In the homonymous square, perched on the highest and oldest part of the city, the extraordinary Sienese cathedral and its museum have guarded the secrets of Divine Beauty for centuries.
In the “Terzo di Città”, one of the three subdivisions that characterize the inner walls of Siena together with the Terzo di Cammolìa and the Terzo di San Martino, there is the most important monumental complex of the city.
The Cathedral of Siena is, in fact, one of the greatest Roman-Gothic masterpieces in Italy, known throughout the world for the magnificence of its architecture and the wealth of works of art it houses, from the sculptures of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, to the works of Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini and Duccio di Buoninsegna.
The most beautiful…largest and magnificent floor…that had ever been made.(Giorgio Vasari)
The foundation of the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which is the official name of the Cathedral of Siena, dates back to approximately 1220 when its construction began, probably on the remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva.
The works were completed more than a century later, giving life to one of the most famous symbols of the city. With its exterior in white and red Siena marble, richly decorated with leaves, busts, angels and gables, it is a mixture of Romanesque-Gothic style, in the lower part attributed to Giovanni Pisano, and Gothic, by Camaino da Crescentino.
Once you cross the threshold of the main entrance, you are projected into an extraordinary symbolic dimension emphasized by the vaulted architecture that distinguishes it. The cathedral is, in fact, full of complex codes that can be understood when, on the threshold, you are greeted by the image of Hermes Trismegistus, symbol of human knowledge, which emerges from the marble floor.
Together with him, 56 extraordinary inlays accompany the visitor on an ideal journey towards the light and the union with the divine which materializes, as the Gothic style of the time wanted, in front of the altar under the extraordinary starry dome which symbolizes the infinite.
Along the side aisles there are portraits of the 10 Sibyls, messengers of the Truth, which depict the Eastern and Greek world, Africa and the West, as well as the history of Siena. As you get closer to the altar, more and more extraordinary marble decorations are revealed which show scenes from the Testament and represent a unique work in terms of richness of content and the importance of the artists who collaborated between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Among them Pinturicchio, Bartolomeo de’ Mandi, Antonio Federighi, Urbano da Cortona and Domenico Beccafumi, who created 35 scenes bringing great innovation to the performance genre. Looking up, you find yourself surrounded by sculptural masterpieces and frescoes attributed to the major artists of the time which decorate every corner of the cathedral, creating a truly extraordinary ensemble, a hymn to beauty, art and the sublime.
Among marble altars, extraordinary baptismal fonts and frescoed chapels, such as the beautiful baroque chapel dedicated to the Madonna del Voto, much loved by the Sienese and surrounded by hundreds of silver ex-votos that pay homage to her grace, there is another room truly breathtaking.
The Piccolomini library was built in 1492 at the behest of the archbishop of Siena, Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, later Pope Pius III, to safeguard the extraordinary book heritage collected by his uncle Pope I and entirely frescoed by Pinturicchio at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Once you reach the altar, after having admired the starry vault that precedes it, inviting the observer to infinity, you find yourself in front of the choir above which was positioned the famous stained glass window by Duccio di Buoninsegna, the oldest one in Italy.
The polychrome work, created around 1287-1288, is today visible inside the Museum of the Opera, together with works of Pisano, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia as well as silk textiles, goldsmithery and rare illuminated manuscripts.
To complete this very special visit, it is a must to go up to the top floor of the museum, just 140 steps to reach a truly unmissable view of Piazza del Campo, the city of Siena and its countless beauties.
During his stay in Siena in 1880 Richard Wagner went to visit the Cathedral which, according to sources, inspired him to create the scenes of Parsifal.
Siena Opera della Metropolitana
Piazza Duomo 8
Tel. +39 0577 283048