The Pisan Cemetery through the Eyes of Chroniclers, Artists and Travelers

Category: Italian Page 1 of 4

Michelagnolo di Cristofano da Volterra, Le mirabile et inaldite belleze e adornamenti del Campo Sancto di Pisa (c. 1487-1499)

Little is known about the author of the poem “The Wondrous and Incredible Beauties and Adornments of the Camposanto in Pisa”. From a short text which he wrote about himself on the 6th of June 1488 we know that Cristofano di Giovanni da Volterra was born in the city of Volterra on the 29th of September 1464. The sources do not tell us anything about his family of origin, his upbringing or his education. Due to records, it is known that he was in Pisa in 1487. As a trombetto (official herald and messenger), he was at the service of the capitano della città (city captain) Piero di Lorenzo de’ Lenzi (1487) and of the mercenary leader Virginio Orsini (1488). On the 8th of February 1488 he was married to Dorotea, the daughter of Nicolò Filisbergo, a shoemaker from Pisa.
Beside his profession as trombetto for the authorities of Pisa, Michelangelo da Volterra was also known as a canterino(ballad-singer). He left a few literary works which can be assigned to the genre of popular literature that was, due to the new possibilities of letterpress printing, widely received towards the end of the 15th century. We know that on the 10th of March 1487, he began to write an epic poem about Ugone d’Alvernia from the House of Chiaromonte, which he finished on the 15th of April 1488. After revising the piece – originally written in prose –, he presented a cantare in ottava rima, a form of poetry consisting of stanzas of eight lines. The original manuscript is preserved in the Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana in Florence (Codice Mediceo Palatino 82). The author added a list of sixty-eight literary oeuvres to the aforementioned poetic composition, which he divided into three categories: “libri di battaglie” (books about battles), “libri di innamoramento” (romantic novels) and “libri per l’anima” (books for the soul), all of which he recommended to his readers as sources of joy and solace. Two more texts can be attributed to Michelangelo da Volterra with certainty. On the one hand we know about the epic poem “L’incoronazione del re Aloysi” which was inspired by the third book of the “Narbonese” by Andrea da Barberino. On the other hand, we can attribute the poem of praise of the monumental cemetery of Pisa “Le mirabili e inaldite bellezze e adornamenti del Camposanto di Pisa”, composed between 1487 and 1499, to him. The latter offers a remarkable description of the artistic features of the Camposanto whose decorations were finished only a few years before. Even though the poet does not belong to the literary greats of the late 15th century, his work is discussed in research with great interest as it provides insightful information about popular literature and its dissemination. The original print of the poem about the Camposanto is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and consists of four unnumbered octavo sheets. Each page features two columns of four stanzas. In the second half of the 19th century, the French philologist Gaston Paris made a copy of the print and sent it to the literary historian Alessandro d’Ancona. Subsequently, the poem was published in 1896 within the monograph on the Camposanto by the Italian art historian and painter Igino Benvenuto Supino.
With regard to its formal composition, the poem features sixty-four stanzas of eight lines each. Every line consists of eleven syllables (endecasillabi), rhyming according to an abababcc-scheme.
Michelangelo da Volterra starts his poem with an invocation of Our Lady for poetical assistance and inspiration, a classical topos since antiquity. The following two stanzas are dedicated to the description of the external appearance and the spatial dimensions of the Camposanto as well its location north of the cathedral and the baptistery. Afterwards, the southern outer façade with its two entrance doors is presented, one of them closed and adorned with a crucifixion top, the other opened and decorated with a mosaic that shows the archangel Michael. Above this entrance there is a sculpted tabernacle in which the Virgin and Child, accompanied by several angels and saints, can be seen (4-6). The next two stanzas describe the lead roof of the monument, accompanying the reader into the south-gallery by describing the fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin above the inner side of the entrance door. The following stanzas depict the illustrations of the frescoes on the left side of the door with episodes concerning Saint Ranerius (9-15), Saint Ephesius (15-18) and the story of Job (19-20). It is noticeable that the author dedicates more stanzas to the description of the frescoes of the local Saints than to the ones about the biblical story of Job. Even if the exact reasons may remain unclear, one might assume that he probably wanted to emphasize the close bond between the Camposanto and the city of Pisa.
Afterwards, the frescoes on the right side of the entrance door are presented to the reader: the Thebaid, Hell, the Last Judgement and the Triumph of Death (21-23). The fact that Michelangelo da Volterra dedicates only three stanzas to the depiction of these large-scale and impressive paintings is highly remarkable, the more so, as they show the fundamental topics related to the Camposanto: leading a pious life, the resurrection of the Christian soul and the passing of judgements based on one’s conduct.
After that, the paintings of the east-corridor are mentioned, first the Crucifixion (24), followed by the Resurrection (25). In stanza 26, the above-mentioned frescoes are attributed to Stefano da Firenze, Taddeo Gaddi and Buonamico Buffalmacco. All three are described to have been pupils of Giotto, which was probably true in the case of Taddeo Gaddi and Stefano da Firenze. The attribution of the works to the aforementioned artists is almost correct except for the fact that the painter of the Crucifixion, the Pisan artist Francesco Traini, is not brought up.
From stanza 27 onward the depiction of the north-gallery is explained. As an introduction the author reports extensively about the composition of the fresco of the Theological Cosmography, where Godfather appears as Creator of Heaven and Earth (27-28). Then follows the presentation of the continents, of the four elements, of the planets and of the sun (29-30). Thereafter we learn about the celestial circle where Jesus Christ sits enthroned in the presence of the Our Lady and all the Blessed and Saints (31). In the following two stanzas we read about all zodiac signs and the nine choirs of angels (32-33).
In only two stanzas Cristofano da Volterra tells the reader about the formation of the earth with all its plants and wildlife, the creation of Adam by Jesus Christ (sic!) (34) and the origination of Eve, the fall of Man, the expulsion from Paradise and the stories of Cain and Abel (35).
The next four stanzas are an introduction to the fresco cycle of Benozzo Gozzoli. The artist is highly praised for his ability to portray people, buildings as well as flora and fauna in a manner very true to their nature (36-39). The reader then learns about the stories of Noah and the construction.n of the Tower of Babel. In addition, he is told that the painter depicted the characters after contemporary models (40-41).
Thereafter the author presents us with a short description of the Ammannati chapel, the frescoes of the Annunciation and of the Adoration of the Magi (42). The description of the painted stories of Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob and Esau is found in the stanzas 43 to 49. After some remarks on of the fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin, which today exists only as a sinopia above the cappella Aulla, we read about the artistic realization of the stories of Joseph (50) and Moses (51-55). The author finishes his report by mentioning the frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli on King Saul, the story of David and Goliath and the Meeting of Solomon and Sheba (56-58).
The stanzas about the sculptural decoration and the tracery in the inner courtyard of the Camposanto as well as the Holy Earth and its effective power mark the end of the physical description of the monumental funerary complex. The author emphasizes that the holy earth had been transported to the sacred graveyard from Jerusalem and its surroundings at the height of Pisa’s power. As a local author, he also highlights for the first time the miraculous effect of this earth, as it is said to consume a dead body within three days by the will of Christ (59-62).
Michelangelo da Volterra finishes his poem by emphasizing the uniqueness of the Camposanto of Pisa and points to the possibility of absolution after having visited this sacral place. He signs his oeuvre by mentioning his profession oftrombetto of Pisa and thereby bestowing it with an official character.
By paying attention to linguistic peculiarities, one notices the often descriptive and enumerative presentation which interlinks the individual scenes by using copulas. The reader is therefore taken by the hand and accompanied through the rich pictorial landscape. The deeds of some of the depicted figures are presented in a detailed manner and by means of figurative-allegorical-language which places the narrated events in close context to the architectural and artistic shaping of the Camposanto. It can be assumed that the author knew the monument well on the one hand and portrayed it according to his own experience. On the other hand, he might have drawn on documents that were still available from the cathedral works. It is also quite conceivable that he interacted with representatives of the church or had access to their records. Stanza 27, in which he begins with the description of the fresco of the Theological Cosmography following certain documents (me dicen le carte) might allude to this.
The aim of the text may have been to make this impressive work of art accessible to educated inhabitants of Pisa. One can imagine that the text could have been designed for a public lecture and was perhaps presented in front of an audience, even inside the Camposanto, so that the pictures, the text and the poetic presentation together could have been brought to life before the reader’s/listener’s inner eye. In addition, the text could have conveyed the impression of the splendour of the Camposanto to people who had not seen it before and inspired them to come and see the marvellous sight. In any case, the poem bears witness to the magnificence of Pisa and contributed to its prestige within the situation of urban rivalries in Italy. In this context, the text presents its readers with a political message which underlines the beauty of both the Camposanto and the city of Pisa. In theological terms the poem promises absolution of sins, since it presents a distinct connection between the city and the holy city of Jerusalem. Consequently, a visit to the Camposanto could be equated to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Finally, it should be noted that the work overcomes several barriers in its context of origin. At a narrative level, it deals with the question what will happen to the (Christian) soul after death by correlating scenes of the Old and the New Testament. In geographical terms, it corroborates the connection between Pisa and Jerusalem and by doing so, increases its potential target group. We do not know anything about the immediate reception of the work. But it seems clear that when Giorgio Vasari wrote the Vite in the middle of the 16th century, it did not enter into his consideration about the description of the Camposanto. Igino Benvenuto Supino was the first art historian who really acknowledged the poem as a historical source on the monumental funerary complex. / FH

Michelangnolo di Cristofano, Le Mirabile et inaldite belleze, ca 1490

Source: Michelangnolo di Cristofano da Volterra, Le mirabile et inaldite belleze e adornamenti del Campo Sancto di Pisa (Pisa: Ugo Ruggeri, s.d. [1487-1499]), Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares, RES-YD-619 (only known copy, digitized under

Edition: Iginio Benvenuto Supino, Il Camposanto di Pisa (Firenze: Alinari, 1896), pp. 300-317.

Le mirabile et inaldite belleze e adornamenti del Campo Sancto di Pisa

The Wondrous and Incredible Beauties and Adornments of the Camposanto in Pisa

1. General description, architecture, facade and doors

Io non invoco el Monte di Parnaso
io non invoco sue nove sorelle
ma sol ricorro a quella fonte e vaso
quale istà in ciel di sopra al’alte istelle
ciò la madre di Cristo in questo caso
prego m’aiuti a far mie rime belle
a ciò mia operetta segua intanto
del glorioso e degno Campo Sancto.


Quale è ritracto in quadro per certeza
di bianchi marmi è tutto lavorato
setanta quattro braccia è sua larghezza
como per punto è certo misurato
ducento bracia è poi la sua lunghezza
con venticinque più quello ò trovato
con be’ modi ordinato quello al tondo
quale più bella cosa ch’abbia el mondo.


Dalla sua faccia ch’è volta a ponente
v’è duo gran templi il Duomo e sa[n] Gio[v]anni
ciascun di gran beltade risplendente
più c’altri che mai fussen senza ingani
La lor belleza magna alta excelente
darebbe a farla in versi a l’uomo affanni
però per ora la verrò lassando
e solo al Campo Sancto ritrovando.


Duo porte son nella faccia preditta
le qual del Campo Sancto son intrata
l’una istà chiusa me dice la scritta
qual è di sopra a quella istoriata
un crocifisso in tal parte diritta
erto v’è sopra a tal parte adornata
e certe altre figure adorne e belle
[…] io tal parte istoriate quelle.

La porta po’ della intra bellissima
qual è adorna come io dico certo
in nel vederla par cosa degnissima
di sopra una figura con gran merto
v’è molto bella e ben chiara e prontissima
san Michel Angel ben si vede isperto
come caccia il nimicho in quella parte
di musaico facto con grande arte.

E poi di sopra v’è un tabernacholo
ciò di rilievo lavorato quello
la Nostra Donna istà in tal oracolo
con angeli da canto ciascun bello
si pronti ch’al vederli è un miracolo
e altri sancti ancora io vi favello
con gentil modo in tal luogo adornati
pur di rillievo tutti lavorati.

I do not invoke Mount Parnassus,
I do not invoke its nine sisters,
I only have recourse to the source and vessel
that is in the sky above the high stars,
it is the mother of Christ whom I beseech for help in this case
to make my rhymes beautiful,
so that my humble work may thereby tell
of the glorious and worthy Camposanto.

It was built in a square shape in truth,
and is decorated all over with white marbles,
seventy-four cubits is its width,
as it has been correctly measured;
two hundred cubits is then its length,
with twenty-five more that I found,
marvelously arranged in the round,
which is the most beautiful thing on earth.


In front of its west-facing façade
there are two mighty temples, the Cathedral and San Giovanni,
both shining, more than any other before them,
in great beauty and sincerity.
Their great, high and excellent beauty
would cause many troubles to a man wanting to put it into rhymes,
so, for the time being, I will let it be,
and go back to the Camposanto.

There are two gates in the mentioned façade
which are the entrances to the Camposanto;
one is closed, I am told by the inscription
that is above the historiated one.
Above that place adorned with figures,
there is a towering crucifix
and more adorned and beautiful figures
…….or in that place historiated ones.

The gate of the very beautiful entrance,
that is adorned, as I tell for sure,
seems to be a very worthy thing.
Above it, there is a figure of great merit,
very beautiful and bright and lively:
one can see the skilled Archangel Michael
chasing the enemy on that part of the mosaic,
made with great art.

And then above there is a tabernacle,
worked in relief:
Our Lady stands within this oracle
with angels by her side, each of them beautiful,
so lively that it is a miracle to see them,
and I tell you, there are even more saints
adorned in a gentle way,
also worked in relief all over.

2. The frescoes on the western part of the south wall: Saint Ranieri, Ephisius and Putitus, Job

La sua coperta o volian dir suo tetto
di pombo è tutta como chiar ragiono
e lavorato ancor con molto effecto
da un maestro anticho e molto buono
or racontando dentro con dilecto
dove di so’ belleze e si gran suono
prima come entri sopra della porta
la Nostra Donna v’è con molta iscorta.


Cioè molti angioletti in compagnia
qual’è molta divota tal figura
nel mezo istà la vergine Maria
che viva par di certo creatura
cotal mestro ebbe gran fantasia
qual la dipinse in le presente mura
e sopra a questo degno e bel lavoro
v’è un ciborio tutt’ messo ad oro.


