Santa Maria della Spina. The unknown masterpiece hidden in Pisa
Pisa. The unknown masterpiece
Everyone knows Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, the Square of Wonders. Because, indeed, it’s full of wonders: the cathedral with its bell tower, the famous tower of Pisa, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
But how many know what is on the other side of the city? On the other bank of the river Arno? If you go on an organised day trip from Florence , they will not bring you there.
And yet, on the other bank is one of Europe’s most important Gothic monuments: Santa Maria della Spina. The Virgin of the Thorn.
If you think it looks like the gold or silver reliquaries you’ve seen in Europe’s museums, you’ll not be wrong. Because it’s a huge reliquary.
The reliquary of Saint Eleutherius at the cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Tournai, Belgium. Classic case of Gothic reliquary. Source: Welleschik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A huge precious box for a tiny heirloom
Whenever you see such churches that resemble huge precious boxes, it means that they house some great heirloom.
Which means that they are really reliquaries.
This one in particular houses a thorn believed to belong to the crown of Christ. And it’s essentially a huge luxurious box that closes inside this tiny heirloom.
No matter whether or not you believe the authenticity of the heirloom, you can admire a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. It was built in 1230 and expanded in 1325.
In 1871 the church was dismantled and rebuilt at a higher point because the humidity that was rising from Arno was threatening it.
The sculptures in the outside are the work of the greatest local sculptors of the 14th century. Among them, the entire Pisano family, who have adorned many of Tuscany’s great monuments.
So, whenever you find yourself in Pisa, definitely go to the opposite bank …
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