View of Pisa from San Piero a Grado
The Getty Museum, Los Angeles
In his historic daguerrotype, the maker of the work placed his apparatus on the campanile of San Piero a Grado four kilometres from the centre of Pisa to produce a historical document
The Pisa depicted cannot be seen today.
During the Second World War the city was heavily bombed includng the campanile from which the daguerreotype was taken
From its great vantage point on the coast, a viewer on the top of the campanile could see all the way on the Italian coast from Piombino all along the Tuscan coast to the Ligurian towns of the Cinque Terre
In January 1845 Charles Dickens took his wife to Rome via Pisa He was rather disappointed by The Leaning Tower but was otherwise impressed by the other sights
In Pictures From Italy - 1846, he wrote:
"The moon was shining when we approached Pisa, and for a long time we could see, behind the wall, the leaning Tower, all awry in the uncertain light; the shadowy original of the old pictures in school-books, setting forth 'The Wonders of the World.' Like most things connected in their first associations with school-books and school-times, it was too small. I felt it keenly. It was nothing like so high above the wall as I had hoped.
It was another of the many deceptions practised by Mr. Harris, Bookseller, at the corner of St. Paul's Churchyard, London. HIS Tower was a fiction, but this was a reality - and, by comparison, a short reality. Still, it looked very well, and very strange, and was quite as much out of the perpendicular as Harris had represented it to be.
The quiet air of Pisa too; the big guard-house at the gate, with only two little soldiers in it; the streets with scarcely any show of people in them; and the Arno, flowing quaintly through the centre of the town; were excellent. So, I bore no malice in my heart against Mr. Harris (remembering his good intentions), but forgave him before dinner, and went out, full of confidence, to see the Tower next morning.
I might have known better; but, somehow, I had expected to see it, casting its long shadow on a public street where people came and went all day. It was a surprise to me to find it in a grave retired place, apart from the general resort, and carpeted with smooth green turf.
But, the group of buildings, clustered on and about this verdant carpet: comprising the Tower, the Baptistery, the Cathedral, and the Church of the Campo Santo: is perhaps the most remarkable and beautiful in the whole world; and from being clustered there, together, away from the ordinary transactions and details of the town, they have a singularly venerable and impressive character. It is the architectural essence of a rich old city, with all its common life and common habitations pressed out, and filtered away."
Here we see another daguerreotype of the city taken in 1844 of the riverfront in the heart of the city again by an unknown French or Italian photographer
It was taken from the front of the Hotel of the Three Damsels (la Locanda delle Tre Donzelle) in what is now Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
View of Pisa along the River front
c. May 1844
The Getty Museum, Los Angeles
From Roman times, the city of Pisa has occupied an important place in the history of Western Christianity
In 1409 the Council of Pisa was held in the city which was the beginning of the Western Schism
It has been said :
"The Pisan synod marks an epoch in the history of Western Christendom not so much on account of what it actually accomplished as because it was the first revolt in council against the theory of papal absolutism which had been accepted for centuries.
It followed the ideas of Gerson and Langenstein, namely, that the Church is the Church even without the presence of a pope, and that an oecumenical council is legitimate which meets not only in the absence of his assent but in the face of his protest.
Representing intellectually the weight of the Latin world and the larger part of its constituency, the assembly was a momentous event leading in the opposite direction from the path laid out by Hildebrand, Innocent III., and their successors. It was a mighty blow at the old system of Church government."
Pastor, Geschichte der Papste, etc 4th ed., 1901–1906 I. 192, speaks of the unholy Pisan synod—segenslose Pisaner Synode. He opens his treatment with a discourse on the primacy of the papacy, dating from Peter, and the sole right of the pope to call a council. The cardinals who called it usurped an authority which did not belong to them.
L Salembier Le grand schisme d’ Occident, Paris, 1900, 3d ed., 1907. Engl. trans., London, 1907
regarded the survival of the papacy as a proof of its divine origin.
At p. 395, he says, "The history of the great Schism would have dealt a mortal blow to the papacy if Christ’s promises had not made it immortal."
Salembier described 15th century Pisa (like 19th century Pisa) as a city which had lost its former glory, had seemed to totter ready to fall and near ruin. However she had prmises of life eternal and would soon celebrate the triumph of life over death
In 1989 Saint John Paul II visited the city on a pastoral visit and referred to the history of Pisa and in particular to its association with the history of the Christian faith and its mission. He referred to the city as being touched by the hand of God, perhaps overlooking the events of 1409
"Chiesa che vivi in Pisa, ripensa alla tua storia nella luce che ti viene da questa Parola di Dio! Fin dagli inizi dell’era cristiana i tuoi padri sono stati oggetto di una scelta di predilezione da parte di Dio: se non Pietro stesso, sicuramente i primi suoi discepoli sono approdati alla foce dell’Arno per recarti la “buona notizia” del Vangelo.
Tu allora sei nata: alle tue origini c’è un’iniziativa d’amore di Dio.
I tuoi padri hanno saputo corrispondere generosamente al patto d’alleanza, che Dio stabilì allora con essi. I frutti di tale corrispondenza sono descritti negli annali della tua storia e sono evocati da questa fioritura di opere d’arte che tutto il mondo ti invidia."