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Probably the most beautiful church in Pisa is the Santa Maria della Spina. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in all of Europe.
You'll find this little Gothic church by the Arno river, where it was built in 1230. However, precisely because of its proximity to the river, it was affected by several flaws over the years and therefore underwent major renovations in the eighteenth century.
The most interesting fact that is that in the beginning the church was called Maria de Pontenovo. But it was in 1333, as a result of having one of the thorns of the crown Christ wore at the time of his crucifixion been brought here, it was decided to change the name of the church to Santa Maria della Spina.
What is most surprising about its facade is its ornate decor, based on pinnacles, spires and niches in which there are statues of saints and apostles. These statues were made by members of the Pisano family and his disciples, basically. Take your time and have a good look at it. Its figures seem to come alive especially when the sun goes down, late in the day when the marbles reflect yellow and ochre.
The interior, however, is quite simple. Especially after you've revelled in the details of the outside, of course. The highlights in the centre of the presbytery include one of the masterpieces of Gothic sculpture, the Virgen de la Rosa by Andrea and Nino Pisano.
Finally, the main celebration of this church is the day of the Luminara of San Ranieri, on this day the church is entirely illuminated. So if you are in Pisa on the night of 16 June, be sure to see it. It is spectacular.