Piazza dei Cavalieri, also known as Kings Square, is an important landmark within Pisa, home to an ancient history that goes all the way back to medical times.
It features splendidly decorated buildings and historic monuments that are centuries old. It is known as the political heart of Pisa, and also the second most visited spot in the region.
The History of the Piazza dei Cavalieri
Back in ancient times, Piazza dei Cavalieri was once the political centre of Pisa. Used as the Roman Forum in this region. Later on in history, however, this square became the headquarters of the Order of the Knights, also known as the Knights of St. Stephen. This society began in the 16th century by Cosimo I de’ Medici, with the aim of the group to defend the Tuscan and Mediterranean coast from any invading Turkish fleets and pirates.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany
In the very centre of the piazza lies an incredible statue, known as the Grand Duke of Tuscany. It was created in 1596 by sculptor Francavilla.
Palazzo dei Cavalieri
Translating to the ‘Palace of the Convoy’, this building was once a training region for the Knights. The entire building is stunning, with intricate details and statues featured on the outer building walls. In the front section is an enormous statue that displays a victorious Cosimo, squashing the head of a dolphin, which symbolises his naval victories. Nowadays, the palace is a university, known as the Normale di Pisa University, where students come and go to learn in this historic building.
The Church of the Knights
This building was designed by the same architect as the Palazzo dei Cavalieri, known as Vasari, who constructed the building from 1565 until 1569. It is a historic spot to visit, with both Ottoman and Saracen naval banners that were once captured by the Knights in ancient times. Look up when you enter the building, with the ceiling featuring an array of paintings of historical episodes such as the “Return of the Fleet” from the Battle of Lepanto.
Palazzo dell’ Orologio
Also known as the Clock Palace, this was once the seat of the medieval government. Its history has a gruesome tale attached to it, as it was the setting place for the tragic story of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca. A traitor of the city, who was left in this spot to die of hunger along with his sons and grandchildren. However, these days it is a University library, home to a number of fascinating academic books.