Explore the Gothic Masterpiece of Siena Cathedral
What will you see on one of our tours of Tuscany? Siena’s stunning 13th –century cathedral is just one of the highlights. Explore it with our expert guides.
While many tours of Tuscany will grant you only a fleeting visit to the Tuscan city of Siena, whisking you round its many treasures before moving you on, we believe that it is a place to cherish, to take your time wandering around and exploring.
And nowhere is this more true than in the city’s stunning Gothic cathedral, the Cathedrale di Santa Maria or the Duomo. Arguably one of Italy’s finest gothic churches, building began as early as 1229 and was not completed until the 14th Century.
In fact, so proud were the local people of their cathedral that only 20 years after it was completed, the city decided to extend it massively – a project which had to be abandoned when it was discovered that the foundations were not strong enough for the weighty new structure.
A Stunning Exterior
Even from the outside Siena Cathedral is like nothing else you will have seen on your tours of Tuscany. With its striking black and white striped motif (said to represent the colours of the city), elaborate sculptures by Giovanni Pisano decorating its façade, and beautiful stained glass window, it was designed to impress – and it certainly does!
A Beautiful Interior
The black and white marble motif carries through into the interior creating a dazzling geometric pattern which seems to add both height and volume to the cathedral’s already massive pillars. The church is decorated with marble statues of popes and Roman Emperors and and the stunning rose-design stained glass window is a depiction of the Last Supper.
The Marble Floor
Yet, despite all this decoration and detail, it might surprise you that most people visiting Siena Cathedral are looking down. This is because the marble floor is one of its most decorative and beautiful elements.
Between the 14th and 16th Centuries, over 40 artists and craftsmen worked on the 56 marble panels. It is fascinating to see the different techniques employed by the artists over this long duration, from the early work when the designs were inscribed into the marble to the later work in which different coloured stones were inlaid together.
The Frescoes of the Piccolomini Library
Set off the left aisle of the cathedral, the Piccolomini Library was built by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini (who later became Pope Pius III) to commemorate his uncle Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who served as Pope Pius II. Although it was built to house some important 15th Century manuscripts, it is the beautiful frescoes which decorate the walls which enrapture visitors today. Painted by Pinturicchio and his school, they depict scenes from the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
As well as the breath-taking sculptures by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano which decorate both the cathedral’s exterior and interior, there are a range of other impressive artworks associated with the cathedral (some of which have been moved to the Museo del Duomo). Artworks that we will highlight include: Donatello’s Madonna and Child, Pietro Lorenzetti’s Birth of the Virgin and Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Maestà, which is one of the largest altarpieces ever painted.
ArtViva’s tours of Tuscany are led by specialist guides who understand that our guests want to take time to really look at these splendid works, to spend time drinking in the rich history and culture of cities like Siena and its beautiful cathedral. We want you to get the most out of your experience and discover all the fascinating facts and secrets contained in these awe-inspiring places.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group tours of Tuscany, from hiking and biking through the Tuscan countryside to unforgettable villa visits.