Porta del Leone

Porta del Leone (12)

At Piazza dei Miracoli all tourists visit the Leaning Tower, the Duomo and the Baptistry. The boldest even discover the Triumph of Death in the Camposanto. But with so much beauty, few think to go to the northwest corner of the Piazza dei Miracoli, where the Porta del Leone (Lion's Gate) is.

Dating from the twelfth century, next to the damaged and abandoned Porta del Parlascio, it was one of the two doors of representation, one of the gates of the city though which citizens passed daily to go to important places. Specifically, the Porte del Leone was the entrance to the religious centre of the city: the Duomo.

Obviously, its name derives from the marble lion you can see here, which is believed to be Etruscan. The lion is a symbol of power, religion and Christianity.

It was after the Florentine conquest in the early fifteenth century that the lion was placed in the wall facing the city, to protect it and to proclaim the commercial and political prowess of Pisa.

If you look, just behind this door there is a small cemetery that the Jewish community was permitted to have at the time. Of course, outside of the city walls. This cemetery dates from 1648 and is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and interestingly the grave inscriptions are in Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Czech.

For this reason this door was disabled as access to the city and the Florentines built a new one in 1562: the Porta Santa Maria, also known as Porta Nuova. That's where most tourists enter today; it is located on the southwest corner of the Piazza dei Miracoli, with hundreds of stalls selling souvenirs.

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