Pietrasanta is an art town in Tuscany. If you just park your car and walk around a bit, your eyes will be rewarded by fascinating statues made of local marble and just about any other medium you can imagine. When you reach the Piazza del Duomo, you’ll see the medieval core of the city, plus a couple of churches, a bevy of statues, and the Duomo di San Martino bell tower.
Your eyes will be forgiven of they don’t linger on the belltower. It is a mere shell, never finished. It should have had its coat of marble slabs, like everything else. Here it is, behind a statue called Space Elephant inspired by the work of Salvador Dali.
The secrets of the cathedral bell tower, like the secrets in wrapped candies, are found deep inside.
Inside this bell tower is a hollow, cylindrical space. The space just happens to match the form and volume of Trajan’s Column in Rome.
Pretty neat, eh? This set people to thinking, a quaint, old fashioned trait I’m afraid.
Enrico Venturini has spent four years researching the mystery of the belltower, and has written a book, with photos by Giorgio Cespa titled “Michelangelo: Il Segreto del Campanile di San Martino.” The Campanile looks altogether “normal” from the outside, the marble facing was never finished and so we see the brick understructure… it is inside the belltower that we can sense immediately the work of a master architect and mathematician at work… because, inexplicably the stairwell leading up is a precision corkscrew design, which has perplexed all who see it for … well, centuries. ~ Michelangelo: The Secret of Pietrasanta’s San Martino Belltower
So, yes, there’s a narrow staircase I wouldn’t use in a million years inside this cylindrical space. But…
Con ogni probabilità, infatti, si tratta di un progetto di Michelangelo, ideato con il preciso scopo di produrre, grazie alle campane, una stupefacente colonna sonora, il suono autentico di un’antica ed epica colonna di marmo. Di questa ipotesi affascinante, fin qui sconosciuta alla storia dell’arte, è sostenitore il professore Gabriele Morolli, ordinario di storia dell’architettura all’Università di Firenze e specialista dell’opera di Michelangelo Buonarroti…~ I segreti del Duomo di Pietrasanta
So, in a nutshell, this Michelangelo expert, Gabriele Morolli, thinks that there is a great probability that the master was involved in an experiment, wanting to at least hear the effect of the bell’s tolling resonate through the inverse space of the ancient column. Could Michelangelo create a sound that represented Trajan’s Column? Does the art speak to you?
I like to think about that. You’re famous. You have ideas. You have a student build a bell tower like a thousand other bell towers and let him take credit for its (near) completion, while secretly you use the unseen interior to test a theory while leaving for posterity all the details to wonder about. It’s brilliant.
Sardinian sculptor Pinuccio Sciola had the idea of coaxing sound of of rocks. He showed their unique sound signature. He made the stones sing in a garden behind his modest house called the Giardino Sonoro, the Sound Garden.
Michelangelo likely did almost the opposite by testing the sound of a stone structure that was absent. What brilliance!
I miss artists. San Francisco crawled with them back in the 70s. Now the starving artist can’t even afford to starve in The City. Not with cheap, one-room hovels going for $1700-2300.
Here is the other side of the Piazza del Duomo in Pietrasanta. Yes, there’s always a place to sit a spell and have a coffee or a prosecco. Perhaps there will be a naked bronze woman dancing atop a piano with hubba-hubba legs.
You should go. See the art. Be inspired. Eat well and have a coffee in this square. Here is a Pietrasanta Visitor Guide