One of the sights that I most look forward to, whenever I visit Pisa, is La Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina, or the Church of Santa Maria della Spina. This jewel-box-like structure has enchanted me for years, but I’ve ever only seen it from the outside. It was always closed, when I tried to visit it in the past. Not this time! To my delight, the church was open, and was hosting an art exhibit!
Most of the furnishings from the church have been lost to floods, as the structure sits directly on the banks of the Arno River. Still, there is a sense of harmony and peace that overtakes you, when entering this holy space.
The church still contains the lovely Gothic sculpture, the Madonna and Child, also known as the Madonna della Rosa, which dates from between 1345 and 1348, and was sculpted by Andrea and Nino Pisano.
The marble tabernacle on the wall was created to hold the relic of the “spina,” or thorn, from the crown of thorns that was set on Christ’s head.
Continuing along the river, you will come to a small park, in which sits the Chiesa di San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, or the Church of San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, also known as the Duomo Vecchio. The church dates from 1032, and for many years, was the main church of the city.
Behind the church is the Chapel of Saint Agatha, which dates from 1063. It was built to celebrate the conquest of the city of Palermo. It was dedicated to Saint Agatha, as she was martyred in Sicily.
The park area that one sees today belonged to the church, and for many years, it was enclosed by a wall, thus keeping the chapel hidden from the public’s eyes. The wall was destroyed in a bombing during World War II, and was never rebuilt. Thus, today, we are able to admire this lovely structure.
Nearby is the ancient city gate, the Porta a Mare, or Gate to the Sea, as it was the exit that one took, when headed to the seashore.
A plaque marks the building in which Vincenzo Tangorra stayed, while in Pisa. He was an economist and a politician, as well as a professor at the University of Pisa. While there, he founded the Italian Journal of Sociology.
Another plaque honors three professors who lived on the same street, Via San Paolo.
Next up: A visit to a leaning tower that is not the famous one, plus more of lovely Pisa!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear. If you have enjoyed this post, please, check out our archives for more posts from Pisa, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!