From Piazza del Duomo to Ospedale del Ceppo and other sights

As you descend along the ‘ripe’ – ancient roads alongside the Palazzo del Comune – you pass the Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Pantano, thus called because it was built in the twelfth century above marshland. It also contains a beautiful pulpit by Guido da Como. Just a short distance away is the famous Ospedale del Ceppo.
Its strange name derives, some believe, from a great hollow chestnut wood tree trunk used to collect donations. Others believe that the Madonna appeared miraculously to order that a hospital should be founded on the spot where a trunk was to flower in mid winter. Its fame is due to the magnificent decorations in terracotta over the church facade’s elegant portico, a long strip divided up into various scenes representing the Sette Opere di Misericordia. It is a masterpiece of artistic skill created in the sixteenth century by the celebrated Florentine workshop of Della Robbia. Pistoia hospital moved some time ago to an alternative and more modern building.

A short distance from the Ospedale del Ceppo is the Chiesa di Sant’Andrea with Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit, a true masterpiece of sculpture and the pride of the town. If you continue along Via Sant’Andrea you come out in the huge Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi or Piazza Mazzini dominated by the Chiesa di San Francesco with its many Giotto school frescoes – most of which are devoted to the saint’s life – inside.

And here we are in Via della Madonna, in front of the basilica della Madonna dell’Umiltà built in the sixteenth century and inspired by Brunelleschi’s work with its majestic rectangular atrium and an immense domed octagon holding an image of the Madonna dell’Umiltà in the main altar. At the end of Via della Madonna a wide street leads to other interesting churches: Gothic Chiesa di San Domenico, with adjacent convent with its cloisters and porticoes frescoed inside with portraits of Dante and Petrarch; the elegant Chiesa di San Paolo in Pisan style with its gracious loggia and an ornate portal.

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