholic Church with open arms. A little fun fact is that there is a circular stone between the obelisk and each fountain. By standing one of these circular stones while looking towards the colonnade, the rows of columns will line up flawlessly and appear to be just a single row.

As visitors to the St. Peter’s Basilica can see, the colonnade is crowned with not one, not two, but 140 beautiful statues. These statues were sculptured by a number of different artists during the 17th century and depict Christian saints.

Front façade

The façade of St. Peter’s Basilica was built by Carlo Maderno and stretches almost 120 meters. In the middle of the façade, one can see the classical central balcony. This balcony is called Loggia of the Blessings and is used for the announcement of the new pope. Underneath the balcony, visitors can spot a relief depicting Christ giving the keys to St. Peter.

Above the balcony is a long text inscribed. Translated it means;
“Paul the 5th Borghese, Roman, Supreme Pontiff, in the year 1612, the seventh of his pontificate, erected in honor of the Prince of Apostles”.

The façade is crowned with 13 statues made in beautiful travertine. These statues depict Christ the Redeemer in the center, flanked by the twelve apostles.

The patron statues

By looking at either side of the façade, visitors will see two more statues, significantly larger than the ones on top of the façade. These statues represent the patron saints of Rome; St. Peter and St. Paul. These statues were built on order by Pope Pius IX in mid 19th century, who wanted to replace the existing smaller ones.

Basilica interior

Many visitors are impressed with the beauty of the exterior of the St. Peter’s Basilica. However, many rate the interior even more beautiful. The building’s interior really displays the wealth of the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by several famous artists. Some of the most important works is the Pietà by Michelangelo as well as the papal altar and the Throne of St. Peter by Bernini.

Papal tombs

One can also find the tombs of several Popes inside the basilica. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is locate directly below the main altar of the basilica. This is the reason why many Popes have been interred at St Peter’s ever since the Early Christian period. The majority of the tombs are found in the crypt which is well worth a visit as it also contains architectural fragments from the earlier churches.

A stunning site

Today, St. Peter’s Basilica is famous as a place of pilgrimage. It is visited by millions of people each year. The basilica is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered one of the greatest buildings ever built. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom” – big words, but hardly any exaggerations.

Impressive view

What a lot of people don’t actually know is that it is possible to access the main dome of the basilica. Visitors have the option of taking the elevator or the stairs, the latter being a bit cheaper. From the dome, one will have a magnificent view of Rome in general and of the Saint Peter’s square in particular.

St. Peter’s Basilica location

St. Peter’s Basilica is located in Vatican City,RomeItaly. The baslica is located in centrl parts of the city, close to Castel Sant’Angelo. For the exact location of St. Peter’s Basilica, check out the location map to the right.

St. Peter’s Basilica Video

Church of Domine Quo Vadis history

The official name of this church is the Church of St Mary in Palmis, but it’s now more known as the Church of Domine Quo Vadis. The church, built next to the Appian Way, has a long and intriguing history.

The legend

The legend has it this was the spot where Saint Peter, who was fleeing Rome to escape persecution, had a vision of a risen Christ.

According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Peter asked Jesus; “Domine, quo vadis ?” meaning “Lord, where are you going?”. Jesus answered; “I am going to Rome to be crucified again”. This made Peter turn around, go back to Rome and face his martyrdom.

Apostle presence

Evidence suggests a strong presence of the Apostle Peter in this area, not only because it was here he met Jesus. This was also the area where he is supposed to have lived. An epigraph found in the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian supports this as it says, “Domus Petri” – meaning “the House of Peter”.

An epigram by Pope Damasus I from the 4th century honors St. Peter and St. Paul and further strengthens the belief that this was the area where the apostles lived. It reads: “You that are looking for the names of Peter and Paul, you must know that the saints have lived here”.

A place for worship

There are indications that this site has been a place for holy worship before this church was built and even prior to the legend of St. Peter and Jesus.

This church in fact located just in front of an ancient sacred Campus, dedicated to the Roman God Rediculus – not to be confused with the word “ridiculous”. His name derives from the Latin verb “redire”, meaning “to come back” and he was known as the God of Return.

Rediculus

The fact that the sanctuary of Rediculus was located here, along the Appian Way, was no coincidence. The road was the most important one of all Roman roads and was the road travelers going south or east took. Journeys to distant places like Egypt, Greece or the Far East were often dangerous and not all would return from their voyage.

This site was the last place where travelers could get a good glimpse of Rome behind them, so the they often stopped here and prayed to Rediculus that they would return to see Rome once again.

Besides, the god Rediculus also had a terrible reputation. A legend states that when Hannibal, after the Battle of Cannae, arrived in front of the gates of Rome following this road, a god appeared before him. The god caused terror amongst the men and told them to immediately return the way they came. Whether or not the legend is true, it still shows that the ancient Romans held Rediculus in deep consideration.

Christian churches

The first Christian building on the site was a small church, built in the 9th century on the basis of the St. Peter’s legend. The current church was however built in year 1637 and the current façade was added later in the 17th century.

