Begun in 1278, Pisa’s Monumental Cemetery, the Camposanto, is one of the city’s most important historical sites.

By Maria Alambritis

Begun in 1278, Pisa’s Monumental Cemetery, the Camposanto, is one of the city’s most important historical sites. The burial ground of prominent Pisans since the late Middle Ages, it is often overlooked by visitors in favour of the famous Leaning Tower, but certainly merits a visit for its quiet and melancholy beauty.

The site of the Camposanto has been used as a holy burial ground since at least the late Roman period. Arranged as a cloister, the central area is believed to contain soil from Golgotha. Placed throughout the colonnades are numerous sarcophagi, burial tombs and funerary monuments.

In the 14thcentury, artists were drawn to Pisa as the city grew remained wealthy, thanks to its position as a major maritime port and shipping power. The Camposanto became the site of an extensive fresco programme, and artists such as Francesco Traini, Bonamico Buffalmacco, Taddeo Gaddi, Antonio Veneziano and Piero di Puccio are believed to have worked on various frescoes at the site, featuring subjects from the Old and New Testament and lives of local patron saints. Between 1389-1391 Piero di Puccio began scenes from the Old Testament, which remained incomplete. At the beginning of the 15th century, Pisa came under Florentine rule and it was not until the middle of the century that the decoration resumed. Benozzo Gozzoli was commissioned for the work, already renowned for important projects in Florence, Rome and Umbria.

Sadly the frescoes and the Camposanto itself was severely damaged during World War Two and restoration work has been ongoing ever since.  

Despite their damaged appearance, the frescoes and the Camposanto as a whole remains a site of fascination, inspiring contemplation in its visitors for centuries.


All images author’s own.

Attributed to Bonamico Buffalmacco, The Last Judgement, 1330s,  currently undergoing restoration.

Attributed to Francesco Traini, The Triumph of Death, 1335-40, currently undergoing restoration.

Piero di Puccio and Benozzo Gozzoli, Abraham and Baal, 1470-1471. 

Piero di Puccio, Theological Cosmology, 1389-1391.

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