Da man sinistra la faccia seguendo
tutta l’istoria v’è di san Raineri
quale fu pisano como certo intendo
e fu di Cristo quel bon cavalieri
come fu amonito chiar comprendo
ciò dal beato Alberto volentieri
per certo suo stromento che sonava
vedessi poi come lo seguitava.



E come poi gli aparve el bon Giesue
e perdonòli ciascun suo dilitto
e come prima merchatante fue
e navichò come si trovava iscripto
e come poi Rinier pien di vertue
non fecie già de’ poveri resquitto
ma dette lor ciò ch’avia fatto aquisto
sol per amor del signor Giesucristo.


Come la Nostra Donna gli parloe
dicendo a quel: tu’tti reposerai
nel Duomo im Pisa come chiar lo soe
e quivi molti ancor trarra’ di guai
e come in Terra Sancta capitoe
e ste’ttuti sette anni intenderai
e como li animali l’onoravano
quando Rainer per le selve incontravano.


Come nel monte Tabor quel salliva
e Christo anchor gli aparve in cotal loco
e come po’ d’un pane in quella riva
saziò molti afamati con gran giuocho
e come po’ di nuovo gli appariva
Cristo con splenndor che par di foco
e comandolli che tornasse a Pisa
quel si partì per mare alla recisa.


E come essendo quel santo al timone
miracolosamannte per il mare
da Caffa a Messina odi ‘l sermone
in una notte venne a’nnavicare
E ‘l miracol del vin di quel barone
cioè dell’oste quel si vede fare
e come giunse a Pisa quel beato
vedesi ancor come fu onorato.


E come poi passò di questa vita
cioè [a] San Iuto [Vito] e quello fu certezza
e come sua persona transferita
fu quella al Duomo p[er] buona chiareza
essendo sua persona sep[e]llita
fecie molti miracol con dolcezza
e come le canpan’ da lor sonareno
quando el suo corpo a sepellir portareno.


E come suscitò un fanciul morto
con altri gran miraculi degnissimi
quael fe’ quel santo in Domo in cotal porto
tutti scolpiti si vegon prontissimi
poi più in su segue sancto Ebizi [Efisi] acorto
come sua madre con atti umanissimi
a Diocletiano imperadore
racomandava el figlio con amore.


E come el fe’ capitano e poi mandollo
incontro a’soi nimici a’ffari la guera
e come Cristo quel sancto avisollo
e donolli una croce el dir non erra
e come di sua fede fu satollo
come si convertì in cotal serra
e come essendo poi nelle battaglie
un gioveneto armato a piastre e ma[glie].


Venne in sao adiuto con una bandiera
poi ruppe e’suo inimici con vettoria
come l’enperador con faccia fiera
avendo avuto d’Ebbizi memoria
gli fe’ molti martíri in tal riviera
Ebbizi non churava per sua gloria
e come poi irato con tenpesta
in nella fin gli fe’ tagliar la testa.


Seguendo poi l’inperio d’Antonino
sichome fe’ sa’Putio pigliare
per miracol che fecie nel confino
fecielo con tormenti assai istraziare
poi lo dicapitò dicie el latino
da poi si vegan li Pisani andare
in Sardigna pe’ corpi che portorno
di questi santi qual molto onororno.


Di Iobbe segue poi suo storia santa
qual tante pene nel monde sestenne
come la Chiesa aperta de lui canta
tutta l’aversità ch’a quello avenne
del bestiame e de’ figli e d’ogni pianta
vedesi lì come provar convenne
e della lebra e d’ongni suo faticha
e tentazion dalla parte nimicha.


E come poi patito ogni tormento
el sopra ditto Jobbe e tanti afanni
vedesi come Dio lo fe’ contento
per ristorarlo de’ tanti suoi danni
sua robba li rendeva e ogni armento
e liberollo dal dimonio e ‘nganni
e ritornò nel mondo in gran richezza
e doppo a quello la superna altezza.

Its curtain, or as we want to say its roof,
is all made of lead, as I clearly reason,
and moreover, decorated with great effect
by an ancient and excellent master.
Now, I tell about the inner side with pleasure,
where you can hear so much about mere beauty,
as you enter, above the door,
there is our Lady with a big escort.

That means a large party of little angels,
since this figure is very pious:
in the midst there is the Virgin Mary,
who really seems to be a living creature.
That master had great imagination
who painted her on these walls;
and above this worthy and beautiful work of art,
there is a gilded ciborium.

Following the façade on the left,
there is the entire story of Saint Ranerius,
who was a Pisan as I surely understand
and a good knight of Christ.
How he was admonished willingly I clearly see
by the blessed Albert
because of an instrument that he was playing;
you then can see how he still went on doing so.

And how thereafter the good Christ appeared to him
and pardoned all of his misdemeanors,
and how he first a merchant was,
and sailed, the way it is inscribed,
and how then Ranerius full of virtue
was not tired of the poor,
but gave them what he had purchased,
just for the love of Jesus Christ.


How Our Lady spoke to him,
telling him: you shall rest
in the cathedral of Pisa, as I clearly know,
and there you shall save many from troubles;
and how he made it to the Holy Land,
and you shall see how he stayed there seven years,
and how the animals honored Ranerius,
when they met him in the woods.

How he climbed Mount Tabor
and Christ appeared to him in that place,
and how upon that mountain with a loaf of bread
he sated many hungry people with great enjoyment;
and how then Christ appeared to him anew
with splendour that seemed fire,
and commanded him to go back to Pisa:
so, he resolutely went back by sea.

And as that saint was at the helm
miraculously across the sea
from Caffa to Messina, listen to the tale,
one night he came to navigate.
And the baron, that is to say the host,
saw how he performed the miracle of the wine;
and one can see how honoured the blessed man was
when he came back to Pisa.

And how thereafter he departed from this life,
that is to say in the church of San Vito, and this was a certain thing,
and how his body was transferred
to the cathedral for good visibility;
as his body was buried,
he performed many miracles with sweetness
and the bells tolled by themselves
as they brought his body for burial.

And how the saint resuscitated a dead child
among other prodigious and worthy miracles
he accomplished in the cathedral of that site,
all of them you can see portrayed in a very lively manner.
Above you see the tale of Saint Ephesius,
wise like his mother in accomplishing charitable deeds,
recommended with love by her
to the emperor Diocletian.

And how the emperor made him a captain, and sent him afterwards
to wage war against his enemies,
and how Christ saw him
and gave him a cross, this is truly spoken;
and how he was satiated by his faith,
how he was converted in that crush;
and as he was fighting in battles,
a youth in a suit of armour


Came to his aid with a banner;
then achieved a victory over his enemies;
how then the emperor with a proud face
remembering Ephesius
had him suffer martyrdom on those shores,
Ephesius was not concerned about his glory;
and how the emperor flew into a rage,
and in the end had his head cut off.


Then followed the reign of Antoninus
so, he had the Holy Potitus arrested,
because of a miracle he accomplished on the border,
he had him very much tormented
then he had him decapitated, it is told in Latin.
Thereafter you can see the Pisans sailing
to Sardinia to fetch the bodies
of those saints, whom they honoured greatly.

What follows is the holy tale of Job,
who suffered many pains on earth,
as the open church sings about him:
all adversities that happened to him
concerning his animals and his children and every crop
one can see how he had to endure leprosy and every kind of toil
and temptation coming from his enemy.


And one can further see how thereafter,
after having endured every torment and toil,
the aforesaid Job was rewarded by God:
in order to restore him from all his harm
he was given back his belongings and herd,
and was liberated from the devil and deceit,
and he came back to the world in wealth
and after that to an illustrious position.

3. The frescoes of the eastern part of the south wall: Thebais, Last Judgment, Triumph of Death, Crucifixion and Ascension

Poi dalla porta in giù v’è storiato.
vita di santi padri in ditta faccia
vedesi molti stare in cotal lato
seguendo po’ di Cristo la suo traccia
e doppo questo è l’inferno ordinato
che l’anime meschine quello allaccia
quivi è ritratto ben cotal inferno
con tutto l’ordin suo come discerno.



Da poi più basso si vede el iuditio
sì come Cristo verrà a giudicare
quivi si vede adorno in tale ospitio
la gran sentenzia la qual usa a dare
vedesi molti pel passato vizio
dalli demoni a l’inferno portare
e come buoni se ne vanno via
dalli angeli portati in conpagnia.


Oltre passando si vede la Morte
chom’ella segue e gioveni volentieri
e’ vechi fuge che la chiaman forte
abandonando quelli pel sentieri
e molti infermi che vorian tal sorte
e lei dimostra allor suo atti fieri
li papi [e] imperadori in cotal sito
vedonsi dalla Morte ongnun finito.


Da poi, voltando alla facetta prima
se ben rimiri col tuo occhio fisso
monte Calvario vedi e la sua cima
e come Cristo vi fu crocifisso
in mezzo del’ladron dice la rima
e come poi nel sipolcro fu misso
ella sua madre e l’altre dolorose
vegonsi tutte insieme lacrimose.


Apresso a questo la resuretione
si vede in questa parte ben dipinta
se ben procuri apunto per ragione
vedi la grolia suo di gaudio cinta
e storiata ben v’è l’ascensione
come sali nel cielo avendo vinta
la forza del domonio e’l pecchatore
insciolto e liberato dal dolore.


E queste istorie tutte racontate
Istefano e Tadeo Gaddi e Buonamico
per questi tre fun tutte lavorate
ciò pel passato tempo e molto antico
discipuli di Giotto or be’ notate
questi tre furno come chiar ve dico
ciaschun maestro e pictor d’excellenzia
come si vede lì la sperientia.

Then from the door onwards you shall find depicted
the life of the Holy Hermits on the mentioned wall;
one can see many of them on that side
following Christ’s path.
And after that there is Hell and its order
that laces up all miserable souls;
here Hell is well portrayed
with all its order, as I discern.

Then down along the wall you see the Last Judgement,
the way Christ will come and judge;
here you can see him adorned in that home
where he usually pronounces his great sentence;
one sees many, because of their former vices
being carried to Hell,
and how the good ones go away
in the company of angels.

Stepping further you see Death
that follows gladly the young people
and flees the old ones who call for it loudly
and abandons them on their paths;
and to many an infirm who wished for that sort
it shows its fierce deeds;
Popes and emperors on that site
they all see their lives ended by Death.


Turning towards the eastern wall
if you eye it steadily
you shall see Mount Calvary and its peak
and how Christ was crucified there
between the two thieves, as goes the tale,
and how he then was buried in the sepulchre;
and his mother and the other mourning women
were all weeping with sorrow.

Next to this you see the Resurrection
which is well painted on this site;
and if you reason thoroughly
you see His glory surrounded by joy,
and well painted there is the Ascension,
how he rises into Heaven, having overcome
the power of the devil and liberated
and saved the sinner from pain.


And all these tales are told
by Stefano and Taddeo Gaddi and Buonamico,
by those three they were all painted,
this happened a long time ago;
pupils of Giotto, behold now,
these three were, as I clearly state to you,
each one a master and outstanding painter
as one sees there the expertise.

4. Piero di Puccio

Ora tornando alla seconda parte
volendo racontar a punto quella
come ell’è fatta adorna con grande arte
più c’altra cosa gloriosa e bella
nel suo principio mi dicen le carte
el mondo v’è come chiar si favella
ritratto in tondo con modo gentile
nè mai si vidde una cosa simile.


Con tutte le sue belle alte fazzioni
quale a vederle è gran magnificenzia
e veramente fu pittor de’ buoni
quel che ‘l dipinse con tanta prudentia
perchè l’à tutte quante sue ragioni
iddio si vede con sua gran potentia
d’una figura grande in cotal faccia
chome tien questo mondo nelle braccia.


E poi dappiè son duo santi bellissimi
istoriati quelli con ingegno
e nel guardarli ben paion prontissimi
anticamente ritratto [è] lor segno
di questo mondo suo modi ornatissimi
tutti si vedon con uno acto degno
Asia si vede la parte più grande
poi Africa e ‘Uropia in cotal bande.


Da poi si vedon li quatro elementi
la terra e ‘l fuoco e l’aqua e ‘l quarto l’aria
poi sopra all’aria e cieli son presenti
quel della luna e niente transvaria
e quel di Marte puon veder le genti
quel di Mercurio alla parte contraria
quel di Venere poi e di Saturno
e quel del Sol ancore si vede adorno.

L’ultimo è el ciel de gloriosi sancti
qual è chiamato il ciel imperiale
dove stanno i beati tutti quanti
e Giesu Cristo re celestiale
e la sua madre con dolci senbianti
e ciascun santo e santa naturale
tutti scolpiti son con adorneza
nè mai si vidde simile bellezza.


Poi si vedon dipinti per ragione
dodici segni e son cosa invisibile
el primo e Sagiptario e po’ Scorpione
e Capricorno che pare incredibile
Aquario Pesce Ariete a tal sermone
Tauro Cancer d’ornamento orribile
Gemini Virgo Libra e Leo poi
ciascun cho’ segni verisimili suoi.

Delli angeli poi sigue e nove chori
tutti dipincti a ordine asettati
Angeli Archangeli vedi a tal lavori
Troni Dominationi e Podestati
seguendo poi Virtute con onori
appresso questi segue e Principati
dapoi si vede el cor de’ Cherubini
a canto allui seguendo e Serafini.

Con ordin grande son le dette cose
nel mur già molte antiche conpilate
e certamente son maravigliose
tanto son bene aconcie e ordinate
vedosi Cristo poi che ‘l mondo puose
avendo tutte le piante fermate
e come Adam creò in similitudine
di sua persona con gran dolcitudine.

Questa faccia è del Vechio Testamento
segue come Eva ancor creava Iddio
anccor si vede el lor comandamento
come tentati dal dimonio rio
pechorno tutti dua in un momento
poi como fun cacciati vi trovo io
el omicidio fatto per Cayno
poi per Lamec suo morte in tal confino.

