Chiesa di S. Antimo sopra i Canali

The Church of St. Antimo ‘Over the Canals’


The architectural complex of Chiesa di S. Antimo sopra i Canali, later known as the ‘Tarsinata’, traces a large passage of religious and social history of the town, from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century and up to the present day. The Guild of Sailors greatly wished for the Church, built in Albarese stone (Colombino), and dating back to the thirteenth century. It takes its name from the ‘Canali’, the underlying monumental fountain, built by the Pisan Republic in 1248.  In the sixteenth and seventeenth century the church was annexed by the Order of the Poor Clare Monastery of St. Anastasia, that occupied it until the beginning of the eighteenth century when Elisa Baciocchi had the church deconsecrated and turned into a hospital. The church, built in place of the Pieve of S. Lorenzo, was initially a single body with a bell tower. The construction of the tower and the church proceeded in synergy in order to give structural support to the latter, because of the difference in level on which it was being built. Subsequently, however, the use for these two buildings was separated: The Tower was to become part of the lookout and defence system of the entire dock built by Jacopo III.

Priority had therefore to be given to the construction of the Tower, rather than to the completion of the church and the adjoining monastery. This can be inferred from the date of the Tower ceramics in the decoration of the upper part, which appear to be older by at least 20-30 years than those used for filling the ceiling of the apse of the church. Eventually, the Tower was completed and in the second half of the fifteenth century realised its intended use for the defence of the dock. Hence the name ‘Tower of Tarsinaia’ or ‘Tarsinata’. A part of the brick arches crowning element was removed when the tower was being built, and was replaced by a Guelph battlement. This can be understood from the Vasari frescoes and from the views of Piombino by Pierre Mortier, a Dutch engraver and illustrator of city views, who lived from 1661 to 1711. The battlement is now dovetail, in the Ghibelline style.

The Tower is the only survivor of the defence complex of the town’s Sea Door and the dock, which is