The San Zeno Cathedral is located in the Piazza del Duomo and is the most important church in Pistoia. It is characterized by its typical Tuscan black and white facade. Highlights include the “Dossale di San Jacopo” and a relief created by Della Robbia above the portal. The current version of the cathedral is the result of a reconstruction in the 12th century.
Cathedral of San Zeno Pistoia
The address of Duomo or Cattedrale di San Zeno is Piazza del Duomo, Pistoia (tel. +39 057325095). Opening hours: 08.30 to 12.30 and 15.00 to 19.00 (July and August from 08.30 to 19.00). Entrance fee: Free of charge. Those wishing to see the silver altar must ask permission. (Tickets for a guided tour can be purchased at the Baptistry for 2.50 Euro).
History and description
The Duomo is the result of a complete reconstruction in the 12th century. It was in the early years of this century that Bishop Atto consecrated the first altar, dedicated to San Jacopo. Since he had a relic of the saint, a piece of his skull given to him in Santiago de Campostela, placed in the altar, the town became a place of pilgrimage.
The actual history goes back even further. When the Saracens invaded the region in 849, the inhabitants of the town asked San Jacopo for help. Pistoia was not attacked and San Jacopo (the Apostle James the Greater) became the town’s patron saint.
However, the original name of the already existing church was retained.
After a fire in the early 13th century, another reconstruction was necessary. Other major changes took place by the middle of the 14th century.
The portico of the façade and the vaults of the side aisles date from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The façade itself is characterized by the already mentioned portico, three rows of loggias and the typical Tuscan slabs of alternating white and black marble. Above the portico there is a lunette with a glazed terracotta relief from 1505 by the hand of Della Robbia.
The bell tower is located to the left of the church and is over 66 feet tall. Originally it was a watchtower of the Lombards. In 1301 Giovanni Pisano made a number of embellishments. The swallowtails on the battlements refer to the city’s Ghibelline sympathies. At the top of the campanile there are three small loggias, with white and green marble decorations.
The two statues on the church depict San Jacopo and San Zeno.
The interior consists of three naves and is the result of an 18th century reconstruction. Unfortunately, many of the original artworks have been lost.
What to see
The baptismal font at the entrance was made by Benedetto da Maiano.
The tomb on the right is dedicated to the local poet Cino da Pistoia.
The San Jacopo Chapel (also called Chapel of the Crucifix) is on the right. Here one can admire the Dossale di San Jacopo, one of the most precious silver pieces in Italy, which weighs almost a ton and consists of 628 figures sculpted by various artists, including Brunelleschi. In 1293, one Vanni Fucci stole some elements from the altar. He was rewarded for this by being portrayed by Dante in the “Divina Commedia” as the most hideous figure in hell.
The monument to Cardinal Niccolò Forteguerri was made to a design by Verrocchio.
Lorenzo di Credi produced the Sacra Conversazione (also called Madonna di Piazza).
The crucifix in the right nave was painted by Coppo di Marcovaldo and Salerno di Coppo in 1275.
The 14th century fresco fragments in the Cappella del Giudizio depict the Last Judgment.
The 13th century baptismal font is by the school of Nicola Pisano.
The bas-reliefs adorning the arch of Sant’Atto on the inside of the façade.
Andrea da Fiesole crafted the baptismal font in 1497.
Through the Sacristy one enters the Chapter Room, where a number of works of art by anonymous masters are on display.
The Cappella Maggiore was originally designed by Nicola Pisano and embellished with mosaics by Jacopo da Turrita. In the 14th century the chapel was enlarged by Jacopo Lafri. Today, most of the paintings and frescoes in this chapel are of a modern nature. The two large statues of San Jacopo and San Zeno were (probably) made by a student of Giambologna.
Ventura Vitoni designed the choir in 1469.
The crypt is supported by six granite columns.
The “Virgin with Son” in the left nave was begun by Verrocchio, but completed by Lorenzo di Credi in 1485.
Antonio Rossellino made the bust of Donato de’ Medici.
The remains of the tomb of Bishop Ricciardi and his brother Boniface were probably designed by the school of Giovanni d’Agostino da Siena (1348).