Mentioned for the first time in a document from 1233, the church was rebuilt starting with 1261 at the behest of the archbishop Federico Visconti. Between 1265 and 1270, the works were directed by Giovanni di Simone. During this time, the slender bell-tower was also built.
The new church included many private chapels belonging to noble Pisan families. The chapels, which preserve ancient tombs, were built and adorned by the Pisan families, who exercised the right of patronage on the church, while the Franciscan monks only limited themselves to the administration of the religious building.
Two new cloisters and the San Bernardino Chapel were added in the 15th century. The marble facade dates back to 1603, and the interior was renovated in the same 17th century.
In 1863, following a law of December 1861, the church and convent were deconsecrated and converted to military barracks. All the objects, paintings and ornaments were therefore withdrawn by the families, who exercised their patronage rights. On July 7, 1866, the church was transformed into a warehouse.
On May 22, 1893, the Ministry of Education declared the former church and the nearby convent a national monument, and on July 8, 1893, the structure was handed over to the Municipality of Pisa. The church, deeply degraded inside, was reopened only in 1901.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The interior hosts frescoes by Jacopo da Empoli, Domenico Passignano and Santi di Tito. In the transept, there are frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, Galileo Chini and a marble altar by Tommaso Pisano, built in the second half of the 14th century.
In the sacristy, we can find frescoes by Taddeo di Bartolo, while in the chapter hall are frescoes by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini.
Noteworthy are the burials hosted in the church, including that of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, buried here with his children and grandchildren after they died of hunger in the nearby Torre della Muda (Tower of Hunger).
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Francesco is located about 1.6 kilometers away from the Pisa Centrale railway station, or about 20 minutes on foot. The closest bus stop is Sighieri 2, on the bus Line Navetta E, located about 50 meters away.