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 http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1346331).

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