San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno is one of the most beautiful places in Pisa, and every traveller should stop here. It is one of the most outstanding Romanesque churches in Tuscany. Legend says that on the riverbank here, Pier delle Vigne, a very famous poet, committed suicide after the false accusation of betrayal by his lord Frederick II. The Church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno was founded in 803, and was formerly called ''Duomo Vecchio'' (old cathedral) on account of the function it fulfilled before the completion of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in the Field of Miracles, was founded between the 9th and 10th centuries.The inside of the church is very simple and suggestive. Admire the Roman Sarcophagus located above the left-hand side door which hosts the body of the famous philologist Burgundio (13th century).
Reports of the founding of the church trace to around 925, but by 1032, a church structure existed. By 1092, the church was annexed to a monastery of the Vallumbrosan monks and, later to a hospital 1147.
The building was modified in the 11th-12th centuries in a style similar to that of the Duomo, being reconsecrated by Pope Eugene II in 1148.
Since 1409 the building complex was given to the administration of the cardinal Landolfo di Marramauro, then since 1552 was given to the Grifoni family and, after 1565 to the Holy Order of St. Stephen. After his suppression, in 1798 the church become a Parish.
In 1853 the building underwent some significant reconstruction, directed by Pietro Bellini, which aimed to restore its romanesque origins. During the Second World War, this church, like many in Pisa, suffered damage. Restoration efforts were pursued in 1949- 1952. In the course of this work, the buildings in the back were demolished, restoring the small Sant'Agata chapel to its original free-standing state.
The exterior has bichrome marble bands which re-use Roman stones. The façade, designed in the 12th century , but completed in 14th maybe by Giovanni Pisano, has two corps with pilaster strips, blind arches, marble intarsias and three orders of loggias in the upper section.
The interior is on the Latin cross plan with a nave and two aisles divided by columns in Elban granite, an apse and a dome on the crossing with the transept. It houses a 13th century Crucifix on panel, frescoes by Buonamico Buffalmacco and a Madonna with Saints by Turino Vanni (14th century), but most of all a 2nd century Roman sarcophagus used as medieval tomb. The relief on this sarcophagus was used as a model by both Nicola Pisano and his pupil Arnolfo di Cambio.