When the Cathedral was founded in 1064, around which the Square would be formed, 1700 years of history had already left their material imprint on the area.
As a result of samples of excavations, conducted in several places and at various times from the end of the forties to the nineties of the nineteen hundreds, the underlying layers have rendered much archaeological evidence: scattered pieces of a mosaic, of which it is possible to catch a glimpse of the evolution from the Etruscan to the Roman and Medieval periods.
The appearance of the Piazza del Duomo that we know today is the last step in a process that started in the XVI century but its origin as a monumental complex and public space date back to the Medieval Ages. The process began in 1064, with the foundation of the new Cathedral, to be concluded in the 13th century with the definition of a veritable "Square".
It was between the 12th and 13th century, when the start of the construction of the Baptistery’s walls and the Tower had already redefined the area around the Cathedral, that the idea of a square emerged: precisely when Archbishop Ubaldo decided to give a plot of ground near the Cathedral for constructing a new Canonica and acquired a large vegetable garden to the north of the Cathedral, for the transfer of the cemetery. Clearly, the intention was to free the space in front of the city-side of the church, which was up against the old Canonica and many graves. If the project had been completed, that space would have assumed the dimensions of a square and would have been directly connected with the public road on that side, that in the meantime, enlarged and levelled, was used as an "arringo", the exercising ground for the city horsemen.
When the Florentine troops entered Pisa in 1406, they found a city in abandonment, whose monuments were the only testimony of ancient splendour. Destined to gravitate in the orbit of Florence until the middle of the 18th century, the city already knew at the time of Cosimo the Elder (1434-1464) the first signs of recovery, that had gradually left a mark on the Piazza del Duomo. Whereas the interventions carried out in the course of the 15th century did not cause substantial changes to the Square’s original medieval plan, in the following century the central role that Pisa assumed in Medici politics under Cosimo I (1537-1574), determined a scenographic reorganisation of the monumental space.
In the first decades of the 17th century Pisa went through a period of veritable rebirth, fruit of the politics of the Medici who, since the previous century, had particularly invested in the city and region. Even if the urban fabric underwent radical transformations during this time, also as a result of the sudden demographic explosion, the Piazza del Duomo remained true to its 16th century arrangement.
Along with the re-modernisation of the buildings that frame the monuments, it was decided to scenographically restructure the façade of the present day Museo dell Opera, where in 1626 the diocesan Seminary was inaugurated. Dictated however by the need to reopen the Cathedral for worship, devastated by the fire of 1595, a long restoration campaign that also directly concerned the Square was begun.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, in Pisa, as in many Italian and European towns, interest in the medieval past, already present in the scholarly, antiquarian studies of the beginning of the century acquired new force. In a short time the rediscovery of the Middle Ages assumed a value of sentimental adhesion and formative experience: the Square became a compulsory stopping point for travellers and artists who admired and studied the ancient stones, architectural structures and frescoes of the Camposanto.
After the radical transformations of the 19th century, during the course of the 20th century the arrangement of the Piazza remained almost unchanged: the white marbles, isolated in the large, regular lawn, seemed to re-ropose the ideal moment of their creation and suggested to D’Annunzio the name entered common usage from this time: the "Prato dei Miracoli", i.e. the Lawn of Miracles.
For further informations:
Opera della Primaziale Pisana