The first settlements on the site of the building date back to the eleventh century, to the period of maximum power of the maritime Republic of Pisa; the element of “casatorre” in stone belongs to a little later epoch (12th century), while the underlying road, still visible in the corridor on the ground floor that leads to the entrance of temporary exhibitions together with the ancient building structures, is datable to a period between the end of the 12th and the early 13th century.
The monastic complex dedicated to San Matteo was commissioned by Ildeberto degli Albizi and his wife Donna Teuta del fu Omicio, through the validation of two separate deeds, one dated 1027 and the other of 1028. The deed dated 18th May 1027 was signed by Donna Teuta who, with the consent of her husband, ordered the building of a female Benedictine monastery on a land owned by her, named after the apostle and evangelist St. Matthew.
The “Arsenali Medicei” were built almost four centuries ago by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici. Today they host the Museum of Ancient Ships of Pisa which tell of a millennium of commerce and sailors, routes and shipwrecks, navigations, life on board and the history of the city of Pisa. This storytelling is made trough the display of seven boats from the Roman period (four of which are substantially intact), dating from the 3rd century BC and the 7th century AD, and about 800 archeological finds.
La Sapienza (“the wisdom”) is the historic site of the University of Pisa, commissioned in the second half of the fifteenth century by Lorenzo il Magnifico and completed in the middle of the following century by Cosimo I de' Medici.
Founded in 1277 to accommodate the graves that until then were scattered all around the Cathedral, the building wanted to be a “large and dignified, secluded and enclosed place”. This is how one of the oldest Christian Medieval architectures for the devotion of the dead came into being.