PIAZZA DEI CAVALIERI
The gorgeous Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knight’s Square) is located to the south of Piazza dei Miracoli in the quarter of Santa Maria, the student’s district in Pisa.
The renowned circular piazza is standing in the same site of the former Roman Forum.
The city of Pisa became a Roman colony in the180 BC and a Roman Municipia in the 89 BC.
In the age of the Emperor Octavianus Augustus (63 BC -14 AD) the city was already developed into one of the main trading harbours of the Empire and was known as Colonia Julia Pisana Obsequens.
During the middle Ages, in the time of the Maritime Republic of Pisa, the square was the political centre of the Republic and was called Piazza delle Sette Vie (Square of the Seven Roads) owing to the seven main city streets which met there.
By the end of the 14th century when Pisa was an independent state, nevertheless the numerous attacks against it and the humiliations suffered on the part of other great powers in Italy, which wanted to get hold of the city at any cost, the large square was arranged by a different sort of buildings like houses, towered houses, towers and churches, which had been built in the most part between the 11th and the 14th centuries.
The principal ones were: the Palazzo degli Anziani (the Palace of the Elder), a massive building composed of a mixture of houses and towers, which construction started at the end of the 11th century and concluded in the mid of the 14th century. It was the seat of the representatives of the government of Pisa.
On the north end of the square there were standing two emblematic buildings: the 11th century Torre dei Gualandi (Tower of the Gualandi) and close to it the early 14th century towered house called the Palazzotto del Capitano.
In 1288, Ugolino della Gherardesca, Count of Donoratico, head of the powerful family della Gherardesca , podestà and captain the Republic of Pisa, was accused of treachery by the Archbishop of Pisa, Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, who acted against him and his dynasty moved overall by political interests. Ugolino della Gherardesca, who at the time was almost 70 years old, was finally imprisoned in the “Torre dei Gualandi”, the medieval city prison, together with all the male members of his family: his two sons, Gaddo and Uguccione, and his two grandsons, Nino and Anselmo.
In order to exterminate the dynasty, after eight months in jail all of them were walled up in a cell, which key was thrown into the River Arno. They starved to death, in a matter of days. Their corpses were buried in the crypt of the Church of S. Francesco, designed by the prestigious Pisan architect Giovanni di Simone and constructed after 1270. In 1902, their remnants were transferred into the impressing “Gherardesca Chapel” (14th century), housed in the same Church.
Dante Alighieri recalls this terrible episode in “The Divine Comedy” (Hell, XXXIII, 13).
Furthermore, on the southern side of Piazza delle Sette Vie were standing the 14th century huge building which hosted the Palazzo dell’Archivio e della Cancelleria (the site of the Magistrature of Pisa) as well as other towered houses constructed between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th, in addition of the Church of San Pietro in Cortevecchia and the ruins of the ancient Church of San Sebastiano alle Fabbriche Maggiori.
Visit also in Details:
Piazza dei Miracoli -Piazza dei Cavalieri -Pisa Baptistery - The leaning Tower - Pisa
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