Now turning to the second part
and wanting to tell exactly about
the way it is adorned with great art
more than everything else glorious and beautiful,
the world is there, as one clearly states
in its beginning, so I am told by the scripture,
depicted as a circle in a gentle manner,
never before has one seen anything similar.

With all its beautiful and spacious sections
which are magnificent to look at,
and it was indeed a very good painter
who painted it with so much prudence,
because everything is there with good reason.
You see God with His great power
as a big figure on that wall
holding this world in his arms.

On the lower part there are two very beautiful saints,
depicted with talent,
and while you look at them, they seem quite lively;
their look is painted in an antique way.
The richly adorned parts of this world
are shown in a worthy picture:
Asia is the largest part,
then Africa and Europe below.

Thereafter we see the four elements,
earth, and fire, and water and the fourth, the air;
above the air, there are the various skies,
the one of the Moon, and nothing is changed,
and the people can see the one of Mars,
the one of Mercury on the opposite site,
and then the one of Venus and then of Saturn,
and also, the one of the Sun you see adorned.

The last one is the sky of the glorious saints,
which is called the imperial sky,
where all the Blessed dwell
and Jesus Christ the celestial king,
and his mother with sweet countenance
and each male and female saint is depicted close to nature:
all of them are formed with skill,
never has such beauty been seen before.

Then you see depicted to their full right
twelve signs, and they are well discernible;
the first one is Sagittarius and then Scorpio
and Capricorn which seems incredible,
Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, in this report
Taurus, Cancer with horrible ornament,
Gemini, Virgo, and followed by Leo,
each one with their likely features.

After that nine choirs of angels
all depicted in a seated order:
you see Angels and Archangels in this work,
Thrones, Dominations and Powers;
followed by Virtues with honours,
close by there are Principalities,
thereafter you see the choir of Cherubim,
next to them the Seraphim.

The mentioned things appear in great order
drawn on the wall a long time ago,
and certainly, they are marvelous
for they are well and orderly arranged.
Then you see Christ who created the earth
and all the plants and trees,
and how he created Adam
in his image with great delight.

This wall is dedicated to the Old Testament:
it follows how God created Eve,
and furthermore, you see their commandment,
how they were tempted by the Evil One
and both sinned for a short while
and were then banned, as I can find,
and the homicide perpetrated by Cain,
then his death by the hand of Lamech in his banishment.

5. Benozzo Gozzoli

Poi comincia a seguir la storia nuova
la qual Benozzo fiorentin dipinse
del Testamento Vechio chiar si trova
tutte tal istorie e giàmai non se finse
di farla sufficiente a tanta pruova
e tutti colpi e modi costui vinse
ciò della pictura si può fare
prima d’inponimento singulare.

Quivi si può le figure vedere
per ongni modo e per ongni attitudine
da dare all’occhio certo gran piacere
tanto son belle di similitudine
son vi ritratti molti, puoi sapere
che paion vivi con gran dolcitudine
ma in fra altri belli adornamenti
quivi vi son mirabil casamenti.

Moderni antichi e d’ogni altri ragone
qua fan maravigliar certo la gente
ancor v’è animal d’ogni ragione
simili ucelli anchora il dir non mente
con ciaschun atto, parla el mio sermone
son copiosi alla faccia presente
poi mirabil paesi e gran verzure
ne mai si vidde simil dipinture.

Già sono ucelli vivi lì veduti
sulli arbori volar, credendo sieno
e molti son ch’a questo vi son suti
come chiar dice il mie parlar appiene
Noè si vede quel con suo aiuti
quando fe l’arca e li animal che gieno
tutti in tal loco e po si vede il fine
e de diluvio le sue gran ruine.


E la sua vita d’anni novecento
cinquanta ancor, la qual sì lunga fue
e come vidde chiaro io oldo e sento
venti quatro migliara, intendi sue
di lui discese uomin di valimento
detto Noè ripien d’ogni virtue
per la sua vita lunga vidde quelli
senza que’ che morirno tenerelli.

Poi di Nembrot si vede la gran storia
come fe’ far la torre di Babello
come e’ mestri perdèn la memoria
però non la fornì la torre quello.
Meser Gioan Francesco [= Gianfrancesco Sanseverino, ca. 1450-1501, famous condottiere in the service of Milan and Venice, between 1478 and 1482 he was under contract with Florence] con gran gloria
quivi è ritratto e ciascun suo fratello
che paion vivi, come io dico certo
qua’ furon figli al gran signor Ruberto [= Roberto Sanseverino d’Aragona, 1418-1487, powerful condottiere in the service of Milan and Venice].

Here then is the beginning of a new story,
which was painted by the Florentine Benozzo:
one can clearly find all of these tales
in the Old Testament, and he never pretended
that his work would bear all examination
and nevertheless, he overcame all setbacks:
that is what one can make out of painting
when you can express yourself freely.

Here one can see the figures
in every mode and attitude
so that they greatly please the eye,
they are so beautiful in their likenesses,
there are many portraits, you can learn,
which seem alive with great delight;
but between other beautiful adornments,
there are wonderful buildings.

Modern, old ones and of every other type,
they really amaze the people;
moreover, there are animals of every kind,
and birds that look alive, I truly speak,
in every picture, so tells my account,
there are many of them on this wall;
then wondrous lands and greenery;
never before did you see such paintings.

Many people who have been there
believe that the birds they have seen
flying in the trees are alive,
as my narration makes clear.
They see Noah with his helpers
as he built the Ark, and all the animals,
that where in that place, then one sees the End,
and all the destruction of the Flood.

And his life lasting nine hundred and fifty
years, which was so long,
and how he saw clearly, I hear and learn,
twenty- four miles from his look-out,
from him descended men of great value;
the above-mentioned Noah full of every virtue,
saw, because of his long life, many men die
at a young age.


Then you see the great tale of Nimrod,
as he had the Tower of Babel built,
how the masters lost their memory,
but he was not able to accomplish that tower.
Master Giovanni Francesco with great glory
is here portrayed together with all of his brothers,
and they seem alive, as I state for certain,
they were all sons of the great master Robert.

6. The Ammanati Chapel

Da poi tal storia è una capelletta
dentrovi molto adorno un certo altare
con un a sepoltura bianca e netta
di marmo tutta, e mirabil mi pare.
Sopra detta capella, in versi dettta
la Nunziata se vede in tale affare
e poi di sopra, vi reco a memoria
vedesi poi de’ Magi lor istoria

After this story there is a little chapel,
inside you find an adorned altar,
with a white and neat sepulchre
all made of marble, and it seems wonderful to me;
above this chapel, described in verses,
you see the Virgin and the Nativity,
above this, I remind you,
one sees the Adoration of the Magi.

7. Continuation of the Gozzoli Cycle

Seguendo poi la faccia, del re Nino
sì come fecie adorare il suo padre,
in Babillonia fu in tal confino,
questo fe’ fare a tutte le suo esquadre;
come e Caldei con falso destino
adoravano il fuoco in tal contrade,
e come Abram e ’l fratello in tal loco
insieme funno missi nel gran fuoco.


Abram campò, e ’l fratel vi moriva;
tutto la vita sua v’ è storiata,
del dipartirsi quello in cotal riva
tutta simile istoria v’ è segnata,
come e re Cananei ciascun giva,
Soddoma avendo quelli sachegiata,
e come Abram dipoi con molta fretta
fecie contra que’ re cruda vendetta.

Tutta v’ è storiata tal battaglia,
e la sconfitta che dette a coloro,
come libera Lotto da travaglia,
che quelli re gl’ avien dato martoro;
e della ancilla e le cose di vaglia,
ogni cosa si vede in cotal coro,
del sacrificio il miracol sì forte,
e di tutti e so’ fatti in fine a morte.

Poi di Sodoma v’ è la distrutione,
come pel gran peccato disonesto
per fuoco fu disfatta tal magione
con altre quattro terre, dice el testo;
guardisi Italia, e noti el mio sermone,
di tal iuditio che venir può presto,
perchè nel cielo e’ mi par già sentire
che Cristo non può più questo patire.


Évvi d’Isache el suo gran parentado,
sì come tolse il giovenetto moglie,
quale ad Abram fu quello molto a grado;
istoriato v’ è come la toglie.
Ancor la storia v’ è, il dir vi squadro,
come Rebecca senza affanno e doglie
partorì duo figliuol d’ogni virtue,
primo Jacobe e ’l segondo Esaue.


Come la madre a Jacob giovinetto
fecie Esaù el fratel ingannare,
con una pelle per cotale effetto,
da poi li fa la benedition dare;
come servì Jacob con diletto
molti anni per Rachel, dice el cantare;
vedesi poi Esaù quello aldace
seguir Jacobbe e dapoi far la pacie.


Vedesi d’ Emor re, qual volse cedere
per donna certo a Jacob la suo figlia,
e come poi Jacob volendo riedere
quel re Emor storcieva le ciglia,
e perchè al buon consiglio non vuol credere
vedesi morto con la sua famiglia.
Un’ altra capelletta adorna e bella
appresso a questa istoria vedi quella.



Sopra la capelletta ch’ io vi dissi
v’ è come Cristo incorona Maria,
a Angeli che stan con li ochi fissi
a contemplar la dolce melodia.
Poi di Josep segue tal prolissi,
d’ongni sua istoria si vede in tal via,
vedesi Moisè, mio dir rinsuona,
come gittò per terra la corona.

Ciò di Faron, quella chiaro trovo,
essendo picolino in tal magioni;
ongni sua storia v’è, como io aprovo,
ciò della maza, dragho e de’ carboni.
Vedesi Faraone al caso nuovo
quando seguì Moysè co’ baroni
come somerse con tutta sua gregge,
e come Moysè va per le legge.

Come termini misse quello imprima
ancor tutta sua vita abreviando;
de l’idolatria ancor dice la rima
quando li suo peccorno, il ver contando;
e come Moysè ne fecie stima
del ber del fiume ogni cosa ordinando
e come po’ li fe’ morir con guai:
[che] ancor si dice: alla barba l’arai.


Vedesi ancor di que’ che mormoravano
come la terra vivi gl’inghiottiscie,
ancor de’ tribi che maze portavano
e come quella d’Aron sol fioriscie;
e de’ serpenti che color mangiavano
e come Moysè quelli guariscie;
vedesi la battaglia in cotal siti
che Moisè isconfisse a Medianiti.

La qual è cosa istupenda a vedere,
tanto par pronta, cruda e mortalissima,
rompere e frascasar di molte ischiere
vegonsi alla battaglia profondissima;
poi come Iosuè con gran piacere,
perchè la sua persona era franchissima,
Moisè lo fe’ duca in tal confino
dandoli la bacchetta del domino.

Vedesi poi di Moysè la morte
e poi il suo corpo da Dio nascoso;
dapoi si vede Gesuè, quel forte,
Gerico quel pigliar volenteroso,
e sachegiollo con tutte sua scorte,
facendo ciascun tristo e doloroso;
ma ’nprimamente per divina cura
per terra rovinaron le suo mura.

E di Saul ancor suo istoria magna
in questa faccia è dipinta e destesa;
vedesi poi Davit senza magagna
avendo in man la sua frombola presa
trar a Golia, e già non si sparagna,
con una pietra la qual molto pesa,
e nella testa darli: in uno stante
vedesi cader morto el gran gigante.

Da poi si vede tagliarli la testa
dal buon Davit al gigante ferocie,
e la sua storia ben lo manifesta
qual si vede dipinta in cotal focie;
poi la regina Saba, dopo a questa
quella ne viene e ’l venir non le nuoce,
partita quella da sue regione
per visitare el gran re Salamone,

con gente variate e animali,
e veramente adorna è la suo istoria,
con multi giovenitti naturali
quali a vederli dànno all’ uomo gloria;
vedonsi guinti insieme quelli equali
e visitarsi lì con molta boria,
carchi di gioie pretiose ed oro,
nè mai si vidde il piu ricco lavoro.

As you follow the corridor, there comes the story of king Ninos,
how he made his father worship him,
this happened in the land of Babylon,
and he obliged all of his squads to do so;
and the Chaldeans with false destiny
used to worship the fire in that land,
and how Abraham and his brother
were put into the big fire together.

Abraham survived, his brother died there;
his entire life is depicted there,
how he departed from that site,
all such story is recorded there,
how the kings of the Canaanites rejoiced,
as they had plundered Sodom,
and how Abraham went in a great hurry
to take harsh vengeance against those kings.

The entire battle is narrated there,
and the defeat he inflicted on them,
how he liberated Lot from every toil,
imposed on him like martyrdom,
and of the servant and all the things of value
everything you can see on that choir,
about the huge miracle of the sacrifice,
and about all his deeds until his death.

Then there is the destruction of Sodom,
because of its great and dishonest sin,
through fire this site was torn down
with the other four lands, as says the scripture;
Italy beware and consider my sermon
about such a sentence which may swiftly come,
because in Heaven, it seems to me
that Christ cannot bear all this any longer.

There also appear Isaac’s numerous kin,
and also how the young man chose a wife,
which pleased Abraham very much,
it is depicted how he wed her.
Furthermore, there is the story, I observe attentively,
of Rebecca who, without labour and pain
gave birth to two exceedingly virtuous boys,
first Jacob and the second, Esau.

How the mother induced young Jacob
to deceive his brother Esau,
with a fur for that purpose,
she makes him receive the benediction;
so, Jacob with great pleasure
served Rachel for many years, explains the tale;
one then sees bold Esau
following Jacob and then making peace with him.

One sees the king of Emor who certainly wanted
Jacob to marry his daughter,
and as Jacob then wanted to go back home,
this king Emor strongly disapproved,
and because he does not want to believe in the good advice,
he finds himself dead with his family.
Beside this tale you see
another beautiful and little chapel.

Above the little chapel I mentioned before,
there is the picture of Christ crowning Mary
and angels who look attentively
contemplating the sweet melody.
Then follows the long tale of Joseph,
you see every single episode on this wall,
you see Moses, my words resound hereby,
as he threw the crown on the floor.

The story of Pharaoh I easily find,
for he is small in those mansions,
there are all of his tales as I approve,
the one about the rod, the snake and the coal.
You see Pharaoh anew
as he pursued Moses with his soldiers
how he was drowned with all of his flock
and how Moses gets the Tablets of the Law.

