Despite the Camposanto, a monumental cemetery, is just right next to one of the most recognized buildings in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, it does not see nearly as many visitors.
“Campo Santo” can be literally translated as “holy field”, because it is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Third Crusade by Ubaldo Lanfranchi, archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. According to a popular belief, the bodies buried in that ground will rot in just 24 hours!
The building was the fourth and last one to be raised in the Cathedral Square. It dates from a century after the bringing of the soil from Golgotha, and was erected over the earlier burial ground.
Its construction begun in 1278 by the architect Giovanni di Simone, but he died in 1284 when Pisa suffered a defeat in the naval battle of Meloria against the Genoans. The cemetery was completed only in 1464.
Its silence when walking the open-air hallways adds to the sometimes haunting nature of the 14th-15th-century frescoes.
These works of art include masterpieces as “The Last Judgement,” “Hell,” and “The Triumph of Death and Thebaid (stories of the Desert Fathers)”, usually attributed to Buonamico di Martino da Firenze, known as Buffalmacco, and painted in the years after the Black Death.
In addition, the stone floor tiles are all gravestones dating to the late 13th-century and sarcophagi are scattered throughout the halls. Well respected and famous people rest here, including members of the Medici family and, from the beginning, this building was designed to preserve the history of medieval Italy.
The cemetery has three chapels. The oldest ones are the chapel Ammannati (1360) and takes its name from the tomb of Ligo Ammannati, a teacher in the University of Pisa, and the chapel Aulla, were there is an altar made by Renaissance ceramic artist Giovanni della Robbia in 1518. In this chapel we can admire also the original incense lamp that Galileo Galilei used for calculation of pendular movements. The last chapel was Dal Pozzo, commissioned by archbishop of Pisa Carlo Antonio Dal Pozzo in 1594, and has an altar dedicated to St. Jerome and a little dome. In this chapel in 2009 were translated the relics of the Cathedral, including two fragments of the True Cross, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns of Christ and a small piece of the dress of the Virgin Mary.
However, the most dark part of wandering through the halls is its beauty juxtaposed with its collection of macabre murals that depict demons and the devil and, as visitors walk down the stone halls, there are exquisitely sculpted sarcophagi tomb decorations of goddess-like women and saints all around.