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

Category: 13th century

Pisan Chronicles from the mid-fourteenth century

The earliest accounts that relate the foundation of the Camposanto to earth brought from the Holy Land are to be found in a group of anonymous chronical texts that were composed in two slightly different versions in 1342 and 1354. As in the Lucca chronicle, they state that the Camposanto had been founded in 1200, together with the Arsenale. But here we read for the first time that the name Camposanto is derived from sacred earth which was brought from the Holy Land after the failure of the Third Crusade, and that Archbishop Ubaldo had a decisive role in both enterprises.

Neither of these slightly differing texts has survived in its original form. Today, they can be found in manuscripts that transmit the chronicle of Pisa in a still later, late-fourteenth and early fifteenth-century version. At this date, authors such as Ranieri Sardo copied the older text and then continued with reporting the events of their own lifetime. This compilatory character of the chronicles has often led to the erroneous attribution of the texts quoted below to Sardo himself. Instead, it has to be emphasized that the texts quoted here must be attributed to authors writing in the mid-fourteenth century. /DG

1. Anonymous, Chronicon Pisanum (c. 1342)

Source: the manuscript used for the Baluze/Mansi edition seems to be lost.

Edition: “Chronicon Pisanum ab urbe condita ad annum 1342:  ab anonymo coaevo scriptum,” in Miscellanea Novo Ordine Digesta Et Non Paucis Ineditis Monumentis Opportunisque Animadversionibus Aucta, ed. Etienne Baluze and Giovanni Domenico Mansi (Lucca: Riccomini, 1761), 448-456.

“Nel 1188. Messer Ubaldo del Lanfranchi arcivescovo di Pissa con 52. navi di Pisani e collo imperadore Federigo Barbarosa andoe al passaggio della terra, lave lo ditto Inperadore annegò e elli ne tornò facendo pogo per di.


Nel 1200 fue cominciata la tersonaja di Pissa e canpo santo fondatto, e per lo arcivescovo Ubaldo lo terreno conpratto, e al capitulo di duomo asegnato el ditto canpo santo, perché si regò la terra del canpo santo d’oltra mare, quando tornono dal pasaggio i soprascritti, e isparsesi in questo luogo.” (452).

In the year 1188. Master Ubaldo del Lanfranchi archbishop of Pisa set off for a crossing with 52 Pisan galleys and with emperor Frederick Barbarossa for the [Holy] Land, where the emperor drowned, and he [Ubaldo] came back to Pisa with little results. […]

In the year of the Lord 1200 the shipyard of Pisa was begun, and the Camposanto was founded, and the building lot was bought by Archbishop Ubaldo and allocated to the Chapter. Because the earth of the Camposanto was brought from overseas, when the aformentioned returned from the crossing, and was spread in this place.

2. Anonymous, Chronaca Pisana (c. 1354)

Source: Manuscript on paper, early fifteenth century, Florence, Bibliotheca Nazionale, Codice Magliabechiano, Classe XXV, ms. 491, fol. 1-181.

Edition: Ranieri Sardo, Cronaca di Pisa, ed. Ottavio Banti, Fonti per la storia d’Italia, 99 (Rom: Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 1963), 36-37.

“Nelli anni domini 1188 missere Ubaldo [de’ Lanfranchi] arciveschovo di Pisa andò al passaggio chollo inperadore Barbarossa chon 52 navili pisani per chonquistare la Terrasancta, in nel quale passaggio v’anneghò lo inperadore Barbarossa, et l’arcivescovo di Pisa si ritornò indrieto a Pisa senza fare fructo.


Negli anni Domini 1200 fu inchominciata la terzinaia di Pisa, et chanpo sancto fu fondato per lo arcivescovo Ubaldo, et chomperato al Chapitolo lo terreno assengniato; et è decto chanposancto perché vi fu messa della terra sancta d’oltra mare; quando i Pisani tornono dal passaggio predicto l’arecharono et sparsolla per tucto nel dicto luogho a onore di Dio.”

“In the year of the Lord 1188 master Ubaldo archbishop of Pisa set off for a crossing with Emperor Barbarossa, with 52 Pisan galleys, in order to conquer the Holy Land. On this journey, Emperor Barbarossa drowned, and the archbishop of Pisa came back to Pisa without any profit. […]

In the year of the Lord 1200 the shipyard of Pisa was begun, and the Camposanto was founded by Archbishop Ubaldo, and the allocated building lot was bought for the Chapter. And it is called Camposanto because holy earth from overseas was put there. When the Pisans returned from the aforementioned crossing, they brought it and spread it completely in the above-mentioned place for the honor of God.”

3. Anonymous, Cronica di Pisa (c. 1406)

Source: Manuscript on paper, 244 folios, early fifteenth century, Pisa, Archivio di Stato, Fondo Roncioni, 338. There is an early modern manuscript copy: manuscript on paper, 174 folios, 1551. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pluteo LXI-17.

Edition: Cronica di Pisa. Dal Ms. Roncioni 338 dell’archivio di Stato di Pisa. Edizione e commento, ed. Cecilia Iannella, Fonti per la storia d’Italia medievale. Antiquitates, 22 (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 2005). The edition in Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. 15 (Milan 1729), col. 971-1088 is based on the manuscript in the Laurenziana.

“Come li pisani fecieno il passaggio. Nel millecento ottantotto messer Uberto de’ Lanfranchi vescovo di Pisa con settanta navi de’ pisani e collo ‘mperadore Federigo andonno al passaggio della Terrasanta d’oltramare, ladove lo ditto imperadore Arigho e l’arcivescovo di Pisa colli pisani tornonno con poco honore e prode.


Come fu incomincciata la Tersanaia di Pisa e lo Canposanto. Nel milledugento, 1200, fue incomincciata la Tersanaia di Pisa e Canposanto fondato per l’arccivescho Ubaldo. Lo terreno fu conprato al Capitulo di Duomo asegnato e al ditto Canposanto perché si recò della Terrasanta d’oltramare quando li pisani tornonno dal passaggio e sparsesi in quello luogo, e però si chiama Canposanto.” (pp. 28-29)

“How the Pisans made the crossing. In the year 1188 master Ubaldo de’ Lanfranchi bishop of Pisa set off for a crossing to the Holy Land with 70 Pisan galleys and with Emperor Frederick, where the foresaid Frederick and the Archbishop of Pisa came back with the Pisans with little honor and prowess.


How the shipyard of Pisa was begun, and the Camposanto. In the year 1200 the shipyard of Pisa was begun, and the Camposanto was founded by Archbishop Ubaldo. The building lot was bought and allocated to the Chapter and to the foresaid Camposanto because holy earth from overseas was brought when the Pisans returned from the aforementioned crossing, and was spread in this place, and for this reason it is called Camposanto.”

Anonymous, Breviarium Pisanae Historiae (c. 1269)

Like other early sources, this text comes from an intense activity of local chronicling by typically-anonymous authors who compiled older material and expanded it with material from their own lifetime. In contrast to later versions of the fourteenth century, this chronicle gives us an idea of how the role of the Pisan fleet in the Third Crusade was recorded before the earth from Jerusalem came into play. In the sequence of events following the election of Clement III in Pisa, emphasis is put on Uberto’s investiture as a representative of the pope at the crusade. While the route of the Pisan fleet across the Mediterranean is described in great detail, the subsequent events of the crusade and the return to Pisa are left out. For the year 1200, that would later be recorded as the date of the Camposanto’s foundation, only the military activity of the Pisan Republic is mentioned. / DG

Breviarium Pisanae Historiae

Source: Manuscript of the early eighteenth century, copy of a now lost fourteenth century manuscript which was formerly kept in the Archivio segreto della Repubblica di Lucca, which was made for Muratori by the Pisan canon Angelo d’Abramo, Pisa, Archivio capitolare, ms. C 101.

Edition: “Breviarium Pisanae Historiae auctius & emendatius nunc primum prodit ex MSto Lucensi,” in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, ed. Ludovico Antonio Muratori, vol. 15 (Milan 1725), col. 163-198.


“Anno 1186. Papa Gregorius VIII ingressus est urbem Pisanam IV idus Decembris, ab eisdem Pisanis magno honore receptus. Mortuus est Pisis XVI Cal. Januarii, et sepultus in Ecclesia Majori. Et XIV Calendas eiusdem mensis Cardinalis Paulus Praenestinus Episcopus in eadem Ecclesia Pontifex Summus est electus, levatus ab Hospitio Sancti Pauli de Ripa Arnis, et largiente Domino, Clemens III vocatus est. Pontifex iste in praefata Maiori Ecclesia Pisana petiit, rogavit et exoratus est Pisanos, ut sucurrerent ad recuperandam Hierusalem Sanctam. Et propriis manibus dedit vexillum Santi Petri Domino Ubaldo Pisano Archiepiscopo, ut esset Vexillifer exercitus, et omnium Christianorum, et Legatus Apostolicae Sedis in omnes Christianos. Egressus est dictus Archiepiscopus, et Populus Pisanus in exercitu navium L medio Septembris, hyemavit in Messana Siciliae civitate, et octavo Idus Aprilis pervenit Tyrum. Tunc Antiochia robur accepit, ut ex pacto subiiceretur Saladino.

Anno 1200. Pisani fuerunt apud Vulturnum cum galeis XX in servitio Imperatoris.

Anno 1204. Constantinopolis a Pisanis et Venetis capitur.” (191).


“In the year 1186 [1187]. Pope Gregory VIII (1187) entered the city of Pisa on December 10, and was received by the Pisans with great honor. He died in Pisa on December 17, and has been buried in the Cathedral. And on December 19, Cardinal Paolo [Scolari], bishop of Palestrina, was elected Pope in the same church, raised from the hospice of San Paolo di Ripa d’Arno, and named Clemens III. In the same cathedral, this pope asked, solicited and begged the Pisans to help regain Jerusalem. And with his own hands he gave Ubaldo, the archbishop of Pisa, the standard of Saint Peter, that he might be the standard bearer of the army of all Christians, and legate of the Apostolic See for all Christians. The aforementioned archbishop and the people of Pisa left with a fleet of 50 galleys in mid-september, they stayed in the city of Messina in Sicily, and on April 6 they reached Tyre. Then they arrived at the base of Antioch, in order to free it from Saladin’s assault.


In the year 1200. The Pisans were at Volturno with 20 galleys in the service of the emperor.

In the year 1204. Constantinople was taken by the Pisans and the Venetians.”

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