The Battistero di Pisa is the largest baptistery in Italy and like the famous leaning tower leans at a slight angle.
The white marble Baptistery is in many ways the most beautiful building on Pisa’s field of miracles. It combines a round Romanesque base with Gothic upper floors with dainty details. The white of the marble is often offset beautifully by the green lawn and blue skies. The Romanesque pillars of the white marble cathedral and the famous leaning tower of Pisa are often in the background. The elegant interior if fairly bare but worth seeing and especially worth visiting to hear the magnificent echos.
Baptistery of Pisa
The Baptistery of Pisa is an impressive 55 m high with a diameter of just over 34 m and a circumference of over 100 m. It has three stories and is topped with an external dome. It is the largest baptistry in Italy, and by some claims unequal in the Christian world.
Construction of the baptistery started in 1152 to designs by Diotisalvi but it was only completed by 1394 with canopy on top of the round dome. During that period, the Romanesque blind arches of the lower floor was topped by flamboyant Gothic upper floors and an external dome. The dome is covered by lead sheets on the east and red tiles towards the west.
Much of the exterior decorations were done by the talented Niccolo Pisano and his son Giovanni in the late 13th century. The busts of prophets and apostles on the arcades are copies — the originals by Giovanni Pisano are now mostly in the Cathedral Museum. The main portal is decorated with reliefs including the events from the life of John the Baptist carved into the pillars flanking the portal.
Interior of the Baptistery of Pisa
The spacious, airy interior of the Battistero de Pisa is elegant and simple with the white marble offset by black lines and detailing. Decorations are kept to a minimum with only the odd sculpture or painting in addition to the small stained glass windows.
The baptistery has exceptional echos. Usually twice per hour an attendant demonstrates the echos by singing a few notes allowing visitors to admire how the echoes bounce off the walls and notes seem to chase each other around the building. These echoes are enhanced by the cylindrical shape of the baptistry topped by a pyramidal-shaped interior roof, rather than the round cupola seen from the outside.
At the center of the baptistery, not surprisingly, is a large baptismal font that dates from 1246. It has four holes where the priests could stand dry while baptizing the faithful by dunking them underwater. The bronze statue of John the Baptist at the center is by Italo Griselli — it was only added in 1929.
The full effect is best seen from the upper gallery. Also from here, it is easier to appreciate the colorful flooring and the symmetrical patterns of the tiled floor.
Niccola Pisano’s Pulpit in Pisa’s Baptistery
The most important artwork in the baptistery is the pulpit sculpted by Niccola Pisano in 1260 — many art historians start the Renaissance from here. Seven pillars, some on lions, carry the pulpit that is decorated by five relief panels with scenes from the life of Christ. Further statues are allegories of the good deeds, the five virtues, prophets, and John the Baptist. However, the most remarkable feature is a naked Hercules — nude sculptures were rare in the middle ages.
This work clearly inspired the more elaborated pulpit in the cathedral sculpted by Niccola’s son Giovanni that also has a prominent naked Hercules. The first free-standing full male nude of the Renaissance was only sculpted in 1340 — Donatello’s David (now in the Bargello in Florence).
Visitors Information for the Baptistery in Pisa
The entrance to the baptistery is through the main portal door facing the cathedral. Ask when the echo will be demonstrated — usually twice per hour — as it is absolutely worth hearing.
Tickets are not sold at the baptistery but at the Sinopie Museum or near the leaning tower.
Admission to the Field of Miracles (Campo Dei Miracoli) in Pisa and the exterior of all buildings in the area is free and possible at all times.
Tickets are available for the following sights in Pisa:
Cathedral (Duomo) — admission is free but only per time-slot ticket. Pick up a free pass in person only from any ticket office. On very busy days, there may be a delay to enter the church or occasionally, no more free tickets available on the day. However, any of the paid tickets below automatically acts as a skip-the-line entry ticket to the duomo on the same day.
Climbing the Leaning Tower (Torre) — €18 per time-slot reservation tickets only.
Baptistery (Battistero) / Camposanto Cemetery / Museum of the Sinopias (Museo delle Sinopie) / Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo (cathedral museum) — €5 for any site, €7 for any two sites, €8 for any three sites, and €9 for all sights.
Palazzo dell’ Opera del Duomo — admission depends on the exhibition, if any.
The two ticket offices at the Field of Miracles are inside the Sinopie Museum (near the Baptistery) and in the Palazzo dell’ Opera del Duomo (behind the church near the leaning tower).
Time-slot reservation tickets for the leaning tower of Pisa may be bought online at least a day in advance from Opapisa or resellers such as Tiqets and Get Your Guide. Opapisa sells tickets at most 20 days in advance while the resellers usually sell up to two months in advance. Resellers often have better cancelation and change conditions but add a surcharge. A variety of guided tours are available to see the sights on the Fields of Miracles of Pisa with many including climbing the leaning tower.
Opening Hours of Field of Miracles Sites in Pisa
The sights on the Field of Miracles in Pisa is open every day – exact times may be confirmed more than a year in advance at the OpaPisa site.
All the sites are generally open as a minimum from 9:00 (10:00 for the Duomo) to 19:00. From April to September, the opening hours are usually 8:00 (10:00 for the Duomo) to 20:00 with the Camposanto and Tower open until 22:00 on some nights.
Last tickets are sold around half an hour before closing time (but expect an argument at the door if leaving it that late).
Combination tickets are only valid on the calendar day of issue.
More Information On Top Sights in Pisa
- See the Top Sights on Pisa’s Field of Miracles
- Tips on Buying Tickets and Tours for the Leaning Tower and Pisa Sights
- Visit the Duomo (Cathedral) of Pisa (Cattedrale)
- Visit the Baptistery of Pisa (Battistero)
- Visit the Cathedral Museum (Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo di Pisa)
- See Renaissance Frescoes in the Camposanto Cemetery
- Visit the Sinopie Museum in Pisa
- Transportation to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Book Guided Tours of Pisa and Day Trips at Get Your Guide
- Buy Tickets Online at Tiqets
- Book Italian Train and Intercity Bus Tickets at Omio
- More Photos of the Field of Miracles in Pisa on Flickr