And how his life ended is
here shortly told;
the rhyme also tells about idolatry,
when his people sinned, to tell the truth;
and how Moses decided to drink
out of the river and settled everything
and how he then had to die in trouble:
so that one still says: he got harmed out of mere spite.

Further you see those who whispered
and how the earth swallowed them alive,
and tribes carrying rods,
and only the one belonging to Aaron comes into blossom;
and look at the men bitten by the snakes
and healed by Moses;
you see the battle in those lands,
where Moses defeats the Medianites.

Which is a stupendous thing to see,
because it seems so real, harsh and deadly,
many lines of troops clash and smash with each other
and meet in a merciless battle;
then how Joshua, because he was sincere,
was created a duke by Moses in that land
by giving him the baton of a ruler.

You then see the death of Moses
and then his body hidden by God;
next you see Joshua the strong one
and how he willingly conquers Jericho
and how he sacks it with his entire escort,
making everybody sad and sorrowful;
but above all through divine care
they tore down its walls to the ground.

And the grand story of Saul is depicted
in full length on this wall;
you then see David without flaw
after having grasped his slingshot
aiming at Goliath and, not sparing himself,
throws a heavy rock at his head: at once
you see the mighty giant falling dead.

After that you see good David cutting off
the ferocious giant’s head,
and his story depicted on wall
shows it all so clear;
after this tale you see the arrival
of the Queen of Sheba which is not to her disadvantage,
she came here from her country
to visit the great King Solomon,

Her story is illustrated with
different kinds of peoples and animals,
with many boys in their natural appearance
which gives joy to those who see them;
you see how they join their equals
and meet with great haughtiness,
loaded with precious gems and gold,
you never saw a more richly decorated work.

8. The windows, the holy earth and the indulgence of the Camposanto

E dentro al chiostro del bel Campo Sancto
cinquanta sei finestre v’è certano
di marmo ben tagliato tucto quanto
con cinque colonelli ognun soprano
v’è per ongni finestra como io canto
odi belleza ch’è questa in tal piano
e son d’intorno intorno conpilate
nè mai finestre fur me’ lavorate.

Cento quarantaze’ teste pronte e belle
son di rilievo al Campo Sancto intorno
d’uomin famosi e par non ànno quelle
e fanno queste el tempio molto adorno.
le lor fatteze non vi paren felle
como il ver dico senza altro sogiorno
sei porte seguen po’ il el tronbeta canta
quale entran quelle in su la terra santa.




Partendosi de’ chiostri l’adorneza.
conme io vi dico in su la santa terra
entran tal porte di gran gentileza
come io v’ò ditto il mio parlar non erra
al tempo di Pisani e lor grandeza
già fu portata quella in cotal serra
ciò di Gierusalem e sue contrade
in cotal loco con gran degnitade.

Trovasi un corpo in tre dì consumato
quando si mette in tal terra presente
como di certo e chiaro io ò trovato
per voluntà di Cristo omnipotente
quaranta quatro teste ancho entalato
cioè di fora e ognun excelente
con altre cose adorne e suntuose
che nel vederle son maravigliose.


Questo tal tempio è si degno e galante
ch’al mondo el pari non credo che sia
cercando tutto el ponente e levante
più bella cosa non si troveria
senza le sepulture che son tante
che’n molte istanze non se conteria
maximo cinquazette sepulture
le qual vi son retratte di scolture.


E oltre a questo gran perdono ongn’anno
sì v’è concesso da somni pontifici.
qua’ cavan l’uomo di pene e d’affanno
facendoli del cielo assai partifici
que’ che divoti a visitare lo vanno
cioè cho l’almo e con lor cuore bonifici
e quilli son ch’ aquistan poi la gloria
del Campo Sancto è finita suo storia.

Composta per Michelagnolo di Cristofano da Volterra trombetto in Pisa.”

And inside the beautiful Camposanto
there are assuredly fifty-six windows
made of sculpted of marble, with five small columns
every one of great value, as I sing.
Listen about what beauty is to be found here,
they are sculpted all over
never before were windows better elaborated.

One hundred and forty-six lively and beautiful
heads of famous men
are worked in relief around the Camposanto,
and they contribute a lot to the decoration of the temple;
may their features not seem melancholic to you,
as I truly say without staying here any longer.
Then you see six entrances, and the ballad-singer chants,
which open on the Holy Earth from the Holy Land.

Stepping forward in the adorned cloister,
these fine doors lead you on
to the holy earth
as I have told you, and my word does not err;
at the time of the Pisans and their greatness
the holy earth was brought to this site
from Jerusalem and its surroundings,
to this place with great dignity.

A body will be consumed within three days
when buried in this present earth,
as I have learned for certain,
by the will of Christ Almighty.
Forty-four heads also on that side,
that means on the outer side, and each excellent,
with other things sumptuously adorned,
they are marvelous to look at.

This temple is so worthy and beautiful,
that I think nothing compares to it on earth;
searching all over from west to east
you would not find a more beautiful thing,
without the numerous sepulchres,
which in the end I would not take into consideration,
at the maximum fifty-seven sepulchres
which are sculpturally decorated.

And besides this a plenary indulgence is granted
there every year by the Sovereign Pontiffs,
to save men from sorrow and toil
and make them be part of Heaven;
those who visit it piously,
that means with a pure soul and heart,
they will gain glory in the end.
this is the end of the story of the Camposanto.

Composed by Michelangelo di Cristofano da Volterra, trombetto in Pisa

Ranieri Prosperi, Descrizione della città di Pisa (1792)

In his Descrizione della città di Pisa of 1792, Ranieri Prosperi gives an account of the history of the Camposanto, the architecture and the paintings. He agrees with other authors that it was Archbishop Ubaldo who brought the earth from the Holy Land and that he was the one who founded the Camposanto, although it was only in 1278 that the actual construction began under the archbishop Federico Visconti, with Giovanni Pisano as the master builder. His description of the building is quite detailed, and he too mentions the now-lost power of the earth to decompose bodies within twenty-four hours. Not only does he write about the architecture, he also discusses several paintings and painters, and refers to Vasari on different occasions. He also talks about the condition of the paintings. / SB

Prosperi, Descrizione_della_città_di_Pisa_1792 (excerpt)

Source: Ranieri Prosperi, Descrizione della Città di Pisa per servire di guida al viaggiatore (Pisa: Ranieri Prosperi, 1792), 68, 70-71.

Capitolo Quinto. Il Campo-Santo

“Questa magnifica fabbrica fu ideata dall’Arcivescovo Ubaldo Lanfranchi che ritornando da Soria, dove i Pisani erano concorsi con molti altri popoli d’Europa, e dove furono battuti dal valoroso Saladino, portò seco cariche le navi della flotta Pisana, ch’egli comandava, di terra presa sul monte Calvario, e comprato un sito presso la Primaziale ve la pose tutta, e destinò il luogo ad uso di Cimitero. Nel 1278 essendo Arcivescovo Federico Visconti si diè principio alla grandiosa Fabbrica sotto la direzione di Giovanni Pisano, che la condusse a fine nel 1283 e andò poscia al servizio del Rè Carlo I figlio di Luigi VIII a Napoli.
Sotto l’Arcivescovo Filipp de Medici nel 1461 fu condotta al segno a cui la vediamo presentemente, come risulta da un’iscrizione interna di cui si parlerà in appresso.
L’edificio ha la forma di un rettangolo di cui la totale lunghezza è braccia 222 la larghezza braccia 76, l’altezza braccia 24, il circuito braccia 596, l’area braccia 16872.
La facciata meridionale è divisa in 43 Arcate e spartimenti formati da 44 pilastri. Tanto i capitelli che i corniciami sono lavorati a intaglio è nel punto in cui si uniscono gli archi sopra i capitelli si vede una testa di differente figura. Tutto quest’Edifizio, è di marmo bianco.
La facciata orientale è ornata nella stessa foggia, ma è impedito di verderla da un magazzino. Non così la facciata occidentale, e settentrionale, che sono nude, ma che sarebbero state fregiate ugualmente, se si fosse eseguito il piano, che vi aera, di ampliare da quella parte la Città e per conseguenza buttar a terra le mura della medesima che sono contigue a questo bel Cimitero, e rendono inutile l’ornamento.
Due Porte aprono l’ingresso in quest’Edifizio. La più occidentale è sempre serrata ed era anticamente la più frequentata, vi era sopra un Crocefisso d’alabastro opera di Nicola Pisano, che è stato recentemente trasportato in S. Michele in Borgo, ed un Leone, che dava il nome ad una Porta della Città lì vicina, che fu murata quando Cosimo I fece aprire l’altra Porta attualmente detta Porta S. Maria o Nuova. L’altra Porta più orientale, ch’è la sola ad aprirsi, presentemente è ornata d’una specie di Tabernacolo di marmo bianco che posa sopra due colonne di marmo rosso, con vari fregi all’uso Gotico. In esso si vedono sei Statue fra le quali è rimarcabile quella dello Scultore stesso Giovanni Pisano genuflessa davanti alla Madonna.
Entrati per questa Porta veggonsi quattro loggiati in parallelogrammo che lasciano in mezzo un vasto spazio scoperto, dove fu messa la terra portata dal Calvario. Dicesi che questa terra avesse l’attività altre volte di consumare in ventiquattr’ore i cadaveri che in essa si sepellivano. Siccome poco importa una virtù che non esiste più non ci diffonderemo a esaminare se questo è stato mai vero, per qual ragione la terra del Calvario l’avesse, e perché poi la perdesse.
La pianta di quest’Edifizio è alquanto romboidale, il percheè non si sa ed è vano investigarlo. La lunghezza interna di tutto il Paralellogrammo e braccia 217. La larghezza braccia 72. Il giro braccia 578. Ogni loggiato è largo 18 braccia. E lo spazi sterrato che rimane in mezzo ha braccia 181 di lunghezza e 36 di larghezza, braccia 434 per conseguenza di giro.
I quatto gran Loggiati sono sostentute da 62 arcate rotonde di gotica Architettura, 26 nei lati maggiori, e 5 nei minori del paralellogrammo. 66 gran pilastri le sostengono, e questi posano sopra un piedistallo continuato con i rispettivi risalti delle teste di varie figure, fra le quali molte eleganti e ben lavorate adornanon il punto ve gli archi si uniscono sopra ogni capitello, e molte di queste sono avanzi di Fabbriche Romane.

Molti sarcofagi antichi sono collocati intorno al detto imbasamento de’ pilastri, benchè la più parte siano guasti dal tempo, e per essere stati luna età allo scoperto, e perciò esposti all’ingiurie dell’atmosfera, pure ve ne sono di quelli che meritano osservazine particolare, come anderemo notando in appresso, questi sarcofagi sono di bel marmo Pario la più parte, ed altre di marmi fini nostrali, sono soperi di bassi rilievi rappresentanti Storie e Favole diverse, mostri, sfingi, nercidi, divinità, ma prima di seguitarne il dettaglio, fa d’uopo terminare la descrizione de’ loggiati.
Sei arcate sono aperte per dar l’ingresso allo sterrato in mezzo, e le altre sono divise da due colonnette che reggono picoli archi, i due estremi de’ quali posano ciascheduno sopra un pilastrino in mezzo il tutto è lavorato a intaglio. Si vede che questi archi minori dovevano essere chiusi da invetriate all’uso antico. Non fu eseguito il progetto, per la qual cosa restarono prive le pitture a fresco d’un riparo contro le intemperie dell’aria.
Passiamo a descrivere queste pitture. Sono a fresco, dipinte sopra un’intonaco di calcina e sabbia fine. Non sono modelli dell’arte perfezionata, ma bensì dell’arte nascente, e fanno onore al secolo XIV in cui furono eseguiti dai più abili Professori di quell’età.
Comincieremo dalla parte Occidentale voltando a mano sinistra appena entrati dall’accennata Porta principale. S’incontrano subito sei gran Quadri tre sopra e tre sotto, ove è dipinta la vita del glorioso S. Ranieri. Autore di quelli di sopra è Simon Memmi Sanese, Antonio detto il Veneziano de’ tre inferiori. Nel primo de’ Quadri superiori rappresentasi il Giovine Ranieri che si da bel tempo un compagnia di leggiadre femmine, e che quindi punto dall’ammonizioni del Beato Alberto si pente de’ suoi errori e ne chiede perdono a Dio. Questo Quadro è ancora passabilmene conservato. Il secondo lo rappresenta in atto di partire per la Palestina e giunto a Tiro rapito in estasi per la visione della Madonna. Questo Quadro è un poco più guasto dell’antecedenti. Il terzo lo rappresenta tornato di Terra Santa, tentato dal demonio, e quando sul Tabor vide Gesù Cristo, Moisè ed Elìa.
I tre Quadri inferiori vengono riputati i migliori di questo Edifizio, e sono ancora i meglio conservati specialmente il primo. Questo rappresenta S. Ranieri sulla nave ritornando a Pisa dalla Terra Santa e partendo da Joppe. Vi si vede il miracolo ch’egli operò a Messina per discoprire la frode d’un Oste, e finalmente quando fu ricevuto in Pisa alla mensa de’Canonici del Duomo. Il secondo Quadro esprime la morte del suddetto Santo entro la Chiesa di S. Vito, e il suo rapimento in Cielo. Il terzo Quadro esprime vari miracoli che operò il Santo, mentre portavasi a seppellire il suo cadavere.
Il secondo spartimento contiene altri sei Quadri, tre sopra e tre sotto, come l’antecedente, il lavoro è di Spinello Spinelli Aretino, ma molto guastato. Eccone i soggetti. Vi si esprime la storia de’ SS. Efeso e Potito. Il primo Quadro superiore rappresenta Diocleziano che accetta nella sua Armata il giovine Efeso. Quindi il viaggio di questi per il mare in Italia, e finalmente, l’apparizione di Cristo che gli vieta di perseguitarlo in Sardegna. Il secondo Quadro contiene la storia della Bandiera della fede portata da un Angelo a S. Efeso, al quale accenna una mischia tra i Pagani e i Cristiani in Sardegna. Il terzo Quadro rappresenta S: Efeso innanz al Pretore dell’Isola, il suo esame, quindi è gittato in una fornace ardente le di cui fiamme si rivolgono contro i Ministri.
Il primo Quadro inferiore rappresenta la traslazione de’ Corpi de SS. Efeso e Potito dalla Sardegna a Pisa. Vi si vede la processione, e la facciata del Duomo. Nel secondo Quadro è espresso il martirio di detti SS. Efeso e Potito decapitati. Il terzo Quadro appartiene alla storia de’ medesimi Santi, ma è guasto a segno che nulla vi si può distinguere.
Eccoci al terzo spartimento dove il famoso Giotto espresse molto prima che fossero fatti i due precedenti spartimenti in sei Quadri la storia di Giobbe, delle quali opere scon sommo dispiacere rimangono i frammenti e i ritocchi da Stefano Marucelli [?] fattivi nel 1623 così è inutile parlarne.
Il resto delle pitture che coprono questa facciata fino all’angolo fu opera per quanto dice il Canonico Totti d’un certo Nelli di Vanni pittore da Pisa che seguitò la storia di Giobbe incominciata dal Giotto, ma il tutto è sì guasto che fa compassione, e non giova descriverlo.” (68-76)

“Giunti alla facciata settentrionale vediamo nei primi spartimenti quattro storie della Creazione del Mondo, opera di Bonamico Buffalmacco Pittore del principio del secolo decimoquattro. Nel primo gran Quadro è Dio che sostiene l’universo. S. Agostino e S. Tommaso sono negli angoli da basso. Il secondo Quadro nell’ordine superiore rappresenta la Creazione dell’Uomo, la formazione della Donna, e il loro esilio da Eden. Il terzo il Sacrificio di Caino, e d’Abele, coll’uccisione di quello. Il quarto in tre divisioni contiene la costruzione dell’arca, il diluvio, e il sacrifizio di Noè dopo l’uscita dall’arca. Questo lavoro è fregiato di quadrature ed ornati con teste e ritratti, fra i quali quello di Buffalmacco stesso con un capuccio in capo, ed un cencio che gli pende sul collo.” (81-82).

