Cathedral of Siena
Prenota il Sangallo Park Hotel e scopri il centro di Siena
The Cathedral of Siena is one of the most remarkable examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic cathedral. According to tradition it replaced a church dedicated to Mary, built around the 9th century at the same place where there was a temple dedicated to Minerva. In 1058 a synod was held in the church: it led to the election of Pope Nicholas II and the deposition of the antipope Benedict X. In 1196, the construction of a new cathedral was assigned to the Builders' Corporation. The second phase of construction of Siena cathedral began in 1339. It would have more than doubled it in size, with the creation of a nave and two aisles completely new, built perpendicular to the aisle that already existed. The goal was to build a cathedral greater than the the rival Florence and of all Christendom, but the work was suspended a few years later because of the Black Death, the severe lack of funds and severe static errors. The plant has a Latin cross with a transept, dome and bell tower. Both the exterior and interior are striped in white and green/black marble, with the addition of red marble on the facade. White and black are the symbolic colours of the city and white and black were the horses of the legendary founders of Siena: Senio and Aschio, sons of Remus. The pictorial effect of the two-tone bands of marble on walls and columns meets the eye. The vaulted ceiling is painted blue with gold stars. The rose window of the choir dates back to 1288 and it was built according to the designs of Duccio di Boninsegna: it is one of the oldest Italian glass rose windows. The rose window of the facade dates from 1549 and depicts the Last Supper. As for the sculpture the greatest sculptors of all time have worked in the Cathedral of Siena: from Nicola Pisano, who created the pulpit (1265-1268), to his son Giovanni, author of the sculptures of the facade, to Donatello, who created the statue in the chapel of the Baptist, to Michelangelo who carved St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Pius and St. Augustine for the Piccolomini altar, to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who created the Mary Magdalene and St. Jerome in the Chapel of the Vote.
The floor of the Duomo
The floor was reported to be "the most beautiful, great and wonderful …as ever had been made" by Giorgio Vasari. Started in the fourteenth century, it was concluded in the nineteenth century. The cartoons for the fifty-six inlays were provided by major painters and sculptors including Pinturicchio, author of the inlay with the Colle della Sapienza (1505). Initially the marquetry "graffiti" were dashed on white marble slabs with grooves made with a chisel and a drill, and filled with black stucco. Later coloured marbles were added, as in a wooden inlays, called the "commesso marmoreo." Later the two techniques were combined, using both graffiti and commesso marmoreo. Domenico Beccafumi, Sienese Mannerist painter, active in the first half of the sixteenth century, improved this technique, obtaining the effects of chiaroscuro painting. For preservation purposes, the mosaic is covered for most of the year and only a few panels remain at sight. The entire floor is uncovered for 6 to 10 weeks each year, usually in September.
The Piccolomini Library is famous for its frescoes by Pinturicchio, probably based on drawings by Raphael. The visual impact of these frescoes is stunning, for the rich details and vibrant colours. They depict the life of Cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who commissioned the library in 1492 to preserve books and manuscripts. The ceiling is covered with panels of mythological subjects, painted in 1502-03 by Pinturicchio and his assistants. At the centre of the library is the famous statue of the Three Graces.
The room was recently discovered by accident, during investigations for the consolidation of the floor of the Dome, when near the pulpit by Nicola Pisano depression was discovered. The hall had to be probably the atrium of the old cathedral of Siena, built before the existing doom, as evidenced by the remains of three arches of the entrance where, in 1317 was incorporated into the apse of the new baptistery. On that date, the actual baptistery was built, after the destruction of the old one, and, at that same time, the church above was enlarged, then the volts of the atrium were sawn, rebuilt in brick to hold the new portion of the floor and the hall was filled with dirt and debris, until a few years ago. It's perfectly preserved, with the decorations of a medieval church as they originally were made, without alterations or destruction of the following ages. Corbels with acanthus leaves painted in brilliant green, an extraordinary classical Ionic column capital, colored with ocher, red and blue, which is based on a half-pillars completely covered with geometric decorations. The aesthetic effect of the environment is an explosion of vivid and dazzling colours, very different from the idea that people often have of gloomy and obscure medieval churches. The frescoes of the "Stories of Passion" have been beautifully preserved, with intact colours and gold sections. These paintings and this hall, arrived to us directly from the thirteenth century, were the school and the laboratory where Duccio di Boninsegna studied and was formed.
The parish church of San Giovanni Battista, flanked by the impressive staircase that rises to the so-called "new Cathedral of Siena" was built in the first half of the fourteenth century. It contains an extraordinary work of the early Renaissance, the famous fount of Baptism. The gilded bronze panels, with Stories of St. John the Baptist, have been designed by artists such as Jacopo della Quercia and Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello. In the Baptistery is also preserved the largest religious cycle of the Renaissance in Siena, depicting the articles of the Creed, a rather unusual theme in Italian painting.
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Within the right aisle of the New Cathedral you can find the Museo dell'Opera, one of the oldest private museums in Italy. It was founded in 1869 in the space obtained after closing the first three bays of the south aisle of the "New Cathedral, whose construction began in 1339, and was interrupted after the plague of 1348. In addition to exhibiting works of art from the cathedral, it collects chorals collection, furnishings and works of great value removed over the centuries from their original locations. There are marble statues depicting the extraordinary Sibills, prophets and philosophers of old ages, carved by Giovanni Pisano in his position as foreman (1285-1297), Behind the huge gate that divides the room, there are two beautiful she-wolfs originally placed on columns in the churchyard of the cathedral. The left one is attributed to the school of Giovanni Pisano, while the right one, much younger, has been carved in Siena in the second half of the seventeenth century. The great glass window made by Duccio between 1287 and 1288 was placed down the hall in 2004, unique among the artifacts in glass products in the Middle Ages. Duccio used an extraordinary technique, to compose the opera he composed fourteen large panels made from high quality glass, chosen in several colour ranges ranging from sapphire blue to ruby red, from golden yellow to emerald green. Among the numerous works of art stands out the magnificent altarpiece with Duccio's Majesty, absolute masterpiece of Italian painting of the early fourteenth century. The painting, created by the artist between 1308 and 1311, was visible from both sides and it's one of the largest artistic achievements of all time, considering that more than forty figures are represented in the front and almost eighty stories are presented in the the back, in the dais and in the crowns.