One of Pistoia’s great masterpieces is the pulpit in this church, completed by Giovanni Pisano in 1301. If you’ve been to Pisa, you’ve seen the pulpit that Giovanni’s father, Nicola, created in the baptistery there, and the similarities are obvious, though Giovanni’s work may well be superior. At least that’s what the inscription immodestly says, proclaiming “Giovanni carved it, who performed no empty work. The son of Nicola, and blessed with higher skill, Pisa gave him birth, endowed with mastery greater than any seen before.” Nicola does indeed capture emotion in a way no one previously had, setting the stage for the naturalism that would come to the fore in the Renaissance. Especially emotional is a panel of the Slaughter of the Innocents, depicting Roman soldiers carrying out Harod’s decree, upon hearing that a Messiah had been born, to kill all newborn male children in Bethlehem. Pisano’s gut-wrenching scene shows knife-wielding Romans executing the infants as their mothers try to protect their children and wail in grief.
- Frommer's Staff