“Le pitture che adornano quest’altra parte della facciata a sinistra escendo dalla Cappella [del Pozzo] sono del Buffalmacco. La prima esprime la Crocifissione del Salvadore, la seconda la Resurrezione alla vita, la terza l’Ascensione al Cielo. Opere lodatissime dal Vasari.
Siamo giunti di nuovo alla facciata Meridionale, della quale abbiamo descritta una parte cominciando a mano sinistra dalla Porta per cui siamo entrati. Parleremo primieramente delle Pitture e quindi de’ Cenotafi ed altri ornamenti come si è fatto dell’altre facciate. E principiando per ordine accenneremo il gran Quadro a fresco diviso in più parti ove è dipinto il Trionfo della Morte. Autore di questo fu Andrea Orcagna Fiorentino che fiorì alla metà del secolo XIV. Il soggetto è tolto dal Petrarca, ma non saprei chi sia più gran Pittore, chi parli più all’immaginazione o Petrarca o Andrea Orcagna. Disapproviamo per altro quegli scritti che esprimono i sentimenti delle persone effigiate, in una pittura deve parlar la pittura e nient’altro, altrimenti si rammenta Sancio Pansa Scudiero di Don Chisciotte che credeva d’aver dipinto un Gallo, quando fatti due scarabocchi sul muro vi scriveva sotto: Questo è un Gallo.
Quì al solito sono espressi molti ritratti di personaggi e d’amici del Pittore, noi non staremo ad individuarli, perché non v’hanno altri ritratti interessanti che quelli delle persone da noi amate. […]” (92-93).

Ripiglieremo dunque la descrizione delle pitture. Il secondo gran Quadro è uno dei meglio conservati, rappresenta il Giudizio Universale ed è opera del medesimo Orcagna che dipinse qui accanto l’accennato triondo della morte. Vi è molto del bizzarro, e merita osservazione. Il susseguente Quadro è di Bernardo Orcagna fratello d’Andrea fu chiamato a Firenze. Il soggetto è l’inferno di Dante quale del Pittore o del Poeta sia stato più bizzarro è fantastico non è facile a decidersi. So bene che il Poeta è qualche volta sublime e divino, il Pittore è sempre capriccioso ed uniforme. Questa pittura fu ristaurata in alcuni luoghi nel 1530 da Solazzino Pittore, per quanto dice il Vasari.
L’ultimo Quadro rappresentante storie d’Anacoreti è di Pietro Laurati Sanese discepolo di Giotto. Sotto questa pittura e sopra una cassa di marmo è dipinto il Beato Oliverio giacente da Antonio Veneziano conforme asserisce il Vasari. Qui presso un sepolcro antico sono risposte l’ossa del Beato Giovanni della Pace, con una lapida nel muro su cui è scritto un cattivo Epigramma allusivo a quel pio personaggio.
Sulla Porta per la quale siamo entrati è internamente dipinta un’Assunzione da Simone Memmi Sanese. È ben conservato e fa onore al suo Autore, uno de’ primi Pittori nel secolo XIV. Ecco descritte tutte le pitture e i sarcofagi che sono sul muro e lungo il muro di quest’Edifizio, passiamo ora a dar contentezza dei sarcofagi che girano lungo l’imbasamento sul quale posano i pilastri che sostengono le arcate de’quattro loggiati.” (94-95).

Fifth chapter. The Camposanto.

This magnificent building was conceived by Archbishop Ubaldo, who returned from Soria, where the Pisans fought with many other peoples of Europe and were defeated by the valiant Saladin. He brought earth that he had taken from Calvary with the ships he commanded and bought a piece of land on the Primaziale, where he poured out the earth and made the place a cemetery.
In 1278, under Archbishop Federico Visconti, the construction of this great building began under the direction of Giovanni Pisano, who directed it until 1283, when he entered the service of King Charles I, son of Louis VII in Naples.
In 1461, under Archbishop Filipo de’Medici, the building was brought to the state in which we can see it today, as can be seen from an inscription that will be discussed below.
The building has the shape of a rectangle with a length of 222 armlengths, a width of 76 armlengths, a height of 24 armlengths, a perimeter of 596 armlengths and an area of 16872 armlengths.
The south facade is divided into forty-three arcades and partitioned by forty-four pilasters.
Both the capitals and the cornices are carved, and in the place where the arches are connected above the capitals, there is a head of another figure.
The entire building is made of white marble. The eastern facade is ornamented in the same style, but not the western and southern facades, which are undecorated. They would have been ornamented if the plan had been carried out to enlarge the city on this side and tear down the medieval wall that bordered this beautiful cemetery, making ornamentation unnecessary.
Two doors are at the entrance to this building. In the far west there was a cross in alabaster by Nicola Pisano, which had always been the most visited, and was recently transported to S. Michele in Borgo. There was also a lion that gave its name to the city gate, but it was walled up when Cosimo I had the other gate, called Porta S. Maria or Porta Nuova, opened.
The other door to the far east, which is the only one that can be opened, is decorated with a white marble tabernacle that stands on two red marble columns and is decorated with various Gothic sculptures. There are six statues inside, of which the one by Giovanni Pisano of the sculptor himself kneeling before the Madonna is particularly noteworthy.
Entering through this door, one sees four loggias on four sides of a parallelogram; in the center is a large open space where the earth brought by the knights was distributed.
I said that this earth sometimes decomposes the cadavers buried in it within twenty-four hours. Since a virtue that no longer exists counts for little, we will not go on to investigate if it ever had it, which part of Calvary it came from, and why it lost that virtue. The floor plan of this building is somewhat rhombic, the reason is not known, and it is not worth investigating.
The inner length of the whole paralellogram is 217 armlengths. The width is 72 armlengths. The perimeter is 578 armlengths. Each loggia is 18 armlengths wide. And the unplastered area that remains in the center has a length of 181 armlengths, a width of 36, and a perimeter of 434 armlengths.
The four loggias are supported by sixty-two round arches of Gothic architecture. Twenty-six of them are on the main sides and five are on the minor sides of the paralellogram.
Sixty-six large columns support them, and these rest on a continuous base with the respective heads of various figures, many of which are elegant and well-crafted. The columns are connected to the arches with capitals, many of which are remains of Roman buildings.
Many ancient sarcophagi have been placed around the aforementioned pilasters, most of which have aged with time and have long been in the open, where they have suffered from weathering. Of these, there are some that deserve special attention, as we will see below. These sarcophagi are mostly made of beautiful Parian marble and some are of their own fine marble. They are covered with bas-reliefs depicting various stories and fables: monsters, sphinxes, nereids, deities. But before turning to the details, let’s finish the description of the loggias.
Six arcades serve as entrances to the unplastered surfaces in the center, and the others are divided into two rows crowned by small arches. The two outer ones rest on pillars and everything is carved in the center. It can be seen that these small arches had to be closed with glass in the ancient manner. The project was not carried out in such a way that the frescoes remained protected from the intemperances  of the air.
Let’s proceed to describe those paintings. They are done in fresco, on an intonaco of lime and fine sand. They are not examples of a perfected art, but of art in a nascent state, and pay tribute to the thirteenth century, since they were executed by the most capable masters of the time.
Let’s start in the western part by turning to the left at the aforementioned entrance. Right next to it are six large paintings, three above and three below, in which the life of St. Ranieri is painted. The upper ones are by Simone Memmi, the Sienese, and Antonio, called Veneziano, made the three lower ones. The first of the paintings depicts the young Ranieri who, after a long time, came together with a graceful woman and, through the admonitions of St. Albert, repents of his mistakes and asks God for forgiveness. This painting is acceptably preserved. The second painting depicts his departure for Palestine and his arrival at Tyre, where he has an ecstatic vision of the Mother of God. This painting is a bit more damaged than the previous one. The third painting depicts the return to the Holy Land, a temptation by a demon and how he saw Jesus Christ, Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor.
The three lower paintings are considered the best in the building and they are still the most well-preserved, especially the first one. This one depicts St. Ranieri on the ship returning to Pisa, leaving the Holy Land and Jaffa. We can also see the miracle he performed in Messina, where he uncovered the fraud of an innkeeper, and how he finally returned to Pisa, to the table of the canons of the Cathedral. The second painting shows the death of the saint in the church of St. Vitus and his rapture in Heaven. The third painting portrays the various miracles that the saint performed as his body was buried.
The second section contains another six paintings, three above and three below. Like the previous one, they are painted by Spinello Aretino, though they are now in poor condition. Here are the subjects. One sees the story of the saints Ephesus and Potito. The first painting in the upper row shows Diocletian taking the young Ephesus into his army; then their journey through the sea to Italy; and, finally, the appearance of Christ, who forbids them to pursue him to Sardinia. The second painting contains the story of the flag of faith brought by an angel to St. Ephesus, including a battle between pagans and Christians in Sardinia. The third painting shows St. Ephesus in front of the praetor of the island, his trial, and how he is finally thrown into a fiery furnace whose flames are directed against the ministers.
The first painting in the lower row shows the translation of the body of saints Ephesus and Potito from Sardinia to Pisa. One can see the procession and the facade of the Cathedral. The second painting depicts the martyrdom of the aforementioned saints Ephesus and Potito by decapitation. The third painting belongs to the history of the same saints, but is in such bad condition that you can not make out anything.
Here, we are in the third section, where the famous Giotto painted the story of Job, long before the two previous sections were divided into six paintings. Of these, however, only the retouchings and fragments of Stefano Marucelli [?] are preserved, which he made in 1623, so it is useless to talk about them.
The rest of the paintings that cover this facade to the corner are, according to Canon Totti, by a certain Nelli di Vanni, a painter from Pisa, who followed the story of Job begun by Giotto, but the whole is so damaged that it inspires pity, and it is not useful to describe it. (68-76)

Arriving at the northern facade, we see four stories of the Creation of the World by Buonamico Buffalmacco, a painter from the beginning of the fourteenth century. In the first large painting is God who supports the universe. St. Augustine and St. Thomas are in the corners below. The second painting in the upper register shows the Creation of man, the Creation of woman and their Expulsion from Eden. The third one shows the sacrifice of Cain and Abel with the murder of the latter. The fourth painting is divided into three parts, depicting the building of Noah’s Ark, the Flood and Noah’s sacrifice after the use of the Ark. This work is decorated with squares and adorned with heads and portraits, among which is that of Buffalmacco, with a hood on his head and a rag hanging around his neck.

The paintings that decorate the other part of the facade on the left side, coming out of the chapel [of Pozzo] are by Buffalmacco. The first one shows the Crucifixion of the Savior, the second the Resurrection to life, the third the Ascension. Vasari praised these works.
Arriving at the south facade, we describe a part that begins on the left side of the door through which we entered. Now let’s talk first about the paintings and then about the cenotaphs and the other ornaments, as with  the other facades. And we begin with the order in which we see the great fresco painting, divided into several parts, in which the Triumph of Death is included. The Florentine Andrea Orcagna, who flourished in the middle of the fourteenth century, created it. The subject is taken from Petrarch, but I don’t know who is the greater painter, who appeals more to the imagination, Petrarch or Andrea Orcagna,. We also disapprove of the writings that describe the feelings of the figures depicted, because in a painting, the painting must speak and nothing else, otherwise we remember Sancho Panza, the squire of Don Quixote, who thought he had painted a rooster when he painted two blobs on the wall and wrote underneath: this is a rooster.
Here, as usual, there are many portraits of people and friends of the painter, but we cannot identify them because there are no other more interesting portraits than those of the people we love. (92-93)

So we resume the description of the paintings. The second large painting is one of the better preserved, shows the Last Judgment and is a work by the same Orcagna, who painted the aforementioned Triumph of Death close by. There is much bizarreness here, and it is worth looking at. The following painting is by Bernardo Orcagna, who is the brother of Andrea, who was summoned to Florence. The subject is the Inferno of Dante. Whether the painter or the poet was more bizarre and fantastic is not easy to decide.
This painting was restored in some spots in 1530 by the painter Solazzino, according to Vasari.
The last painting shows the story of the Anchorites and is by the Sienese painter Pietro Lorenzetti, a pupil of Giotto. Under this painting and above a marble chest is the Blessed Oliverio lying down, painted by Antonio Veneziano, says Vasari. Below this, in an ancient coffin, are the bones of Blessed John of Peace with a stone tablet in the wall in which a bad epigram alludes to this pious person.
Above the door through which we entered, inside, is the Assumption of Mary by Simone Memmi of Siena. It is well preserved and does credit to its creator, one of the most excellent painters of the fourteenth century. Here are described all the paintings and sarcophagi that are on or along the walls of this building. Let us now move on to the sarcophagi that are located along the foundation that supports the pilasters that carry the arches of the four loggias.” (94-95)

Alessandro da Morrona (1741-1821), Pisa illustrata nelle arti del disegno (1787)

In his discussion of the Camposanto in Pisa illustrata nelle arti del disegno of 1787, Alessandro da Morrona refers explicitly to other authors such as Roncioni and Tronci. He begins by describing how the Pisans fought in the Holy Land, and how Ubaldo Lanfranchi brought the holy earth back to Italy and bought a piece of land next to the Cathedral. Giovanni Pisano is described as the architect that built the Camposanto in 1278 under Federico Visconti following the ideas of Ubaldo. Morrona also refers to Vasari and writes about the power of the holy earth, that it once had the ability to decompose bodies in twenty-four hours but that it had now lost this power. /SB

Pisa_illustrata_nelle_arti_del_disegno (excerpt)

Source: Alessandro da Morrona, Pisa Illustrata Nelle Arti Del Disegno, 3 vols. (Pisa: Francesco Pieraccini, 1787-1793), 2:171-173, 179-180, 238-239.


