PISTOIA, or PISTOJA (anc. Pistoriae), a town and episcopal see of Tuscany, Italy, in the province of Florence, from which it is 21 m. N.W. by rail. Pop. (1906), 27,127 (town); 68,131 (commune). It is situated on a slight eminence (210 ft.) near the Ombrone, one of the tributaries of the Arno. It is on the site of the Roman Pistoriae, which is hardly mentioned in ancient times, except for the destruction of Catiline's forces and the slaughter of their leader near it in 62 B.C., and as a station on the road between Florentia and Luca; and earlier still by Plautus, but only with jesting allusion to the similarity of the name to the word pistor (baker). Hardly any inscriptions of the ancient town have been found; but excavations in 1902 (see G. Pellegrini in Notizie degli Scavi, 1904, p. 241) in the Piazzo del Duomo led to the discovery of a large private house, which belonged to the end of the 1st century B.C. Some mosaic pavements were found, belonging perhaps to the 3rd century A.D., while the house appears to have fallen into ruin at the beginning of the 5th. Remains of four subsequent periods were discovered above it. It was found that the tradition that the cathedral occupied the site of a temple of Mars was groundless; for the house appears to have extended under it. Ammianus Marcellinus (sth century) mentions Pistoriae as a city of Tuscia Annonaria. During the middle ages Pistoia was at times a dangerous enemy to Florence, and the scene of constant conflicts between the Guelphs and Ghibellines; it was there that the great party struggle took place which resulted in the creation of the Bianchi and Neri factions (see Dante, Inferno, xxiv. 121 to end). In 1302-06 it was besieged and eventually taken by the armies of Florence and Lucca, and in 1325 it became subject to Castruccio of Lucca. In 1351 it was obliged to surrender to Florence, and thenceforth shared its fate.
The city is still surrounded by walls, dating from shortly after the siege of 1302-06; while two inner lines of streets represent two earlier and inner lines of wall. In the early development of architecture and sculpture Pistoia played a very important part; these arts, as they existed in Tuscany before the time of NiccolajPisano, can perhaps be better studied in Pistoia than anywhere else; nor is the city less rich in the later works produced by the school of sculptors founded by Niccola. In the 14th century Pistoia possessed a number of the most skilful artists in silver-work, a wonderful specimen of whose powers exists now in the cathedral the great silver altar and frontal of St James, originally made for the high altar, but now placed in a chapel on the south side. The cathedral is partly of the 12th century, with a porch and facade with small arcades in black and white marble, as is the case with several other churches of Pistoia but was remodelled in the 13th century, and modernized inside in the worst taste. Besides the silver altar it contains many fine works of sculpture; the chief are the monument of Cino da Pistoia, lawyer and poet, Dante's contemporary (1337), by Cellino di Nese, surrounded by his scholars, and Verrocchio's finest work in marble, the monument to Cardinal Forteguerra (1474), with a large figure of Christ, surrounded by angels, in high relief. The clay model for it is in the South Kensington Museum. The monument has unfortunately been altered. The octagonal baptistery is by Cellino di Nese (1339). Among the earlier churches the principal is Sant' Andrea, enriched with sculpture, and probably designed by Gruamons and his brother Adeodatus in 1136; in the nave is Giovanni Pisano's magnificent pulpit, imitated from his father's pulpit at Pisa. Other churches of almost equal interest are S. Giovanni Fuorcivitus (so called because it was outside the line of the earliest, pentagonal, enceinte of the middle ages), with one of the long sides elaborately adorned with small arcades in the Pisan style, in black and white marble, also with sculpture by Gruamons (1162) on the facade. Within is a beautiful group of the Visitation by Luca della Robbia. There is also a fine pulpit by Fra Guglielmo dell' Agnello of Pisa (1270). S. Bartolomeo in Pantano is an interesting basilica of 1167. San Francesco al Prato is a fine church of the end of the 13th century with interesting frescoes of the school of Giotto. San Domenico, a noble church, begun in 1294, contains the beautiful tomb of Filippo Lazari by Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino (1462-1468). In addition to its fine churches, Pistoia contains many noble palaces and public buildings. The Palazzo del Commune and the Palazzo Pretorio, once the residence of the podesta, are both fine specimens of 14th-century domestic architecture, in good preservation. The quadrangle of the latter contains many well-painted armorial bearings of the podestas. The Ospedale del Ceppo, built originally in the 13th century, but remodelled in the isth, is remarkable for the reliefs in enamelled and coloured terra-cotta with which its exterior is richly decorated. Besides various medallions, there is a frieze of figures in high relief extending along the whole front, over its open arcade. The reliefs consist of a series of groups representing the Seven Works of Mercy and other figures; these were executed by Giovanni Della Robbia between 1514 and 1525, and, though not equal to the best work of Luca and Andrea, are yet very fine in conception and modelling, and extremely rich in their general decorative effect. The last on the right was added in 1585 by Paladini.
The industries of Pistoia include iron and steel works, especially manufactures of glass, silk, macaroni, woollens, olive oil, ropes, paper, vehicles and fire-arms. The word "pistol" is derived (apparently through pistolese, a dagger dagger and pistol being both small arms) from Pistoia, where that weapon was largely manufactured in the middle ages.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)