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Opera del Duomo Museum

Situated just 1 minute walk away from the renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Opera del Duomo Museum awaits exploration as a lesser-known cultural attraction. 

Despite its overshadowing by the neighboring landmark, this museum has a rich collection of artistic treasures, providing visitors with an enriching insight into Pisa’s artistic legacy.

Its primary focus lies on sculptures, particularly those that once adorned the nearby Pisa Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa) and the Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni).  

You can combine it with the visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and enjoy a newer side of Pisa. 

What’s Inside the Opera del Duomo Museum 

Over 750 works of art spanning 720 years of history are on display, inside the Opera del Duomo Museum.

The Museo dell’Opera provides the best setting for the works of art made for these buildings, which today form a single group known as the “Great Museum of the Cathedral.” 

Here are some top things at the Opera del Duomo Museum Florence that one should not miss. 

Room of the First Façade

The Room of the First Facade is the Museum’s centerpiece, featuring a life-size model of the Cathedral facade designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. 

Although intended to be completed, it was dismantled in 1587 by Grand Duke Francesco I, who aimed to finish it but failed; it was finally redone in the 19th century by Emilio de Fabris.

The Hall of Paradise in Florence’s Duomo Museum

The Sala del Paradiso, named after the space between the Baptistery and the Church, showcased original sculptures of the Gothic western facade of the cathedral and bronze doors of the Baptistery. 

Visitors could admire three sets of bronze baptistery doors and original sculptures above them, including Ghiberti’s Renaissance doors described by Michelangelo as fit for paradise. 

The restoration team recreated the unfinished Gothic facade on the opposite wall, featuring statues dating from the 14th and early 15th centuries, with highlights including evangelist statues by Donatello and doctors of the church by Lamberti and Tedesco.

Mary Magdalene, Carved in Wood by Donatello

Donatello carved a statue of Saint Mary Magdalene around 1455, possibly for the Baptistery, using wood with plaster additions, partially colored and gilded. 

Mary Magdalene, an essential disciple of Jesus, is depicted as a penitent figure, with long hair covering her hollowed-out body, symbolizing her ascetic life and solitude in the desert. 

Standing at 185 cm tall, the sculpture was initially painted or gilded and housed in the baptistry until the 1960s.

Michelangelo’s Pieta Bandini

Michelangelo’s final work, the marble sculptural group depicting the Pietà, was completed between 1547 and 1555 but left unfinished. 

He originally conceived it as his own burial monument, and it was later purchased by Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici in 1671 and relocated several times before being displayed at the Opera Museum since 1981. 

In the Pietà, Michelangelo portrayed himself in the face of the elderly character, Nicodemus, who is shown caring for the body of Jesus, alongside Mary and Mary Magdalene.

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Galleria del Campanile

Andrea Pisano and his assistants, including his son Nino, crafted the decorative program of the Bell Tower, starting in 1334. 

They adorned it with sixteen statues and fifty-four reliefs depicting themes of divine prophecy, human creativity, and astrological influences. 

The reliefs, arranged in their original order, showcased biblical inventors, liberal arts, virtues, and sacraments, while statues were placed according to their grouping on each side, with notable figures positioned in the center of the gallery.

Galleria della Cupola

This gallery showcased Filippo Brunelleschi’s conceptual and symbolic process in designing the Duomo’s Cupola. 

He applied engineering and mechanics to create the basilica’s final structural component, the tribunal maggiore, between 1418 and 1436. 

Visitors could also view late fifteenth and early sixteenth-century models for the drum’s covering, which remained unfinished when Brunelleschi died in 1446, along with other educational materials depicting various dome-related projects.

The Duomo Museum’s Treasury in Florence

The Sala del Tesoro features a monumental cross and altar made with 250 kg of silver, created by multiple artists between 1366 and 1483. 

The altar depicts scenes from John the Baptist’s life, including his annunciation, visitation, and execution, with detailed craftsmanship evident in Andrea del Verrocchio’s depiction of the beheading. 

Historic liturgical vestments, including Antonio del Pallaiolo’s embroidered panels illustrating John the Baptist’s life, are also on display, showcasing the Baptistery’s rich artistic heritage.

Sala della Maddalena

This gallery holds Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene, depicting Mary Magdalene, known for being healed by Jesus and seeing him after his resurrection. 

Donatello sculpted the statue around 1455, portraying Mary as a penitent figure, emphasizing her ascetic life. 

The statue was initially placed in the Baptistery, a testament to Florence’s devotion to the saint.

Sala delle Cantorie

This room is called Sala delle Cantorie, and its new layout resembles the Duomo sanctuary where priests gathered. 

Musicians and choir usually had spots close to the sanctuary. 

Cantoria by Luca della Robbia and Donatello, along with holy objects, were displayed here, reflecting Florentines’ joy at completing Cathedral works.

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Sala del coro bandinelliano

This room showcased elements from the new marble enclosure of the sanctuary, commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1547 and completed in 1572 by Baccio Bandinelli. 

Bandinelli and his assistants created eighty-six reliefs for the choir, depicting male figures dressed in antique costumes, possibly representing Israel patriarchs, prophets, and Greek and Roman heroes. 

Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari completed the significance of the choir sculptures with a massive fresco of the Last Judgment painted inside the Cupola between 1572 and 1579.

Galleria dei modelli

The main gallery displayed designs commissioned by the Medici Grand Dukes to modernize the Cathedral’s facade. 

Seven large wooden models depicted proposals for a Renaissance facade, replacing the demolished medieval one in 1587. 

Visitors could view the reconstructed medieval facade through large windows, comparing it with the proposals of Mannerism and early Baroque architects.

Opera del Duomo Museum Hours 

The Opera del Duomo Museum in Pisa welcomes visitors daily with varying opening hours depending on the season. 

The museum opens from 9 am to 8 pm from April to September, with the ticket office closing at 7.30 pm.  

During the rest of the year, from October to March, the museum operates from 9 am to 6 pm, with the ticket office closing at 5.30 pm. 

The best time to visit the museum depends on individual preferences. 

For those looking to avoid crowds, early mornings or late afternoons are ideal, offering a quieter experience. 

Additionally, mornings are recommended for those seeking cooler temperatures, particularly in the summer months. 

Visitors should allocate an hour to explore the museum comfortably. At the same time, art enthusiasts should set aside 1.5 to 2 hours to thoroughly appreciate the collection and delve into the details of the sculptures and exhibits.

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Opera del Duomo Museum Directions

The museum is located in Piazza del Duomo, 23, 56126 Pisa, next to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

The nearest bus stop is Piazza dei Miracoli, which is a short walk from the museum.

The museum is within walking distance from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and other major attractions in the Piazza dei Miracoli.

You can take a taxi or use a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft to reach the museum.

Limited parking options are available near the museum, but it’s recommended to use public transportation or walk.

FAQs

How much time do you need at the Duomo Museum?

Allow about 1.5 to see the Duomo. This includes looking around the inside, climbing the stairs, and admiring the view from the top.

Is the Opera del Duomo Museum worth it?

The stunning 360-degree views of the city, including famous landmarks such as the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio, make it worthwhile to climb to the top of the Duomo. 

It’s also a great way to appreciate Florence’s beauty differently.

What is the dress code for the Duomo Museum?

Access to the museum is only possible while dressed appropriately. This means no bare shoulders, sandals, headgear, sunglasses, and covered knees.

Can you take pictures in the Duomo?

Yes, taking photographs is permitted.

Photographs, except during cathedral celebrations, may be taken for personal use only and not for publication, study, profit, or any other purpose.

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