“L’ordine cronologico ad illustrar m’invita il celebre Campo Santo, grandioso monumento dell’opulenza della Pisana Repubblica, e dell’Architettura del sec. XIII, a cui niuno altro d’Italia s’agguaglia relativamente al fine onde i Pisani lo destinarono. L’origine del nascimento suo chiara risulta dalla istoria del Can. Roncioni, da Paolo Tronci, dall Ughelli, da altre autorevoli carte ancora. Narrano essi, che l’Arcivescovo Ubaldo de Lanfranchi, quando ad instanza di Clemente III. Nell’anno 1188 andò contro i Turchi, come capo dell’esercito pisano, unitamente alle altre due marittime Potenze, Veneziana e Genovese, fin presso Gerusalemme si condusse; e poiché tenendo stretto dentro le mura quel presidio ebbe comodo di visitare il monte calvario pietoso desìo lo mosse a far levare molta terra ed a mandarla all’armata composta o più navi. Trasferitosi poscia dove le altre Potenze erano intente all’assedio di Tolemaide, che fu circa all’anno 1191 narrasi, che dalla sorte il total comando ci ricevesse dalle medesime. Ma nel terzo giorno del suo decoroso governo (onde Pisa per tre giorni ebbe voce della Signorìa del Mondo,) nato scompiglio nel campo per la trista nuova della morte dell’Imperator Federigo, colse il tempo Saladino capo dei Saraceni, ed attaccò una fiera mischia con grave danno, e strage degli intimoriti Cristiani. Per lo che Ubaldo radunate le genti, che campate avea si ritirò all’armata, e date le vele al vento fece ritorno alla Patria con poco onore ed utile, scrisse l’Anonimo nella sua istoria pisana. Allora fu, ch’ei comprò presso al Duomo porzione di terreno; e fatta quivi collocare la trasportata terra, adattò quel sito per uso di Cimitero. Sub eodem Presule (scrisse il Volterrano) Campum Sanctum dicavere ex terra, quam Hyerosolimis adducerunt, injecta nuncupatum.



Senza errore adunque gli Autori scrissero, e direm’ noi con essi che l’idea primiera di questo Campo Santo concepita fu da Ubaldo Arcivescovo nell’anno 1200: e che posteriormente nell’anno 1278 come la seguente iscrizione insegna, fu innalzata la gran Fabbrica sì fastosamente come al presente si vede col disegno, e colla direzione di Giovanni da Pisa, essendo Arcivescovo Federigo della splendida famiglia de’ Viceconti.

L’iscrizione è in marmo incisa nello spazio dell’arcata laterale a quella ov’è il principale ingresso. Tralasciando alcune stravaganti ma chiare abbreviature, ella è così concepita,

L’interna architettonica parte della region funebre con tali oggetti di magnificenza e di grandezza, e sì copiosamente decorata d’opere di Scultura e di Pittura si presenta, che l’animo ne concepisce dilettazione e meraviglia. […] Quattro ampie logge in forma di parallelogrammo racchiudono il gran claustro scoperto, ove in tre campi divisa fu posta la mentovata terra santa, la quale al dir del Vasecio riduceva i cadaveri in polvere nel solo spazio di 24 ore, attività già da gran tempo perduta. […]

Fu osservato dal Vasari un romito che munge una capra pel pregio della naturalezza. Altro ne additò, denominandolo S. Macario, che fattosi incontro a certi Cavalieri mostra ad essi l’umana miseria ne i tre Rè, che morti giacciano ne’sepolcri, e che distingueno i tre diversi stati del corpo di spirto privo fino alla sua total corruzione giusta i pretesi effetti della terra santa in altro luogo nominati. In essi uso l’Orcagna attitudini dicevoli, e proprie alla trista considerazione; e per far cosa analoga al primo disegno, vi effigiò varj Signori contemporanei.”


The chronological order leads me to present the famous Camposanto, the grandiose monument originating from the opulence of the Pisan Republic and the architecture of the thirteenth century, with which no other [monument] in Italy can be compared and from where the Pisans derive their destiny. The origin of its birth comes from the story of Can. Roncioni, by Paolo Tronci, by Ughelli, and also from the texts of other authors. These tell that the Archbishop Ubaldo Lanfranchi, by order of Clement III in 1188, under the leadership of the Pisans and united with the other naval powers of Venice and Genoa, went against the Turks and advanced as far as the vicinity of Jerusalem; and because he kept the troops closely within the range of the walls, he was able to visit Calvary, and his humble desire led him to remove much earth and bring it with the army in many ships. He then moved to where the other powers were planning to besiege Acre (Ptolemais), and it is reported that he received the entire command from them. But on the third day of his worthy reign (for three days, the Pisans had the voice of the ruler of the world), unrest arose in the camp due to the sad news of the death of Emperor Frederick, and Saladin, the leader of the Saracens, took advantage of the hour and attacked in a fierce battle, causing serious damage and a bloodbath among the frightened Christians. Thereupon Ubaldo gathered the people who were in the camp to seek refuge with the fleet and set sail with the wind for home, with little honor or benefit, as the anonymous chronicler writes in his history of Pisa. Then Ubaldo bought a piece of land near the Cathedral and there he distributed the earth he had brought with him and transformed the area to use as a cemetery. Sub eodem Presule (wrote Volteranno) Campum Sanctum dicavere ex terra, quam Hyerosolimis adducerunt, injecta nuncupatum.

Without error the authors wrote, and with them I say, the original idea of the Camposanto was conceived by Archbishop Ubaldo in 1200: and that later, in 1278, as the following inscription shows, the great building was erected, already as magnificent then as it is today, by the design and under the direction of Giovanni of Pisa during the time of Archbishop Federico of the splendid Visconti family.


The inscription is in a side-arch, where the main entrance is also located. Apart from a few strange but clear abbreviations, it says the following:


The internal structure consists of a part for the tombs with magnificent and grandiose objects and is richly decorated with sculptures and paintings, so that the soul feels joy and is amazed. Four large loggias enclose the large, uncovered cloister, divided into three fields, where the holy earth was placed, which, according to Vasecio, had the property of turning bodies into dust in just twenty-four hours. It lost this ability, however, long ago. […]

Vasari observed how a hermit milked a goat to lend a sense of naturalness. Another, whom he calls St. Macarius, shows some horsemen human misery in the form of three kings lying dead in tombs, in three different states of the body separated from the spirit until complete decomposition, and the alleged effects of the holy earth mentioned elsewhere. In this, Orcagna uses appropriate and meaningful attitudes for this sad reflection; and to make it analogous to the first drawing, he portrays various contemporary lords.

Gioacchino Cambiagi (1747-1822), Il forestiero erudito (1773)

Gioacchino Cambiagi writes about the Camposanto in his Il forestiero erudito from 1773. He discusses the architecture and the history of the building as well as the paintings, although not in much detail. He does mention important dates and names that were part of the early stages of construction, and he also relates how it was finished under the archbishop Filipo de’Medici in 1464. Several artists are named, such as Spinello Aretino, Giotto and Buonamico Buffalmacco, and Gioacchino also describes the various figures painted in the Triumph of Death. He writes that the earth had had the power to corrode the bodies in twenty-four hours, but also that it had lost some of its potency, now taking fifty hours. / SB

Cambiagi (excerpt)

Source: Gioacchino Cambiagi, Il Forestiero Erudito O Sieno Compendiose Notizie Spettanti Alla Città Di Pisa (Pisa: Pompeo Polloni e Figli, 1773)


“Questo superbo Edifizio riconobbe il suo principio nel 1200. reggendo la Chiesa Pisana Ubaldo Lanfranchi. Nel 1277. essendo stata affidata tal Fabbrica all’Architetto, e Scultore Giovanni Pisano fu proseguita con celerità; ma non fu ridotta al termine che si vede fino al 1464 sotto l’Arcivescovo Filippo dei Medici.
Entrando nella Porta, e voltando a mano sinistra trovasi nella parte dipinta a fresco in più Quadri la vita di San Ranieri di mano di Simone Memmi Senese, e di Antonio Veneziano. Spinello Aretino fu quei che dipinse quelle Istorie dei Martiri, e Confessori, che dal tempo sono state offese. E Giotto primo Scolare di Cimabue fu quei che dipinse il lebbroso Giob lasciato in abbandono da tutti.” (75-76)

Quindi dirigendosi per l’altra Navata vedesi dipinto il Sistema del Mondo con tutti i segni Celesti; e dipoi la distinzione degli Animali, e Adamo; e la formazione di Eva, ec. tutto prodotto dai pennelli di Buonamico Buffallmacco. Tutte le altre Storie cominciando dalla Fabbrica dell’Arca di Noè fino alla Regina Saba sono di Benozzo Gozzoli, che le termonò nel 1486.” (78-79).

Del Buffalmacco, e di Antonio Vita Pistojese sono le antiche Pitture della Crocifissione, Resurrezione e Ascensione del Signore. […]

Rientrando nella Navata che ci riconduce alla Porta viene espressa la corruzione del Corpo Umano in tre Cadaveri, uno cominciato a consumarsi, l’altro quasi spolpato, e l’altro ridotto in aride ossa (nota: È qui da notarsi come l’Arcivescovo Lanfranchi fece qui da Gerusalemme nel 1200 trasportare certa prodigiosa terra, che per molto tempo ha avuta l’attività di ridurre i Cadaveri in ossa nel corso di sole ore ventiquattro, ma adesso ci vogliono circa a cinquanta. Alcuni però sono d’opinione che possa derivare dalla calcina messavi in gran copia.) In quelli che si vedono a Cavallo, il Pittore Andrea Orcagna Fiorentino volle rappresentare varj Signori che hanno visitato questo Campo Santo, cioè l’Imperador Federigo I detto Barbarossa, l’Imperador Lodovico di Baviera, che per non sentire il fetore si chiude il naso, Castruccio Interminelli (nota: Detto per sopranome Castracani) Lucchese coll’Astore in mano, e Ugoccione Tarlati della Faggiola nel Casentino. […] Parimente è del medesimo Orcagna il Giudizio universale, ove si vedono li Angeli dividere li eletti dai reprobi; ove mirasi tra i primi un Pontefice in cui volle il Pittore esprimere Innovenzio IV. L’Inferno rappresentato giusta la descrizione di Dante è di Benedetto Orcagna Fratello del sopradetto Andrea. Quindi si vede il Deposito del Beato Giovanni della Pace Pisano. Finalmente si vedono li Anacoreti dipinti da Pietro Laurenti Senese. Sopra la Porta dipinse quella Assunzione die Maria Simone Memmi.
Son stituati all’intorno di questa Fabbrica, che è lunga 210 braccia, e larga 72 molti antichissimi Depositi ornati di bassi rilievi che per la loro antichità sono assai commendabili.” (81-85)


This magnificent building has its origins in 1200, when the Pisan church was under Ubaldo Lanfranchi. After this work was entrusted to the sculptor and architect Giovanni Pisano in 1277, it was carried out with great speed; however, it was completed only under Archbishop Filipo de’Medici in 1464.
When you enter through the door, on the left, painted in fresco, are many scenes of the life of St. Ranieri by the hand of Simone Memmi Senese and Antonio Veneziano. Spinello Aretino was the one who painted the stories of the martyrs and the confessors, which have been damaged by time. And Giotto, the first disciple of Cimabue, was the one who painted the leprous Job who was abandoned by all. (75-76)

Going down the other aisle, one sees the Cosmos painted with all the celestial signs; and after that the Naming of the Animals, Adam and the Creation of Eve, all painted by the brush of Buonamico Buffalmacco. All the other stories, starting with the building of Noah’s Ark and ending with the Queen of Sheba, are by Benozzo Gozzoli who finished them in 1486. (78-79)

The ancient paintings of the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord are by Buffalmacco and by Antonio Vita from Pistoia […]
Returning to the corridor that leads us back to the entrance, we see the decay of the human body as expressed in the three cadavers, one has begun to decompose, another has been almost stripped [of its flesh], and a third has been reduced to bone (Note: At this point, it should be noted that Archbishop Lanfranchi brought miraculous earth from Jerusalem in 1200, and this for a long time had the ability to decompose cadavers in only twenty-four hours, but now it takes about fifty hours. However, some believe that this comes from the high lime content of the earth).
With those you can see on horseback, the Florentine painter Andrea Orcagna wanted to depict different rulers who visited the Camposanto. These are the ruler Frederick I, called Barbarossa, the ruler Louis of Bavaria, who, in order not to smell the stench, covers his nose, Castruccio Interminelli from Lucca (note: who goes by the nickname Castracani) with a hawk in his hand, and Ugoccione Tarlati from Faggiola in Casentino. […] Likewise, the Last Judgment was painted by Orcagna himself, where it can be seen how the angels separate  the chosen from the damned; among them is a Pope, whom the painter showed as Innocent IV. Hell, represented according to the description of Dante, is by Benedetto Orcagna, the brother of Andrea who was described above. Then one sees the tomb of Blessed John of Peace from Pisa. Finally, one sees the Anchorites, painted by Pietro Laurenti from Siena. Above the door, Simone Martini painted the Assumption of Mary. All around this building, which is 210 armlengths long and 72 wide, there are many ancient tombs decorated with bas-reliefs that are admirable for their antiquity. (81-85)

Pandolfo Titi (1696-1765), Guida per il passeggiere dilettante di pittura, scultura, architettura nella Città di Pisa (1751)

Pandolfo Titi’s Guida per il passeggiere dilettante di pittura, scultura, architettura nella Città di Pisa, from 1751, is considered to be the first guide (in the eighteenth-century sense of the word) to Pisa. From 1726, Titi was a member of the order of St. Stephen. His aim seems to be to provide a guide for the dilettante traveler. Titi describes the architecture of the Camposanto and the legend of the holy earth, writing that it had lost some of its power to corrode bodies. He mentions several painters and also discusses certain paintings such as the story of Job or the Triumph of Death. His writing uncritically relies on Vasari and Baldinucci. / SB

Titi, excerpt_Guida_per_il_passeggiere_dilettante_di_p

Source: Pandolfo Titi, Guida Per Il Passeggiere Dilettante Di Pitura, Scultura, Architettura Nella Città Di Pisa (Lucca: Filippo Maria Benedini, 1751), 65-68, 77, 78-79, 81-82.

