The Cathedral of Siena is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. The church was built in the 14th century and features works of art by famous masters such as Pinturicchio and Donatello. The inlaid floor is a highlight, but can usually only be partially viewed.
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral Siena
Address, opening hours and admission
The address of the Duomo di Siena is Piazza del Duomo 8 – 53100 Siena, Italy (tel. +39 0577286300). Opening hours: From 1 March to 31 October from 10:30 to 19:00 (Sundays and holidays from 13:30 to 18:00); from 1 November to – 28 February from ;10:30 to 17:30 (Sundays and holidays from 13:30 to 17:30). Admission: With the Opa Si Pass you have access to the Cathedral itself, the Libreria Piccolomini, the Museo dell’Opera and the view from the Facciatone, the Crypt and the Baptistery. From January 1 to October 31 the card costs 12 Euro, from December 26 to January 6 10 Euro and the rest of the year 8 Euro.
History and description
As early as the 9th century, there was a church on the site where the Duomo of Siena is now built. The construction of the current cathedral began in 1229. Between 1258 and 1285, construction was in the hands of the Cistersian monks of San Galgano, who put Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni to work. Ultimately, the church was only completed towards the end of the 14th century.
When the Republic of Siena was at the height of its power (early 14th century) it was felt that a larger cathedral was needed. Lando di Pietro was commissioned to build this new Duomo in 1339. A plague epidemic in 1348 and a succession of wars with various neighboring states meant that the construction of this Duomo Nuovo was never completed. At the end of the right side of the present church traces of the never finished new church can still be seen. It was supposed to have become an enormous structure, with the current cathedral serving as the transept of the new construction.
After this failure, work began on the original cathedral. In 1376, construction of the upper part of the facade was entrusted to Giovanni di Cecco. The dome as well as the bell tower, which is built on an older tower and has an octagonal spire, were already completed.
In 1382, the vaults of the central nave were raised and the reconstruction of the apse began.
The facade is characterized by colorful marble and a multitude of sculptures. The three entrance doors have Gothic tympanums. The entire lower part, including the statues of the prophets, philosophers and patriarchs was designed by Giovanni Pisano.
The upper part of the facade dates from the 14th century. The three spires are decorated with mosaics from the 18th century.
The right side is characterized by alternating stripes of light and dark marble. Here is the Porta del Perdono, topped by a relief attributed to Donatello depicting the “Madonna and Child”.
The buttresses are crowned by statues. These are not the 14th century originals, as they are kept in the San Giovanni Crypt.
Interior Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral Siena
The interior consists of three naves separated by pillars. The vaults are painted blue, with gold stars. The walls here are also covered with alternating white and black strips of marble.
The inlay work (intarsia) that adorns the floor uses largely the same black and white colors. There are a total of 56 images, the oldest of which, though made with a graffiti technique, date from about 1370. The latest additions date from 1547. Most of these decorations (35) were made by Domenico Beccafumi between 1517 and 1547. In total, contributions by some 40, mostly local, artists are on display. To protect the works of art, many of them are not always visible.
The cornice around the central nave and rectory is supported by busts of 172 popes. Below it another 36 busts of emperors can be seen (15th-16th centuries).
The two baptismal fonts at the beginning of the row of pillars were made by Antonio Federighi in 1462.
The dome is decorated with gilded statues of saints as well as patriarchs and prophets painted in the chiaroscuro style from the 15th century.
The Chigi Chapel is also called the Madonna del Voto Chapel and is located in the right transept. This circular chapel was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The statues of Magdalene and St. Jerome at the entrance to the chapel were also made by Bernini. The painting on the left wall (“The Visitation of Mary”) was the work of Carlo Maratta. On the other wall is a mosaic based on a painting by the same painter (“The Flight into Egypt”). The “Madonna del Voto” itself was painted by Diotisalvi di Speme around 1267 and has always been revered by the local population.
The presbytery is higher than the rest of the church. The main altar dates from 1532 and was made by Baldassarre Peruzzi. The bronze ciborium was made by Vecchietta between 1467 and 1472, but was preserved in the Santa Maria della Scala Church until 1506. The angels next to the main altar were made (except for the top two) by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The angel-shaped candlesticks on the pillars in the presbytery were made between 1548 and 1550 by Domenico Beccafumi. The wooden choir in the presbytery was made in the 14th century and enlarged two centuries later.
The fresco in the apse was also painted by Beccafumi, although it was tampered with in the 19th century. The round window above the apse was made by Duccio in 1228 and is probably the oldest stained glass window in Italy.
Pulpit Left Transept
The octagonal pulpit in the left transept was made between 1265 and 1269 by Nicola Pisani, although he needed help to make it. His son Giovanni, Arnolfo di Cambio, Donato and Lapo di Ricevuto, as well as several others, contributed. It is supported by nine columns, four of which rest on lions. The arches between these columns are decorated with statues of prophets and virtues. The central column is surrounded by eight figures personifying the arts. The balustrade consists of seven panels depicting events in the life of Christ, plus the Last Judgment. The panels are connected by statues of the prophets and the “Madonna and Child”.
Also in the left vestibule is the tomb of Cardinal Riccardo Petroni, made between 1317 and 1318 by Tino di Camaino and often used as a model for other tombs in the 14th century. The tombstone in front of this tomb covers the remains of Giovanni Pecci and was made by Donatello in 1426.
San Giovanni Battista Chapel
The Cappella di San Giovanni Battista dates from the Renaissance period and is characterized by a number of frescoes painted by Pinturicchio. The bronze statue depicting John the Baptist was made by Donatello in 1457.
The entrance to the Libreria Piccolomini is located in the left nave.