Pisa’s exquisite Church of Santa Maria della Spina (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina) is covered in intricate and fanciful stonework, a hallmark of the 14th-century Pisan Gothic style. With its fairytale exterior and magnificent Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano inside, this church is a tiny gem and the perfect foil to the grandeur of the city’s Duomo.
Built in 1230 to house a thorn from the Crown of Thorns (now displayed in the city’s Church of Santa Chiara), this small, striped marble church is considered one of the most important Gothic churches in Europe and is a highlight of Pisa. The original church was enlarged in the mid-1300s; in 1871, just as waters of the Arno River began to rise, it was moved from a location along the riverbanks to its present site, on the riverside walkway. The richly decorated exterior features a number of statues by Giovanni and Nino Pisano and other important 14th-century artists from Pisa.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina is one of the top sights in Pisa, along with the Piazza dei Miracoli, where the Duomo and Leaning Tower is located. Walking and Segway tours often include a visit to Santa Maria della Spina along with skip-the-line tickets to the Duomo, tower, and baptistery. If you have time for a full-day tour, you can easily combine a Pisa visit with nearby Lucca, Siena, or San Gimignano.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors must wear modest attire covering shoulders and knees to enter the church.
- If you’re taking a walking tour of Pisa, choose comfortable shoes and wear a hat and sunscreen in summer.
- The church is located on Pisa’s river walk, a delightful route that hugs the Arno River as it winds through the historic city center.
- The Church of Santa Maria della Spina isn’t accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina is built into the promenade wall lining the Arno across the river from the Piazza dei Miracoli. It’s an easy walk from the main train station.
When to Get There
Pisa’s Duomo complex is most crowded from late morning through the afternoon, so try to schedule your tour in the early morning and then move on to Santa Maria della Spina when the throngs of daily visitors arrive.
Pisa’s Iconic Piazza dei Miracoli
The Piazza dei Miracoli, home to Pisa’s Gothic Duomo and baptistery and iconic Leaning Tower, is one of the most popular sights in Tuscany. In addition, you can tour the Monumental Cemetery and Sinopie Museum, which has a collection of preparatory sketches for the cathedral’s frescoes. Finally, the Duomo Opera Museum houses art that’s been removed from the Duomo and baptistery over the centuries.