The cathedral was started in 1063. The architect Buschetto is responsible for the Pisan Romanesque style that set the tone for buildings in the Filed of Miracles complex. In the 1150s the architect Rainaldo added the main entrance facade. Architecturally the cathedral is defined by its
marble facing of contrasting colors and enormous granite pillars with capitals in the Corinthian style. The interior has a wealth of works of art and a beautiful marble floor. The cross vault has a large section of the original cosmatesque decoration and a coffered ceiling that was rebuilt after an 1595 fire by the Florence-based Atticciati workshop.
To the side of the main door underneath a balcony known as “Poggiolo delle reliquie” can be found the funeral monuments of the archbishops Francesco Frosini, Matteo Rinuccini, Giuliano de’ Medici and Francesco Guidi – all works of 17th and 18th century sculptors.
The Madonna di sotto gli organi is a small 13th-century painting on a wooden tablet. The oldest fresco is a large Virgin with child at the top of the triumphal arch, attributed to Maestro di San Torpe, dating from the late 13th to early 14th century.
Mosaic work in the apse with Cristo in maesta tra la Madonna e San Giovanni Evangelista is the only documented work by Cimabue. It shows Christ as the ruler of all, set between Mary and St. John the Evangelist. In his left hand is a Bible open to the verse “Ego Lux Sum Mundi” or “I am the light of the world.” At his feet he is seen crushing the devil in serpent form. His fingers from the Greek letters chi and rho the first two letters of “Christos.” The thumb nearly touches the fingers, showing how Christ unites both his divinity and his humanity.
A wide cycle of paintings on wood and canvas covers the walls of the two aisles and the apsidial tribune, demonstrating painting from the late renaissance through the start of Neoclassicism. Among these are masterpieces by Andrea Del Sarto and Domenico Beccafumi.
Finally, is the dazzling Assumption of the Virgin and Saints frescoed in the cupola by Orazio and Girolamo Riminaldi. As the heavens open, rings of saints and angles spiral upward towards God who greets Mary. On the floor beneath the dome is an inlaid-marble, Cosmati-style mosaic floor.
Giovanni Pinsano’s Pulpit is a 15′ tall octagonal pulpit built between 1301 and 1311. Over 400 sculptures are intricately carved upon it. At the base, lions roar and crouch over their prey, symbolizing how Christ (the lion) triumphs over Satan (the horse, as in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). After a massive fire in 1595 when the roof burned, the pulpit was disassembled and stored away for three centuries. When it was pulled out of storage and reassembled in 1926, pieces were missing causing scholars to question the authenticity.
On one of the piers opposite the pulpit is a wonderful fresco that receives relatively little attention. A bearded man, holding a quill, and with an open book rests on his left knee. The fresco has a painting that is framed surrounding it with delicate rinceau detail at the base, and arching and vaulting above his head.
Pisa Cathedral has the tomb for Saint Rainerius, the patron saint of Pisa and travelers. The son of a wealthy Pisan family, he became a merchant to pay for his passage to the Holy Land. He remained there for seven years, living as a beggar and visited the holy shrines. In 1153 he returned to Pisa and entered the monastery of Saint Andrew and subsequently of Saint Vitus. He achieved fame as a preacher and is reported to have performed miracles. In 1632 the Archbishop of Pisa, the local clergy, and Pisan magistrates elected Rainerius as the patron saint of the city and the diocese. In 1689 has body was moved to the altar of the Duomo. Here he lies mummified, in his hair shirt, and with a custom silver mask on his head.
When Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VII died, Pisans built a tomb inside their cathedral. The tomb was built in 1315 by Tino di Camaino. Historians note his untimely death plunged Pisa into centuries-long decline. When he invaded Italy Pisans welcomed him as a non-partisan leader who could bridge Italy’s warring factions. He was crowed emperor by the Pope in 1312, and just as he was finishing off the last opposition he caught fever and died. No longer enjoying a connection with the Holy Roman Empire, Pisa declined.