Saturday, January 27, 2007

Church of the Cavalieri for the Holy and Military Order of St. Stephen, Pisa

On 15 March, 1562, Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici received the cloak of the Sacred Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen from the hands of the Archbishop of Pisa and in the name of Pope Pius IV. This new order of knights, was founded to combat the raids by Turks and “infidels” on the Mediterranean Sea. Pisa was chosen as the seat for the new Order of Knights.

The choice of the square at one time named Piazza degli Anziani (the Square of the Elders) as the seat of the Knights of St. Stephen was full of political, symbolic and cultural implications. The Medici family, with the choice of this square, intended to appropriate for themselves a space which up to that time had been a sign of glory of a completely different kind. As early as the Roman period this space had been the centre of the city, perhaps even the Roman forum. It was the political and administrative fulcrum of the medieval centre and seat to all the most important magistrates of the Republic of Pisa. Seven important city streets converged there.

Cosimo I entrusted the restoration of the square to the architect, painter and historiographer Giorgio Vasari.

The Knights moved into their rooms in the Palazzo della Carovana by 1564, with the Grand Prior, given the importance of his position, occupying an apartment with various rooms.

But it would be after more than a century that the square and the area was completely “redesigned”.

In 1690, the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen could claim full ownership and use of the entire site.

As part of the redevelopment of the Square and its complex, Vasari designed the Church of the Cavalieri for the Holy and Military Order of St. Stephen, but it was mainly built by other architects. This is the only church in Pisa in renaissance style. It contains the Turkish banners captured by the Cavalieri of St. Stephen during the naval battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571.


Wikipedia: The Knights’ Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri)