This is an architectural work of national, European and, indeed, world importance. Accessed from the via del Capitano across the Piazza del Duomo, the Duomo dominates the esplanade. Its high black and white walls the colours of the city and rich fa็ade can be overlooked when a visitor loses themselves in the presence of the building as a whole.
The Duomo, View from the Torre del Mangia
The cathedral took the place of an older building, a Roman castrum or camp. This was transformed in the high Middle Ages into a bishop's residence with a small chapel. The first part of the Duomo, now gone, dated to the end of the twelfth century. Tradition has it that the consecration occurred on November 18, 1179, but the main work and transformation happened at the beginning of the thirteenth century under the architectural genius of Nicola Pisano. He began work after 1215 and left control of the site to his son, Giovanni Pisano, when he died. The genius of these architect-sculptors produced the cupola, completed in 1263, covered with sheets of lead and topped by an 'apple', a sphere of gilded copper the current lantern is a 1667 reproduction the campanile, based on a previous bell tower, and the splendid fa็ade, divided by three doors.
Nicola e Giovanni Pisano, Dome
In spite of criticism of apparent stylistic disharmony caused by the extended period of construction its splendour is undeniable.
Nicola e Giovanni Pisano, Campanile The Bell Tower
Campanile The Bell Tower, access ladders to the belfry
The elegant marble statues of Santi, Profeti e Sibille Saints, Prophets and Sybils woven into the design of the fa็ade are by Giovanni Pisano.
The Duomo, Decoration of the Façade
The scroll columns which support the architrave of the main doorway are also by the same hand, though these are copies.
Giovanni Pisano, The Evangelists
The originals were taken to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in the nineteenth century for conservation. In line with other determined restorations of that period this gave the fa็ade a brighter look.
The Duomo, Façade
The architrave is however original, sculpted by Tino da Camaino at the end of the thirteenth century. The bottom part of the central rose-window is fourteenth century, finished by Giovanni di Cecco together with the three spires after interruptions to construction. The mosaics by Alessandro Franchi and Luigi Mussini (1877) showing the Incoronazione della Madonna, Nativitเ and La presentazione di Ges๙ al Tempio Crowning of the Virgin Mary, Nativity and The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple are, sadly, rather mediocre. The busti di Beati Busts of the Blessed on pediments above the three doorways are seventeenth century and by Tommaso Redi. The courtyard of the church was once richly decorated in marble, a foretaste of the famous interior. Unfortunately this marble has now been replaced with a modern copy.
Spedale Santa Maria della Scala
This was built in the Middle Ages as a hospital for pilgrims and children and is now a museum of culture. An institution fundamental to the administrative stability of the medieval as well as the modern city, the hospital was established in the fourteenth century and decorated by some of the most important artists available.
Santa Maria della Scala, Façade
This enormous building, of around 350,000 cubic metres, was recently carefully restored, revealing many artistic treasures. Through the entrance on the Piazza del Duomo the Cappella del Manto is shows a lovely fresco by Domenico Beccafumi and the Passeggio, an imposing hallway. The core part of the Hospital is the Pellegrinaio the Pilgrim's Hall which occupies most of the length of the building. Its decoration shows the skill of Domenico di Bartolo, Lorenzo Vecchietta, and Priamo della Quercia. The sagrestia vecchia the old sacristy contains a radiant series of frescoes by Vecchietta. Underground the Hospital extends into the Magazzini delle Corticella<, an extensive area once used as a depository and now an exhibition space. Below this are rooms known as labirinti labyrinths because of their complex layout. These rooms now house Siena's Museo archeologico and exhibit many locally discovered antiquities.
Next to the Hospital is the church of the Santissima Annunziata. A thirteenth century building later enlarged, it is home to a spiritual Cristo portacroce Christ carrying the cross in bronze by Vecchietta and an enormous fresco depicting the Probatica piscine by Sebastiano Conca.
To the left of the church is the stately early eighteenth century Palazzo della curia Arcivescovile<, with its early neo-gothic features, and the Palazzo Reale, once a home of the Medici after the Florentine conquest of Siena. Today it is a municipal headquarters decorated with arazzi cinquecenteschi sixteenth century tapestries by Allori.
The new Duomo, Façade
To the right of the Duomo and the impressive, melancholy remains of the uncompleted church, is the entrance to the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana and the Battistero.
It is impossible not to be amazed by the austere grandeur of the interior, emphasised by the black and white striped marble pillars. These stripes also used on the fa็ade punctuate the structure, combining the three aisles which make up the body of the cathedral to the transept, apse and side buildings.
The Duomo, View of the dome from an aisle
To appreciate the first masterpiece of the Duomo a visitor need only look down and walk the path restorers have recently uncovered. The marble floor of the nave with coloured and etched figures is the work of several hands and different periods, like the fa็ade. The panels which cover the floor are from between 1373 and 1547. The passage of feet over centuries caused substantial damage to the figures which have been frequently repaired. Despite this, all the panels are restored and visible. Starting from the west end of the central aisle are Giovanni di Stefano's Ermete Trimegist Hermes Trimegistus, La Lupa senese The Sienese She-Wolf by an unknown fourteenth century artist L'Aquila imperiale The Imperial Eagle, again by an unknown artist, and Il colle della Virt๙ The Hill of Virtue a stunning work of 1505 by Bernardino da Betto, known as ''il Pinturicchio''.
Leopoldo Maccari, Sienese She-Wolf - inlaid marble mosaic floor
In this the Sages, led by Fortune, can be make out arriving on an island and climbing the hill topped by one of the Virtues, a beautiful woman accompanied by Socrates and Cratetes. Last is a Ruota della Fortuna e del Potere The Wheel of Fortune and Power attributed to Domenico di Niccol๒. The north and south aisles are decorated by a series of Sibelle based on drawings by Cozzarelli, Matteo di Giovanni, Benvenuto di Giovanni, and Urbano da Cortona. Many have suffered not only the ravages of time but also poor restoration.
Happily, the scenes in the marble floor below the dome, transept and apse have each been well conserved. These show different hands and decorative philosophies.
Alessandro Franchi, Elia abducted in Heaven - inlaid marble mosaic floor
The thirteen scenes below the dome are by Domenico Beccafumi and his pupil Giovan Battista Sozzini, designed in a style which now seems almost mannerist. The scenes under the transept are in part by Beccafumi but mostly by unknown fourteenth century Sienese artists these have a distinctly Humanist stamp. Amongst them is La strage degli Innocenti Massacre of the Innocents by di Giovanni.
In the nave the acquasantiere holy water stoups by Federighi (1466) adopt pagan-christian symbols typical of the Renaissance and of this building in particular. This symbolism can also be seen in Pinturicchio's Il colle della Virt๙ on the on the marble floor.
The Duomo, Nave
The rose window is a sixteenth century work by Pastorino Pastorini depicting l'Ultima cena The Last Supper. The bas-reliefs of Storie di S. Ansan Episodes from the Life of Saint Ansan on the architrave are of uncertain origin, while the lovely Storie di Maria Episodes from the Life of the Virgin on the facing loggia are by Urbano da Cortona.
The Duomo, Access to the Campanile Bell Tower
The nave opens under the beautiful asymmetric dome. This is supported by six columns, at the top of which are statues in gilded stucco of the patron saints of Siena including Saint Catherine and Saint Bernadino. Niches transform the drum of the dome from a hexagon into a dodecagon. Forty-two small columns form a closed gallery on one side with Profeti e Patriarchi Prophets and Patriarchs painted in monochrome. Decorating the dome are sculptures of human and animal heads attributed to Nicola Pisano.
Cappella del Voto
In the right transept la Cappella del Voto the Chapel of the Vows displays the Madonna col Bambino by the Guido di Siena school. This is an image much-loved in a city immersed in the cult of the Virgin, especially during the Middle Ages. Around this Byzantine icon the splendid baroque chapel was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII. Lorenzo Bernini finished the work in 1660. The two sculptures at the entrance to the chapel are typically Bernini's and display his incredible craftsmanship: La Maddalena is pure Baroque virtuosity and, next to her, San Girolamo. The chapel is a rotunda with eight columns of antique green marble. These, it is said, were brought from the church of San Giovanni in Laterano. Next to the icon, in a showcase with two gilt angels and topped with two putti and the Papal coat of arms, are marble statues of San Bernardino e Santa Caterina by Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi. At the door is a masterpiece by Mattia Preti, the Cavaliere calabro, La predica di San Bernardino The Calabrese Knight, Saint Bernadino's Sermon (1670) a work whose figures are placed in an intensity of light and shade.
Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Il Vecchietta, ciborium
At the centre of the transept is the richly decorated Altar maggiore by Baldassarre Peruzzi (1532). This altar, in bronze and marble, has a sombre geometry softened by the lines of Vecchietta's bronze tabernacle at its centre. This was installed by the autocrat Pandolfo Petrucci in 1506, replacing Duccio's Maestเ which no longer suited the classicism of the age. The top pair of Angeli in bronzo< are the work of Giovanni di Stefano while the bottom pair are by Francesco di Giorgio. The Angeli< on the columns closest to the presbytery, eight in total, are masterpieces by Beccafumi. The apse is a late (1525) reworking by Peruzzi, opening on to a niche which between 1535 and 1544 held the Ascensione di Ges๙ e Madonna e apostolic Ascension of Jesus, the Madonna and the Apostles by Beccafumi. Unfortunately this suffered serious damage in later repair work. The paintings on the sides of the apse are biblical scenes and depictions of the Sienese saints and blessed by Ventura Salimbeni (1608-1611).
One of the key masterpieces is the great central stained-glass window in the apse an important example of Italian stained glass.
The Duomo, Seat in the Presbytery
It is said that the work was done in the form of cartoons by Duccio in 1288 and brought here after completion in 1365. It is divided into nine areas: il Seppellimento di Maria e L'Assunzione< the Burial and Assumption of Mary i quattro Evangelisti The Four Evangelists; Santi Patroni Ansano, Savino, Crescenzio e Bartolomeo Patron Saints Ansan, Savino, Crescenzio and Bartholomew.
Fra' Giovanni da Verona, Choir stall decorated with inlaid panels
The window risks putting the splendid fourteenth century wooden choir in the shade, despite its intricately carved wooden stalls and splendid lectern designed by Riccio and made by Domenico Cafaggi and Benedetto di Giovanni. Next to the choir is a sacristy with fifteenth century altars and a series of frescoes showing scenes from the life of the Virgin attributed to Benedetto di Bindo and finished around 1410. On the wall at the entrance remain fragments of frescoes attributed to Domenico di Bartolo and an elegant tabernacle.
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and others, Pulpit
The imposing pulpito del Duomo was created by Nicola Pisano and his workshop between 1265 and 1269. Although generally attributed to Giovanni Pisano recent research has established this as Nicola's. Its fame and beauty brings it close to the other great Tuscan pulpits at Pisa and Pistoia, also by Pisano.
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and others, Pulpit
The structure was inspired by the pulpit of the Baptistry of Pisa. This has seven columns of which three have column-bearing lions, trefoil arches with sculpted plumes and statues in full relief above the capitals. The column-bearing lions hold up the structure which was rebuilt several times, and given this final layout after a plan by Riccio (1543) who placed the lions on a platform and redesigned the steps. The pulpito has significant innovations, both architectural and sculptural. The sculpted panel structure was abandoned in favour of an ornate design, teeming with animal and human figures, interrupted only by larger sculpted figures at the corners, with no columns or frames.
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and others, Journey and Adoration of the Magi
The base is octagonal rather than hexagonal and for this reason a Strage degli Innocenti was added, while the Giudizio Universale a Last Judgement was extended over two panels with a central Cristo giudice Christ in Judgement.
The pulpito is decorated with further scenes.
Nativitเ; Adorazione dei Magi Adoration of the Magi;Presentazione al tempio; Crocefissione.
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and others, Crucifixion
The scenes are detailed, with figures on four or five levels, in a rhythm of animated gestures and dramatic expressions. The whole pulpito is unified by the attitudes of the characters. In perfect order, they direct the panels and the spectator's reading of them by a careful positioning of heads.
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and others, Last Judgment of the Blessed
Cappella di San Giovanni Battista
Beyond the pulpit is the splendid cappella di San Giovanni Battista. This contains a relic of the saint's arm and one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance sculpture Donatello's Giovanni Battista.
Donatello, John the Baptist
This famous bronze by the Florentine master dates to 1457. The realistic rendering of the saint's face and emaciated flesh is remarkable, with its play of light and shade heightened by the robes of the Baptist. The result defies classical composure exploring an extraordinarily moving pathos. The chapel is decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio a foretaste of the splendid pictorial cycle which finishes in the nearby Libreria Piccolomini. Here are eight panels in pure Renaissance style: Ritratto di Giovane cavaliere in paesaggio marino Portrait of a Young Horseman in a Seascape; Nativitเ del Battista Birth of the Baptist; Decollazione del Battista Beheading of the Baptist; Ritratto dell'Aringhieri Portrait of Aringhieri; il Battista nel deserto The Baptist in the Desert; Battesimo di Ges๙ The Baptism of Jesus; Battista visitato in carcere dai discepoli The Baptist visited in Prison by the Disciples and Predica del Battista the Sermon of the Baptist.
Outside the chapel, past the bronze Lastra tombale, < completed by Tino Camaino in 1317.
Tino di Camaino, Cardinal Riccardo Petroni's funeral monument
This is a fine example of sepulchral monumentality, striking in its austerity and intensity.
Lorenzo di Mariano, Entrance to the Piccolomini Library
After the chapel is the entrance to the splendid Libreria Piccolomini. Commissioned in 1492 by Cardinal Archbishop Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini of Siena later Pope Pius III to house the library assembled by his uncle Pope Pius II. Several rooms in the old presbytery were amalgamated, with an entrance from the Duomo's north aisle. A large fresco showing L'incoronazione di Pio III -
After the death of Pius III (1503) the walls and ceiling were magnificently frescoed by Pinturicchio, between 1505 and 1507, showing ten scenes from the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pope Pius II. The images are spread over three of the four walls the wall with the window was not included and should be read from right to left in line with the movement of the sun.
Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, Enea Silvio Piccolomini leaves for the Council of Basle. The storm scene in the background is a first in western art
The first four scenes show the young Enea in the service of the Council of Basel and are followed by two of his role as intermediary between the Pope and the Emperor.
Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, Enea Silvio Piccolomini crowned court poet by the Emperor Frederick III
Finishing the series are images of key moments in his pontificate, from his election as Pope to his arrival in Ancona, the city where he died on the eve of a crusade.
Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, bishop of Siena, presents his bride-to-be Eleanora of Aragon to the Emperor Frederick III at the Porta Camollia in Siena
The ceiling shows mythological scenes and next to grotesque vegetation are allegorical figures who stress the overall theme of the alternation between Life and Death.
The recently restored marble group of the Tre Grazie the Three Graces at the centre originally came from Rome, the gift of Cardinal Todeschini. However, along with Pinturicchio's frescoes, the most admired and most precious objects are the antifonari the psalters conserved under glass. The wonderful miniatures which decorate many of their pages are part of the history of Italian miniaturism. The glorious pages by Girolamo da Cremona and Liberale da Verona repay as much time and patience as any visitor can possibly have.
Close to the cappella di San Giovanni Battista is another masterpiece provided by the largesse of the Piccolomini family, the Altare marmoreo < marble altar commissioned by Francesco Piccolomini in 1481.
The work was done by Andrea Bregno of the Lombard school whose skill gives the figures an extraordinary richness. The premature death of Bregno led Cardinal Piccolomini to ask for help, first from Pietro Torreggiani who completed only a S. Francesco, then from Michelangelo who completed a S. Pietro<, a S. Pio, and a S. Gregorio between 1503 and 1504. While these are minor works by the great artist, it is easy to recognise Buonarotti's genius especially in the first two figures. The statues were not finished however, leaving two niches empty, one still visible above on the right, the other filled later by a graceful Madonna col Figlio Madonna with Infant Jesus attributed to Jacopo della Quercia. This altar is a splendid example of composite creation involving many Italian Renaissance artists.
Towards the exit, in the south aisle, is L'adorazione dei Magi the Adoration of the Magi a sixteenth century painting by Pietro Sorri.
Through the gothic door of the ambitious enlargement of the Duomo planned in 1339 and ended by plague, can be seen the closed arches from which was created the church of San Giovanni Battista (1325). This was built as a criptica a crypt and performed the dual function of a baptistry.
Jacopoo della Quercia, Portal
Jacopo della Quercia, Portal - detail
Up a staircase above which the magnificent Porta laterale del Duomo Nuovo< stands out, with Giovanni d'Agostino's Ges๙ Benedicente fra due angeli Jesus blessing between two angels a copy of an original now in the Crypt of the Duomo the Piazza di San Giovanni is reached. On to this faces the gothic facade of the Baptistry, constructed almost contemporaneously with the Duomo in about 1380.
The Bapistry, Portal
The upper part is incomplete, in pure Sienese gothic, with three splayed portals topped by a series of arches. The sculptural decoration on the pillars shows the influence of Nicola Pisano, while that in the three upper areas appears to be the work of Giovanni di Agostino and his brother Domenico. The heads below the end cornice are remarkable.
The body of the Baptistry itself was built between 1316-1325 and its design is probably that of Caimano di Crescentino. In the courtyard are three scenes in etched marble intarsia: Nascita di un bambino Birth of a child; Battesimo Baptism - and Benedizione Blessing.
Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Il Vecchietta, The Articles of Apostles Creed
The interior is divided into three aisles, with frescoed vaults. Those frescos that stand out are by Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Vecchietta. These show Profeti e Sibille, gli Apostoli< e le veritเ del Credo cattolic Prophets and Sybils, the Apostles and the Truth of the Catholic Creed. Painted between 1447 and 1450 there are in a gothic style. Vecchietta's work continues in the arch of the apse. His Assunzione della Vergine Assumption of the Virgin in the abutments with portraits of saints. In the lower part of the apse is the Annunciazione, Flagellazione di Cristo e Andata al Calvario Annunciation, Flagellation of Christ and the Road to Calvary.
Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Il Vecchietta, The Articles of Apostles' Creed
The span of the gothic vaulted ceiling nearest the entrance and the segments of the conches are the work of minor artists of Bolognese origin such as Agostino di Marsiglio and Michele di Matteo Lambertini. The moving Lavanda dei piedi < Washing of the Feet (1489) on the bottom lunette of the south aisle is by Piero di Francesco degli Orioli, a pupil of Matteo di Giovanni.
The main attraction however, is the Fonte battesimale the font (1417) by Jacopo della Quercia. This is a masterpiece of Tuscan Renaissance sculpture.
Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and others, Baptismal Font
Della Quercia sculpted a hexagonal temple, topped with the graceful figure of the Baptist. The Madonna con il Bambino is the work of the Sienese Giovanni di Turino.
Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and others, Baptismal Font
Under the basin are six bronze panels of arresting quality, narrating the story of the Baptist and completed by the Florentine masters Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello. Ghiberti worked on the panels depicting the Battesimo di Ges๙< with its portrait of the solitary Jesus, and the cattura di S. Giovanni Battista the Capture of Saint John the Baptist. Donatello, in 1427, left us a splendid example of newer Renaissance art in a panel showing the Banchetto di Erode Herod's Banquet using his personal bas-relief technique known as 'schiacciato' or squashed. This multiplied the planes of perspective. The decapitated head of the Baptist is striking, at the centre of a vortex of figures in perfect equilibrium.
Before entering the Duomo it is worth examining the strange wall perforated with double mullioned windows along the side of the cathedral. This is all that remains of one of the most ambitious attempts in Italian Christian architecture. The construction of the current Duomo had just been completed when the Sienese launched into an ''insane project'', as Enzo Carli calls it.
The new Duomo, Façade
In a 1339 resolution by the General Council of Campana, while at the peak of cultural and economic wealth, the city decided to build a bigger cathedral. In this plan, the current building would have become just one transept of a Latin cross. Had it been completed, this would have become the largest Christian church. First under the direction of Lando di Piero, then under Giovanni d'Agostino, the project was taken on with such fervour that in a few years one wall of the central three aisles was completed. This is what is visible today. However, the project collapsed on the arrival of the Peste Nera the Black Death in 1348. The plague decimated buyers, designers and, most importantly, the artisans and workers.
Jacopoo della Quercia, Portal
Jacopo della Quercia, Portal - detail
The work finally stopped in 1357 leaving a fascinating idea of the unbuilt cathedral: the columns of the three aisles now in the Piazza Jacopo della Quercia the side walls, the remains of the fa็ade and a doorway leading to the Baptistry.