Piazza del Duomo, as anticipated in the first part of this article (if you missed the first part take a look here Pistoia Part 1), is the main square of Pistoia, in which there are the most important buildings of the city. I would say to start from the Cathedral of San Zeno, in my opinion the most beautiful work of the square.
According to tradition, the cathedral was originally dedicated to St. Martin, under the Lombard domination which was later dedicated to San Zeno. The cathedral, built in the tenth century, has a facade in Romanesque style on the model of other churches present in the city, built at the same time (like that of St. Bartholomew and St. Andrew).
The interior consists of three naves with a raised presbytery and crypt, that sees joining the ancient Romanesque structures to Renaissance and Baroque interventions, and with the changes of the sixteenth and nineteenth-century.
Must to see the precious silver altar of the ancient chapel dedicated to San Jacopo (the patron saint of Pistoia). The cathedral, although dedicated to San Zeno, also celebrates the patron of the City, that is San Jacopo in fact, at both ends of the facade are placed cusp of the two marble statues of the two saints, once placed in the loggia. The two figures of Saints are historically connected, it seems that it was the Bishop Zeno to get in the city of Pistoia an important relic of San Jacopo.
The Cathedral is flanked on the left by a beautiful bell tower, characterized by a tower in the Gothic style and the battlements typical of the period ghibelline dovetail.
The origins of the bell tower are not certain, and the most accepted theory is that it is the result of the renovation of an ancient Lombard tower. The bell tower in fact, is unusually separated from the Cathedral of San Zeno and is divided into three different levels, each with a particular style. Starting from the bottom you see before the Lombard style, then the Pisa style, and the last one is the Pisa and Lucca style. In the lower level there are three floors with no openings (in the top floor there is the clock positioned on the left side of the tower), two floors open by mullioned windows, three floors moved by loggias and the last containing the belfry. The construction materials used are green serpentine marble and local limestone. You can go to the top of the tower, accompanied by a guide, after climbing 200 steps, to enjoy the view over the city (though you must purchase a ticket at the tourist office which is located a few meters from the Duomo).
To complete the complex of the Cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovanni in court, considered among the finest examples of Tuscan Gothic, because combines elements of Florence, Pisa and Siena. The Baptistery is an impressive monument that reaches a height of about 40 meters and it is fully coated in white and green marble, work of Cellino di Nese.
On the right side of the San Zeno Cathedral there is the Bishop’s Palace, an old building that dates back to the eleventh century, when the bishop Pistoia had built a fortified palace. Over the centuries there have been several works of embellishment and restoration. In 1786, after the construction of a new episcopal palace by Bishop Scipione de ‘Ricci, the building was sold to private individuals, becoming a museum.
On the left side of the Piazza del Duomo there are two other important buildings: the Town Hall (dating back to the end of the thirteenth century, hosts the Civic Museum with a beautiful facade adorned with mullioned windows) and the Praetorian Palace (also called the Palace of the court, still today seat of the Tribunal, is in Gothic style and is best known for its inner courtyard, with frescoed ceilings and walls decorated with numerous coats of arms).
At this point you can go to the old “Ospedale del Ceppo”, in Piazza Giovanni XXIII. According to legend, the name comes from a strain miraculously flourished during the winter, that would show the place where build the hospital to spouses Antimo and Bendinella (which followed the directions given by an apparition of the Virgin Mary). Founded in the thirteenth century, the Ospedale del Ceppo is an Hospital became the primary hospital corporation of the city during the epidemic of Black Death that struck Pistoia in 1348. The current complex is derived from a series of additions and renovations to the original thirteenth century building. The main concerns the Renaissance loggia with arches built in 1502 on the model of “Ospedale degli Innocenti” (with loggia decorated by polychrome glazed terracotta frieze executed by Della Robbia).
Admire the portico, the facade of which has a precious polychrome frieze of glazed earthenware, work of sculptor Santi Buglioni. The Ospedale del Ceppo can’t be visited on the inside, but you can take a guided tour of some of its underground thanks to “Pistoia Underground” (the ticket are sold right inside the hospital). Unfortunately the light wasn’t great when I went to visit it, and I preferred to shoot in BW.
Deserve a visit also the Church of St. Andrew, the Church of San Francesco and the Church of San Paolo.
These were the main attractions of Pistoia, but clearly the city is not only this. Stroll and enjoy the city.
Good light to everyone.