The Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas in Pistoia

Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, Pistoia

Whoever visits Pistoia for the first time is fascinated by the city’s beautiful sights, by the buildings overlooking the small squares and by the churches hidden away along the narrow streets of the city’s historic center. I, for one, years ago, as soon as I arrived in the city, was pleasantly surprised, and today I recognize myself in the gaze of those who observe it for the first time and, being intrigued, want to return here.

A few steps away from the gallery, there is one of the city’s most fascinating historical buildings: the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, one of the oldest built in the Romanesque style of Pistoia. The building stood outside the first early-medieval city walls, but over time has been integrated into the urban fabric and today overlooks one of the city’s main streets. Wedged between its surrounding buildings, the church is recognizable for its northern front, which has always been considered its true façade: decorated in white marble and green serpentine stone from Prato, the ornate central portal with architrave depicts the Last Supper by the master Gruamonte.

San Giovanni Fuorcivitas Pistoia
Giovanni and Nicola Pisano, marble holy water stoup, detail. Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, Pistoia

Inside, there are prestigious artistic works, including the first example of a free-standing statue group in glazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia, a marble holy water font by Nicola Pisano at the center of the nave, and a polyptych by Taddeo Gaddi. It is easy to get lost among these masterpieces, perhaps when the main streets become a marketplace and the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas becomes a borderline, suspended space, as though that appellative, fuorcivitas, “outside the city,” still rightfully belongs to it.

San Giovanni Fuorcivitas Pistoia
Luca della Robbia, Visitazione (ca. 1445). Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, Pistoia

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Religious architectureRenaissanceTuscany