Pisa sits where two rivers meet, the Arno and the Serchio. Because of its access to waterways, it was a great place to house fleets of ships. According to historical records, Pisa’s fleet was amongst the most efficient in all of Italy defending much of the western seaboard of Italy. When Pisa sided with Rome, it became the naval base for the Roman fleet when fighting against the Ligurians and the Gauls. The goal of the Roman Empire was to subjugate Corsica, Sardinia and other coastal zones and Pisa was its main naval base.
Piazza dei Miracoli (engraving)
Photo: Public Domain
In medieval Pisa, the Christian influences began to be even more noticeable. Many believe Saint Peter,who landed in Pisa in 47 AD, made the first Christian introduction in the area. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Pisa was ruled by the Lombardi, followed by the Franks. The city became focused on sea matters, which led to conflict with the Saracens who ruled the Mediterranean.
Eventually the Pisans conquered both Sardinia and Corsica giving them control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Pope then gave permission for the fleet to head to Sicily to support Norman Roger against the Saracens. Once this battle was completed they came home with enough money to begin the construction of the cathedral.
Due to their superiority in the west, Pisa was in constant conflict with Genoa. This rivalry led to Pisa being excommunicated by the Pope, as Genoa was more willing to comply with Imperial rules and regulations. The reunification of Italy in the 1800s helped put Pisa back on the map when it came to Papal recognition as well as its important part of Italian history and modern trade.