Why visit the Catacombs of San Sebastiano ?

Very little is known about the original 9th century church – the Church of St Mary in Palmis. The word “palmis” does however stand for the soles of Jesus’ feet. The inside the church houses two footprints on a marble stone which would be a miraculous sign left by Jesus when he appeared before Peter.

The stone located inside this church is however only a replica, as the real stone is kept safely in the Relics Chapel at the nearby Basilica of San Sebastiano.

Inscriptions

There used to be an inscription on the front façade of the church, telling travelers to stop walking and instead enter this sacred temple, as it is the place where St. Peter met Jesus. However, Pope Gregory the 16th found it inappropriate – almost as a kind of advertisement – in which he ordered it to be removed in 1845.

Today’s façade inscription, right about the main entrance, is more modest. The inscription reads; “D.O.M”, which reads Dominus Optimis Maximus, meaning “Father All Mighty”. Below it one can read a Latin phrase meaning “It was here Peter asked Jesus; Lord, where are you going?”

A church of special importance

Despite the small size of the church, it still holds a very special place in the Christian hearts. In 1983, Pope John Paul the 2nd further emphasized this when he defined the church as “a place that has a special importance in the history of Rome and in the history of the Church”.

Domine Quo Vadis location

The Church of Domine Quo Vadis is located in RomeItaly. The church can be found along the ancient Roman road known as the Appian Way. It is located about 800 m from Porta San Sebastiano, the Gate of the Aurelian Wall, at the location where the Via Ardeatina branches off the the Appian Way.

The whole area is well served by public transport, but is also easily accessed by foot or bicycle, as the Appian Way is a popular hiking road. For the exact location of the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, check out the location map to the right.

Domine Quo Vadis Video

Protestant Cemetery history

As indicated by its name, this is the final resting place for Protestants and other non-catholic people. Protestant Cemetery, officially known as the Non-Catholic Cemetery, has a rich history.

Records have shown that the history of this place dates back to at least year 1738. It was the year when the papal state dedicated this land to bury the remains of non-Catholics. Many of them were foreigner, mostly Protestants from northern Europe who could not be buried the consecrated land in Rome. According to Catholic Church law, Protestants can be buried neither in Catholic churches nor in consecrated ground.

Burials

The first person to have been interred at this cemetery was an Oxford graduate named George Langton, who came from an aristocratic British family. Between the years 1738 and 1822, around sixty people were buried in the cemetery.

The need for the non-catholic cemetery increased in the mid 19th century. Over the next hundred years, more than 4000 people were interred here. Almost one quarter was North Americans while the rest were mostly Europeans.

Expansion

The cemetery was not walled of as it is today during the earlier stages of its history. The first wall surrounding the area was built in the early 19th century. The wall of today was built during the unification of Italy, in year 1870. The cemetery was also expanded in size and a small chapel was added. With this, the cemetery looked much like it does today.

Why visit Protestant Cemetery ?

It is hard to think of another urban site so wonderfully peaceful. The cemetery’s many tall cypress tress, together with abundant flowers, creates a green shelter where one can escape the city. The cemetery has always had this romantic style, inspired by the Romantic English gardens of the 18th and 19th century. It’s hardly surprising that many poets and artists fell in love with this place and that many are in fact buried here.

In love with death

“It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley – the famous English poet. Shelley died during a sailing accident not long afterwards. He’s ashes are interred here at the Protestant Cemetery.

John Keats

Another famous English poet buried here is John Keats, who died in Rome of tuberculosis. Keats lies buried in a quiet corner in an old part of the Cemetery. His simple oval tombstone is graced by a sad and bitter inscription, not mentioning him by name. The inscription reads;

“This grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart, at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. Feb 24th 1821”

The English Cemetery

Next to Keats grave lies the tomb of his friend, the English artist Jospeh Severn. Severn is actually the one responsible for the design of his friend’s grave. The cemetery is sometimes called “The English Cemetery” due to the many famous Englishmen interred here.

A diverse mix

However, the cemetery population is exceptionally diverse when it comes to nationality and religion. Here you can find Protestant and Orthodox as well as Islam and Buddhist graves. The inscriptions on the tombstones are in more than 15 languages ranging from Lithuanian and Bulgarian to Japanese and Russian.

The cemetery also possibly contains the highest density of famous and important graves anywhere in the world. In addition to the famous Englishmen, several other noted writers, painters, sculptors, historians, archaeologists, diplomats and scientists lies buried here.

An enchanting place

The cemetery is defined as of cultural importance to Rome and is thus under special protection. It is also regarded as an Italian monument of national interest. Today, the Protestant Cemetery ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries.

Protestant Cemetery location

The Protestant Cemetery is located in RomeItaly. The cemetery is situated in southern parts of the city, next to the Aurelian Wall and the Pyramid of Cestius. For the exact location of the Protestant Cemetery, check out the location map to the right.

Protestant Cemetery Video