“Forse non sarà venuto mai in pensiero a Popolo alcuno nell’Italia, né in tutta l’Europa, di fare una così sontuosa, e magnifica Fabbrica per riporre, e conservare le rispettabili ossa de’ Fedeli Cristiani, come ebbero nell’idea di fare quei popoli di questa antichissima Città di Pisa nell’anno 1278. di nostra salute, nel qual tempo dettero principio a questa bellissima Fabbrica, stata fatta per tale effetto tutta adornata di finissimi marmi, quale considerandola nella sua magnificenza, e grandezza, facilmente si verrà in cognizione della grandissima spesa fatta per perfezionarla; Il disegno, che come si vede fatto sul gusto di quei tempi alla Gottica, fu di Giovanni Pisano, siccome sono di sua mano molte Urne, e Sepolcri, che si vedono in questo recinto, de i quali si è perduta la memoria a chi appartenessero. Principiata dunque con sì nobil pensiero questa illustre Fabbrica, fu poi corredata da una miracolosa terra, che dall’Arcivescovo Ubaldo della nobilissima Famiglia de’ Lanfranchi fu fatta portare dalle parti di Oriente, o come altri vogliono da Gerusalemme, o da quei luoghi circonvicini, quale aveva l’attività di consumare i Cadaveri, che vi venivano seppelliti, in maniera tale, che in 24 ore non vi restavano, che le pure ossa, e li riduceva semplici Scheletri; attività al presente alquanto perduta, ma mantenuta in parte; stanto, che quello, che prima faceva in 24 ore, adesso, secondo le recenti prove, che ne sono state fatte, ne viene fatto l’effetto in ore 48. E fu anche abbellita con diversi bellissimi Depositi, ed antiche Pitture, come anderemo vedendo.
Entrati dentro per la solita Porta dell’ingresso, e voltandosi sulla mano manca si trova dipinto sulla muraglia a fresco, e nella maniera antica, e de i tempi, in cui la pittura non era salita a quel buon gusto, che da’ posteriori Maestri, che sono venuti dopo di Giotto, e Cimabue, e dall’anno 1300. in quà è stata condotta. Si vede rappresentata la Vita di S. Ranieri Pisano, divisa in più Quadri dipinti, parte da Simone Memmio Sanese, e parte da Antonio detto il Veneziano, quali hanno il suo pregio per l’antichità. Le Storie di più Martiri, e Confessori, che dall’ingiurie de’ tempi sono state guaste, e rovinate, non si conoscono quasi più, ed erano di Spinello Aretino.
La Storia del Leproso Giobbe abbandonato da tutti per la sua incurabile infermità, che si vede starsene sotto ad una Capannella, dove viene visitato da’ suoi più cari Amici è un’opera del famoso Giotto, in qui tempi unico in quest’arte, e primo Scolare del famoso Cimabue, quello, che da alcuni Greci, e cattivi Pittori, fatti venire da’ Fiorentini per dipingere nella Chiesa di S. Giovanni di Firenze, ebbe i primi principj dell’Arte della Pittura, co’ quali mediante il suo ingegno, e capacità, arrivò a megliorare quest’arte di maniera tale, che con i lumi lasciati da lui sono arrivati tanti bravissimi Maestri a quella perfezione, nella quale vediamo le loro opere; […]
L’antiche Pitture, che rappresentano la Crocifissione, Resurrezione, ed Ascensione del Signore Salvatore Nostro, sono opere del suddetto Buffalmacco, e di Antonio Vita da Pistoja, osservabili più per la loro antichità che per altro. […]

Nel canto per rivoltare, e ritornare nella prima Navata, di dove entrammo, vi è rappresentata la Morte dell’Uomo, ed il Giudizio Universale, dove si vedono tre Cadaveri dentro tre Casse, uno cominciato a consumarsi, l’altro mezzo spolpato, ed il terzo ridotto in sole aride ossa; quali rappresentano l’effetto, che fa la terra di questo Ghiostro, come si disse; con alcuni signori a Cavalli, quali stanno osservando li detti Cadaveri, e la virtù di questa terra, quando restano sepolti in essa; e fra questi si dice esservi li Ritratti dell’Imperator Federigo Primo, detto Barbarossa; di Lodovico il Bavaro Imperatore, quale figura di chiudersi il naso per non sentire il fetor de’Cadaveri, e quello di Castruccio Castracani degl’Interminelli Lucchese, che è quello, che tiene in mano un’Astore; e quello di Uguccione de’ Conti Tarlati dalla Faggiuolo nel Casentino, fatti per bizzarrìa di Andrea Ogagna Pittore Fiorentino, quale volle forse significare con questa sua bizzarra invenzione, che tutti questi Signori in più tempi sono stati a vedere, e visitar questo luogo. […]
Il Giudizio Universale, che quivi viene rappresentato cogli Angeli, che dividono gli Eletti da’ Condannati, dove fra li Beati si vede un Pontefice, che per quello ne dice la Traditione, vien creduto il Ritratto d’Innocenzo Quarto, è opera di Andrea Orcagna Fiorentino.
L’Inferno dipinto secondo la descrizione, che ne fa il famoso Dante è opera di Bernardo Orgagna, forse Fratello del suddetto Andrea, e qui poco distante si vede il Deposito del miracoloso, e Beato Gio: della Pace Pisano.
Gli Anacoreti, che sono dipinti per compimento di questa gran Fabbrica, che ha di lunghezza braccia 210, della nostra misura Fiorentina, e di larghezza braccia 72, sono gli ultimi, che si trovano per ritornare alla porta, dalla quale entrammo, e furono dipinte da Pietro Laureati Senese, Pittore anche questo de’ Secoli, in cui l’arte della Pittura non era anche arrivata alla perfezione.
L’Assunta, che è sopra la porta suddetta di dove entrammo, fu dipinta da Simone Memmio.”

Perhaps it has never occurred to anyone, either in Italy or in the whole of Europe, to erect such a magnificent and splendid work for the safekeeping and preservation of the honorable bones of faithful Christians as it did to the people of this ancient city of Pisa in 1278. This beautiful work began at that time for our well-being, and for this purpose it was adorned with the best marble, and when one contemplates its splendor and grandeur, one easily becomes aware of the great effort that was spent in its perfection. The design, made according to the Gothic taste common in that period, was made by Giovanni Pisano, because many urns and tombs inside this area come from his hand, but the memory of who they belonged to has been lost. This illustrious work was made with such magnificent thought that it was provided with miraculous earth brought by Archbishop Ubaldo from the noble family of Lanfranchi from the region of the Orient, or as others think, from Jerusalem or from surrounding places. This [earth] has the ability to decompose the bodies buried there to bones within twenty-four hours and reduce them to bare skeletons; this power has been somewhat lost today but in part it is still preserved; what it [the earth] used to do in twenty-four hours, it now does in fourty-eight hours. Further, the work has been embellished with various beautiful backgrounds and also with old paintings, as we will see. Entering the interior through the only door of the entrance, one sees a painting executed with a defective hand on the wall in fresco technique, according to the old style, in the time when painting had not yet risen to the good taste, and to the level that the subsequent masters, who came after Giotto and Cimabue, and the year 1300, brought it. It shows a representation of the life of St. Ranieri of Pisa, divided into four painted areas, part of which is by Simone Memmi Sanese and part by Antonio, called Veneziano, and has value through its antiquity. The stories of other martyrs and confessors, corrupted and ruined by the ravages of time, came from Spinello Aretino.


The story of the leprous Job, abandoned by all because of his incurable disease, who is seen standing under a bell as he is visited by his dearest friends, is a work by the famous Giotto, who was unique in his art at that time and came from the school of the famous Cimabue, who, like other Greeks and bad painters, was brought to the church of San Giovanni in Florence and learned the first principles of the art of painting and improved painting by his genius and ability. With the lights left by him, many excellent masters reached their perfection, from whom we know the works […]

The ancient paintings depicting the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Assumption of Our Lord Savior, are works of the aforementioned Buffalmacco and Antonio Vite from Pistoia, which deserve attention especially for their antiquity. […]

To turn the corner and return to the first nave where we entered, the death of men and the Last Judgment is represented and we see three corpses in three boxes, one of which has begun to decompose, another is half decomposed, and a third consists only of scrawny bones; they show the effect that the earth has in this cloister. One also sees gentlemen with horses observing the aforementioned carcasses and the power of the earth when they remain buried in it. Among these, it is said, are the portraits of the ruler Frederick I, called Barbarossa, and Louis of Bavaria, who closes his nose in order not to smell the stench of the cadavers, and that of Castrucco Castracani from the Interminelli family of Lucca, who holds a hawk in his hand. Further, there is the portrait of Ugguccione, of the counts of Tarlati, from Faggiuolo in Casentino, painted in a bizarre way by the Florentine painter Andrea Ogagna, who wanted to show with his bizarre invention that all these gentlemen have at various times been to see and visit this place. […]
The Last Judgment painted there with angels separating the chosen from the damned, where among the saints you can see a Pope, which is by tradition said to be a portrait of Innocent IV, painted by the Florentine Andrea Orcagna.

Hell, according to the description of the famous Dante, is painted by Bernardino Orgagna, perhaps the brother of the aforementioned Andrea, and not far from here one can see the remains of the miraculous and blessed Giovanni della Pace of Pisa.
The Anchorites, painted to complete this great work, which has the length of 210 cubits and the width of 72 cubits according to our Florentine measurement, is the last work, if we return to the door through which we entered. It was painted by Pietro Laureati from Siena, a painter who comes from the century in which art had not yet reached its perfection.
The Assumption of Mary, which is above the aforementioned door through which we entered, was painted by Simone Memmi.

Filippo Baldinucci, Notizie de’ Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua (1681-1686)

Filippo Baldinucci came from a prominent and wealthy family of Florentine merchants. A painter, theoretician, and biographer of mostly Italian artists, he worked for both the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, and for his brother Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. As a curator of the Grand Ducal collection, he was one of Italy’s leading connoisseurs. With his work cataloguing and expanding the Medici collection, he laid the foundation for the Uffizi’s art holdings. The Notizie de’ Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua(1681-1721), in six volumes, builds on his work as a curator and is, after Vasaris Vite, the first lengthier biography of artists in Florence. Baldinucci also wrote the Vocabolario Toscana dell’arte del disegno, which gives an overview of artistic vocabulary, and was commissiond by the Accademia della Crusca. In the Notizie, he writes the biographies of several artists who worked in the Camposanto and describes their paintings, sometimes in detail. / SB

Baldinucci, Notizie (excerpt)

Source: Filippo Baldinucci, Notizie de’ Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua. Per le quali si dimostra, come, e per chi le bell’Arti di Pittura, Scultura, e Architettura lasciata la rozzezza delle maniere Greca, e Gottica, si siano in questi secoli ridotte all’antica loro perfezione (vol. 1: Florence: Branchi, 1681, vol. 2: Florence: Piero Matini, 1686, vol. 3: )

1. Giovanni Pisano Scultore, e Architetto

“Venendo ora a Giovanni, questi avendo avuti i principj da Niccola suo Padre, doppo aver fatte molte opere di quella maniera Gottica, e ordinate più fabbriche, e fra queste il grand’edifizio del Campo Santo di Pisa cominciato l’anno 1278 che restò finito nel 1283 diede ‘l disegno del Castel Nuovo di Napoli, della facciata del Duomo di Siena, e di molte altre fabbriche per l’Italia.” (1:42)

Giovanni Pisano, Sculptor and Architect 

I now come to Giovanni, who had received the principles from his father Niccola. Later he made many works in this Gothic style and more commissions were given to him. Among these was the great work of the Camposanto in Pisa, which he began in 1278 and completed in 1283, the painting of Castel Nuovo in Naples, the facade of the Cathedral of Siena and many other works throughout Italy.

