Construction started in the year 1064 on Pisa’s duomo, or cathedral, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (St, Mary of the Assumption). I think it has a very interesting and pretty exterior. Yet the inside is what really shines, with gorgeous paintings, icons, and sculptures.
It is inside the cathedral where Galileo is said to have developed his theory of the pendulum while watching the incense lamp swaying from the ceiling. The present lamp dates from after Galileo’s time but the previous lamp is housed in the Cathedral Museum.
The Cathedral houses the remains of Pisa’s patron saint St Ranieri (St Rainerius) in a glass coffin. Born in the 12th century to a rather wealthy merchant family, Ranieri was a bit of a party boy through his early adulthood. At age 23 he met a hermit named Alberto whose influence led to a change of heart for Ranieri. After giving away his belongings to the poor, Ranieri went to Jerusalem and lived an itinerant and ascetic life for many years. Already becoming known for working miracles, Ranieri made his way back to Pisa and spent the remainder of his years in the monastery of St Vito continuing to work miracles and bringing God’s light to the citizens of Pisa.
Across from the Cathedral is the Baptistry, dedicated to St John the Baptist. The most impressive aspect of the Baptistry is the interior acoustics. It’s said that a sound can be sustained for as long as 12 seconds. Periodically (I think once an hour) a volunteer soloist will sing for a minute or so to demonstrate – it’s quite an impressive thing to hear!
Incidentally, the Cathedral and the Baptistry are leaning as well, though not nearly as much as the famous tower. In fact the makeup of the ground in Pisa has caused a number of buildings in the area to shift or tilt slightly.