This is somewhat connected to, not just the Italy posts I’ve made before, but the Florence post in particular. Click on it and do some side by side comparisons of the architecture. Pisa was one of the ancient maritime republics in Italy, peaking in the 11th century and declined in the 13th. At it’s height, Pisa fought the Genovese, went on crusades, and had fleet in the First Crusade of over 120 ships. But, it was not to last. Pisa had many ups and downs and briefly had hope as a republic again before eventually came under the sphere of domination Florence exerted and was captured in 1509.
Florence, the new up and comer, looked to Pisa for inspiration. Florence became the seat of the Renaissance because it stood the most to gain: unlike cities like Verona, for example, Florence was sacked to the ground after the fall of Rome because it lay on a direct route to Rome and had fertile lands and an army outpost. Florence went through years of Ostrogothic rule, and the population of a once great city fell to a mere 1,000 residents from warfare. Things were not good for Florence. When things improved and their independence settled, Florence looked for inspiration from neighbor-competitors like Pisa, and so the famous basilica and baptistry in Florence is a ready imitation of Pisa’s. Pisa also had a well established university that Florence didn’t. Eventually Florence grew and with that growth came a cultural shift to not just equal her neighbors, but surpass them in every way possible, to do things bigger and better, to have more artists, to have more money, to just… be… more. Other towns already had their high art from what we call the middle ages. Places like Verona shifted territory more peacefully and had steady existence. It takes the horror of past injustices and rubble to provoke a renaissance, a complete revolution to rebuild and renew oneself on the scale Florence did.
In a nutshell, getting pounded into the dirt is the reason why the Renaissance had to have started in Florence. Having some de’ Medici money and patronage enhanced it – they didn’t cause it, the same as the artists they recruited didn’t cause the Renaissance just by their presence. To put this in perspective, Florence grew to a city of about 94,000 just prior to an outbreak of the plague in 1348. Florentine growth was already well on it’s way. As for art, the baptistry, for instance, was built between 1059 and 1128, but Ghiberti’s famous doors were finally completed in 1452. Florence – Tuscany – has good reason to be the seat of the Renaissance as their personal rebirth started so early, during the heights of the ancient powers like Pisa.
So compare these images to those of Florence, and take it how you will. Imitation? Fitting tribute? Passing the torch? Whatever spin you take it in, remember that Pisa is more than just a leaning tower, and Florence would be nothing if it hadn’t been nothing first.