2. Giotto di Bondone, Pittore, Scultore e Architetto Fiorentino

“Partitosi d’Ascesi, fece ritorno a Firenze, dove per la Città di Pisa dipinse la figura dello stesso Santo [sc. Francesco] stimatizzato, che riuscì maravigliosa in ogni sua parte, ma singolarmente per averlo figurato nel Monte della Vernia in un paese pieno d’alberi, e massi simigliantissimi al vero, cose tutte che giunsero in quell’età interamente nuove in Pittura. Erasi appunto in quella Città finita di alzare la bella fabbrica del Campo Santo, onde a Giotto, come a sovranissimo Maestro furono allogate per dipignerle alcune delle gran facciate di dentro, ed egli vi dipinse a fresco sei storie di Giob. Quest’opere che riuscrirono maravigliose gli procacciarono tanta fama, che Papa Bonifazio VIII, e non Papa Benedetto IX da Treviso (come erroneamente afferma il Vasari, seguitato dal Malvasia, e da altri) volendo far dipingere alcune cose in S. Pietro, mondò a posta un suo Gentiluomo per riconoscer Giotto, e l’opere sue, ed allora mostrò egli con quel circolo tirato perfettamente con mano quella spiritosa avvedutezza, onde nacque poi il tanto usato proverbio: Tu sei più tondo che l’O di Giotto.” (1:47)

Giotto di Bondone, Florentine Painter, Sculptor and Architect
He left the ascetic life and returned from Pisa to Florence, where he painted the figure of the stigmatization of this saint [namely Francis], which was wonderfully successful in every respect, especially because he is depicted on Mount Alvernia in a landscape lined with trees and he painted rocks close to the truth. These things were completely new in painting. He was called to the aforementioned city to complete a beautiful work for an altar in the Camposanto, so he was commissioned like an accomplished master to paint some works inside and he painted six stories of Job in it. This work was so wonderfully successful that it brought him much fame and Pope Boniface VIII, and not Pope Benedict IX of Treviso (as it is wrongly represented by Vasari who follows Malvasia and others in this), wanted some works to be painted in St. Peter’s, so he sent his masters to find Giotto and his work and then he showed with the perfectly drawn circle of his witty and prudent hand where the saying comes from: You are rounder than the O of Giotto.

3. Simon Memmi, Pittor Senese

“Nella terza facciata [sc. della Cappella degli Spagnuoli in S. Maria Novella] figurò la passione di Cristo Signor Nostro. Operò nel Campo Santo di Pisa, e particolarmente fece di sua mano sopra la parte principale di dentro la Vergine in atto d’esser portata dagli Angioli con suoni, e canti al possesso del Celeste Regno, ed in tre grandi spazi storie di S. Ranier Pisano. Oltre all’essere stato costui nel suo tempo un valoroso Pittore, fu anche molto fortunato, perché l’opere sue per lo gran pregio in che furon tenute da Francesco Petrarca, al quale egli aveva fatto il ritratto della sua Madonna Laura furon da lui celeberate […]. (2:4).

Simon Memmi, Sienese Painter 

On the third facade [namely Spagnoli Chapel in S. Maria Novella] was depicted the Passion of our Lord Christ. He worked in the Campo Santo in Pisa and from his hand comes especially the main part of the Virgin in the center, about to be carried by the angels with sounds and songs to become the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, and in three large areas the stories of St. Ranieri of Pisa. Besides being a brave painter in his time, he was also very lucky because his works were in the possession of Francesco Petrarch, for whom he had painted the portrait of his wife Laura, and were celebrated by him [Petrarch] […]

4. Buonamico di Cristofano detto Buffalmacco Pittore Fiorentino

“Fu chiamato a Pisa, dove fece molt’opere in S. Maria a Ripa d’Arno, e vi ebbe in aiuto il nominato Bruno. Gli furon poi date a dipingere più facciate del Campo Santo, nelle quali fece Storie a fresco dal principio del mondo fino alla fabbrica dell’Arca di Noè, e attorno a esse effigiò il proprio Ritratto al naturale in una quadratura d’un fregio, figurando se stesso in persona d’un Vecchio raso, con un Capauccio accercinato, dal quale pende un panno, che gli copre il Collo. Ebbe costui, some scrisse Messer Giovanni Boccaccio, sua abitazione in Firenze nella via del Cocomero […].” (2:12)

Buonamico di Cristofano or Buffalmacco, Florentine Painter
He was called to Pisa where he painted many works in S. Maria a Ripa on the Arno and there he was called Bruno. He was then commissioned to paint several pictures in the Camposanto that tell the story of the beginning of the world to the construction of Noah’s Ark, and around it he painted his own natural portrait in a square frieze in which he painted himself as an old man in satin with a padded hat from which hangs a cloth that covers his neck. He had built his home, as the master Giovanni Boccaccio wrote, in Florence in the Via del Cocomero […].

5. Pietro Laurati, Pittore Sanese

“In Firenze dipinse molte cose, chè il tempo ha distrutte. Nel Campo Santo di Pisa nella faccaiata accanto alla porta principale dipinse d’assai buona maniera molte Storie delle vite de’Santi Padri; e nella Pieve d’Arezzo nella maggior Cappella colorì dodici Storie della vita di Maria vergine.” (2:31).

Pietro Laurati, Sienese Painter

He painted many things in Florence that time has destroyed. In the Camposanto in Pisa, on the facade next to the main portal, he painted with an extremely good hand many stories from the lives of the Holy Fathers; and in the main chapel of [Santa Maria della] Pieve in Arezzo, he painted twelve stories from the life of the Virgin Mary.”

6. Stefano, Pittore Fiorentino

“Dipinse Stefano a fresco la Madonna del Campo santo di Pisa, nella qual’opera si portò meglio del Maestro [sc. Giotto]. Fece nel Chiostro di Santo Spirito di Firenze tre storie, che oggi più non si vedono […].” (2:34)

Stefano, Florentine Painter 
Stefano painted the fresco of the Madonna in the Camposanto in Pisa. In this work, he surpassed the master [namely Giotto]. In the cloister of Santo Spirito in Florence, he painted three stories that cannot be seen today […].

7. Antonio Dal Vasari detto Veneziano Pittore

“Operò nel Campo santo di Pisa dipignendo storie del Beato Ranieri, incominciate già da Simone Sanese; e fra [qu]este quella della morte, e sepoltura di quel Beato, nelle quali rappresentò alcuni ciechi, e indemoniati con altri infermi, e fra questi un idropico, tutti in atto d’essere miracolosamente sanati per li meriti di quel santo; le quali figure espresse così al vivo, e con tanta invenzione, che furono in quel secolo avute in istima non ordinaria; ne fu meno lodata una nave fluttuante tra le tempeste del mare, nella quale con pensieri appropriati al vero figurò lo sbigottimento de’naviganti, e le molte, varie azioni fatte da marinari per sottrarsi dall’imminente pericolo del naufragio. Fra le lodi, che dagli intendenti si danno a quest’artefice una fu, che lavorò con tranta diligenza l’opere sue a fresco, che non punto ebbe bisogno di ritoccarle a secco; onde ha mostrato il corso di tre secoli essersi quelle per cagione di tal sua accuratezza così ben conservate, che fino a’ tempi nostri si sono vedute molto fresche, la dove quelle degli altri anno in gran parte ceduto al tempo.” (2:55-56)

Antonio Dal Vasari, Venetian Painter


He worked in the Camposanto in Pisa and painted stories of the Blessed Ranieri, which was already started by Simone Sanese; and within the death and burial of that Blessed [Ranieri], he painted some blind, possessed and other sick people, among them a person with dropsy, all of whom were miraculously healed by the merits of this saint; these figures look as if they were alive and are painted with such inventiveness, for which they were held in esteem in that century; nor was there less praise for the ship drifting in the storms of the sea, in which were shown, with thoughts corresponding to the true figure, the consternation of the sailors and the actions that the sailors undertook to avert the imminent danger of shipwreck. Among the praises given by the directors to this artist was that he took such great care on his works in fresco that no retouching when it was dry was at all necessary; it has been shown that over the course of three centuries the frescoes have been so well preserved that they still looked fresh in our time, while other works of those years have fallen victim to time.

8. Andrea di Iacopo altrimenti di Cione Orcagna, detto dal Vasari Orgagna, Scultore, e Architetto Fiorentino

“Chiamato a Pisa, dipinse nel Campo santo una grande storia del Giudizio universale; ed in un’altra figurò tutti i gradi de’ signori del mondo immersi fra diletti di quello; e in altra parte fece vedere i pentiti del peccato in atto di rifuggirsi alle montagne fra gli Anacoreti; da basso espresse la figura di san Maccario, che a tre Coronati fa vedere tre cadaveri, di Re defunti non del tutto consummati. Nella stessa Città nella Chiesa dalla coscia del Ponte vecchio fece alcune opere di scultura. Tornato a Firenze, gli fu data a dipignere la facciata destra della Chiesa di santa Croce, dove toltane quella di san Maccario, rappresentò le medesime storie, che nel Campo santo di Pisa fatte avea, le quali poi nel passato secolo per occasione della fabbrica delle nuove Cappelle furon gettate a terra.” (2:65)

Andrea di Iacopo altrimenti di Cione Orcagna, Vasari Orgagna, Florentine Sculptor and Architect
Called to Pisa, he painted in the Camposanto a great story of the Last Judgment; and in another picture he painted all kinds of worldly lords engaged in pleasures; and in another part he showed the atoning sinners in the act of retreating  to be in the mountains among the anchorites; in the lower part he showed St. Macarius letting three crowned ones see three cadavers of deceased kings, not yet fully decomposed. In the same city and in the same church at the foot of the old bridge, he made another sculptural work. Returning to Florence, he was commissioned to paint the right facade of the church of Santa Croce, where he removed the figure of St. Macarius, and represented the same stories as in the Camposanto in Pisa, which were then thrown to the ground in the last century when they built the new chapel.

9. Benozzo Gozzoli, Pittore Fiorentino

Maravigliosa poi e per la sua grandezza e per la sua bontà, fu l’opera che egli fece in Pisa, cioè a dire la pittura di una facciata di muro del Campo Santo, dico quanto si estende la fabbrica, la quale abbeli con tutte le storie della Creazione del Mondo giorno per giorno, poi l’Arca, il Diluvio, la Torre di Nembrot, l’Incendio di Sodoma, la Nascta di Mosè, fino all’uscita del Popolo dall’Egitto nel Deserto: e tutte le storie Ebree sino a David e Salomone: ma questa fu poco, rispetto a quanto si vede fatto da esso per tutte le città della Toscana. (3:89)

Io pertanto desideroso di far nota la verità di questo fatto, ho volute riconoscerla dall’antiche memorie, che nella città di Pisa si veggiono di esso Benozzo Fiorentino, ad esclusione di quanto si son dati a credere coloro, che in ciò hanno ripreso il Vasari: e quello, che impedito da alter applicazioni, non potei io medesimo fare; si compiacque far per me la pia e sempre gloriosa memoria del dottissimo Niccolò Stenone, ii quale stato Erectico Luternao, poi in Firenze fattosi Cattolico, e divenuto esemplarissimo Sacerdote, finalmente fu fatto vescovo di Hannovera nella Germania, vicino a Brunswick; il cui nome è notissim o al mondo. Questi dunque, dopo aver veduto il sepolcro di esso Benozzo nel Campo Santo di Pisa, me ne diede di propria mano la seguente relazione:

Fui jeri a vedere l’ inscrizione, della quale ella desidera sapere certe circostanze: e la trovai sopra la pietra, che cuopre il di lui sepolcro, il quale e nella parte Orientale dell’ andito Settentrionale tra sei sepolcri o pietre sepolcrali, che poste l’una accanto all’altra, occupano il traverso dell’andito, il più vicino a quell muro, la di cui parte inferiore da esso è stata con pitture del Vecchio Testamento ornate sopra il piano dipinta da Jotto, se ben mi vicordo di quell che mi disse chi mi vi condusse: e per più prontamente trovare esso sepolcro, o per specificare maggiormente il di lui luogo, avendo risguardo alle di lui pitture, è appunto sotto quella parte dell’istoria di Joseppe, dove egli ba tutti i suoi Fratelli intorno di se, e sia per scoprirsi ad essi, sia per riprendergli. Ancora sotto l’inscrizione stanno le armi, che sono &c.

L’inscrizione mandatami dal medesimo è quella, che segue


Tengo anche appresso di me (mandatomi dallo stesso Stenone) il disegno dell’arme di Benozzo, che sotto l’inscrizione si vede, in cui vengono rappresentate due maze incrocicchiare, e nella sommità di ciaseuna èuna palla assai grande, e sopra essa una piccolo pallina, ed assomigliansi a due maze ferrate o siano due scettri: dall’estremità loro pendono due filetti legati, che insieme verso la punta dello scudo si uniscono in forma di una legatura, e al capo di esso si vede come un rastrello di due denti, fotto de’ quali so no tre gigli. (3:90-91)

Benozzo Gozzoli, Florentine Painter

Marvelous then both for its greatness and for its goodness was the work that he did in Pisa, that is to say the painting on a wall facade of the Campo Santo, as far as the building extends, which is adorned with all the stories of the Creation of the World, day by day, then the Ark, the Flood, the Tower of Nimrod, the Burning of Sodom, the Birth of Moses, up to the Exodus of the people of Egypt into the desert: and all the Jewish stories up to David and Solomon. But this was little, compared to what we see done by it for all the cities of Tuscany.

I would therefore like to point out the truth of this fact, which I want to recognize in old memories, what in the city of Pisa itself is seen of Benozzo Gozzoli, apart from what is believed by those who have followed Vasari. But since I couldn’t manage to do it myself, the most pious and eternally glorious memory of the most learned Niccolò Stenone will do it for me. Stenone was first a heretical Lutheran, then in Florence he became a Catholic and an exemplary priest, and finally he was made bishop in Hanover, Germany, near Brunswick. His name is known in the world. He saw the grave of Benozzo in the Camposanto in Pisa and gave me the following report in his own hand:



Yesterday I went to see the inscription, of which I wanted to know certain circumstances. I found it above the stone that covers his tomb, which is located in the eastern part from the northern door, between six tombs of stone lined up one after another. They occupy the intersection closest to this wall, where the lower part is decorated with images of the Old Testament and painted above the paintings of Giotto, if I remember correctly what the person who led me said to me. And immediately, you find the tomb or, to be even more precise about the exact location in terms of its images, just below this part of the story of Joseph, where all his brothers are standing around him, either to be discovered by them or to bring him back. Under the inscription are the weapons that are….

The inscription sent to me by him reads:



This is the tomb of Benozzo of Florence
who painted the histories nearby
the Pisans gave it to him in gratitude in 1478.


I also keep with me the drawing of the coat of arms by Benozzo (sent to me by Stenone himself), which can be seen under the inscription; two crossed clubs are represented and at the top of each is a very large ball, and above this is a small ball, and they resemble two iron clubs or two scepters; from their ends hang two knotted threads that are joined together towards the top of the shield in the form of a ligature, and at the top there is a rake with two teeth, under which are three lilies.

Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén