Image for Journeys of the Soul

Journeys of the Soul

Multiple topographies in the Camposanto of Pisa

The construction of the Camposanto in Pisa, begun in the late 1270s, resulted in an innovative type of monumental cemetery. Generously dimensioned and surrounded by a prestigious shell of white marble, the new cemetery of the cathedral complemented both the dome and baptistery as a third monument of equal ranking. Placed directly beside one of the city gates, the cemetery complex constituted an astonishing Portal of the powerful seaport. Great artistic expenditure was continued on the inside: the high walls of the four wings were decorated with frescoes of heretofore unknown dimensions, thus creating one of the most impressive painted spaces of the Late Middle Ages. The Camposanto provided the municipal audiences with a place of burial which eclipsed that of the popular mendicant church cemeteries.

The aim of the conference is to illuminate the Camposanto venture as an innovative interaction between the two artistic mediums of architecture and mural painting and the funerary utilization of the space. The guiding concept of “Journey” allows us to consider perceptions of burial as an entry into an otherworldly Journey, as well as journeys to holy and otherworldly places, which areinvoked in the iconographic program of the frescoes.

Following this concept, the conference will focus on a long Pisan tradition of spatial interweaving of locations within the Mediterranean Region – in particular the holy sites of Palestine - which were diversely linked to Pisa through overseas trade, by military participation in the crusades and through its position as starting point and place of passage for pilgrimages.

It is a key purpose of the conference to consider the interplay between the sacred substance of earth, the fictive spaces within the murals and the burial practices within the cemetery.


Michele Bacci (Université de Fribourg)

David Ganz (Universität Zürich)

Rahel Meier (Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz)





09:00 Greetings by Fabio Beltram (Director of the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa)

09.10 Introduction by Michele Bacci (Fribourg) and David Ganz (Zurich)


CHAIR: David Ganz

09:30 Neta Bodner (Jerusalem): A Reading of the Camposanto’s Role among the Monuments of the ‘Piazza’

10:30 Margherita Orsero (Lausanne): La parete dipinta sulla piazza: sequenze, strati pittorici, incongruenze

11:30 Coffee break

12:00 Lorenzo Carletti (Pisa)/Francesca Polacci (Siena): Senza cornice: lo spazio dell‘arte negli affreschi del Camposanto tra ricezione e storia materiale

13:00 Lunch break

14:30 VISIT TO THE CAMPOSANTO with Carlo Giantomassi and Donatella Zari


CHAIR: Michele Bacci

16:00 Rahel Meier (Florence): Between Flesh and Blood. The Early Construction History of the Camposanto in Pisa and its Relation to the so-called Terra Santa Legend

17:00 Coffee break

17:30 David Ganz (Zurich): Sacred Earth, Panoramatic Spaces. The Early Fresco Decoration of the Campo Santo

19:00 Conference Dinner

FRIDAY, 2/09


CHAIR: Rahel Meier

10:00 Friederike Wille (Berlin): “Mirandoti intorno“: Visual evidences in Campus sanctus

11:00 Coffee break

11:30 Alessandra Malquori (Florence): L’immagine della morte e l’edificazione attraverso l’immagine nelle Storie degli anacoreti del Camposanto di Pisa

12:30 Lunch break

14:00 VISIT TO THE LABORATORIO DI CAMPALDO with Carlo Giantomassi and Donatella Zari

16:00 Roundtable discussion with Michele Bacci (Fribourg), Ottavio Banti (Pisa), Antonio Caleca (Pisa), Chiara Frugoni (Pisa), David Ganz (Zurich),  Mauro Ronzani (Pisa)

17:00 Coffee break

17:30 Conclusion by Michele Bacci

18.00 End of Conference