Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Architect and sculptor, b. at Pisa about 1205-07; d. there, 1278. He was the father of modern plastic art. When barely past adolescence, he came to the notice of Frederick II of Swabia who took him to attend his coronation in Rome, thence to Naples, to complete Castel Capuano and Castel dell'Uovo (1221-31). In 1233 Niccola was in Lucca ; the alto-rilievo of the Deposition over the side door of the cathedral may be of this date. The marble urn or Arca made to contain the body of St. Dominic in the church bearing his name in Bologna, is said to be an early work, but shows maturity; the charming group of the Madonna and Child upon it, foreshadows all the Madonnas of Italian art. From Niccola's designs was built the famous basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, the church of the Frari in Venice is also attributed to him, possibly on insufficient grounds. In Florence he designed the interior of Sta. Trinità which Michelangelo loved so much that he called it his lady, "la mia Dama". Having been ordered by the Ghibellines to destroy the baptistery frequented by the Guelphs, Niccola undermined the tower called Guardo-morto , causing it to so fall that it did not touch the precious edifice. On his return to Pisa, the architect erected the campanile for the church of S. Niccolò which contains the remarkable winding stair unsupported at its centre; an invention repeated by Bramante for the "Belvedere", and by San Gallo in the renowned well at Orvieto. In 1242 Niccola superintended the building of the cathedral of Pistoja, and in 1263 the restoration of S. Pietro Maggiore. He remodelled S. Domenico at Arezzo, the Duomo at Volterra, the Pieve and Sta. Margherita at Cortona. Much of his work at Pisa is believed to have perished in the fire of 1610. A wonderful creation (1260) is the hexagonal, insulated pulpit of the baptistery. It is supported by seven columns, three of them resting on lions. The panels have reliefs from the New Testament ; the pediments, figures of virtues ; the spandrels, prophets and evangelists. The architectural part is Italian Gothic: the sculptures are mainly pure reproductions of the antique. A second pulpit for the Duomo of Siena followed in 1266. Niccola's early sculpture shows clumsiness, if we are to believe that the figures outside the Misericordia Vecchia in Florence are his. In later life, whether from Rome or from his own Camposanto at Pisa (Roman sarcophagus used for the Countess Beatrice of Tuscany ; Greek vase with figures he reproduced) he learned to create with the freedom, beauty, and power of ancient art. Ruhmer suggests aptly that he may have used clay for his initial model, a method then unpractised in Italy. One of Niccola's last works in architecture was the abbey and church of La Scorgola, commemorating Charles of Anjou's victory at Tagliacozzo, now in ruins; in sculpture, the statuettes for the famous Fonte Maggiore at Perugia, erected after his design (1277-80).


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Proverbs 3:27-34
27 Refuse no kindness to those who have a right to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
2 Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:16-18
16 'No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Thomas of Villanueva
September 22: Augustinian bishop. Born at Fuentellana, Castile, Spain, he was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter