Monday, November 07, 2011

Siena Cathedral

The Cathedral of Siena, begun in the early 13th century and basically completed in 1263, is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady.

The façade was begun in 1284 and, after a break of almost 70 years, completed in the late 14th century.

The interior, first towards the façade, then towards the choir. Apart from the striking effect of the black and white marble stripes on the walls and columns, note the busts of all the popes from St Peter to Lucius III in the moulding beneath the clerestory.

Another view of the nave:

The cupola, completed in 1263 and decorated as seen today in the late 15th century:

The lantern of the cupola, barely visible in the picture before, was added by Bernini in 1666.

A feature for which Siena Cathedral is justly famous are the marble floors, which in different types of mosaics from the the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries cover the entire floor of the cathedral. Among the most beautiful are the works by Domenico Beccafumi below the cupola. Here is Elijah, going up to heaven in the fiery chariot (ecce currus igneus, et equi ignei diviserunt utrumque: et ascendit Elias per turbinem in cælum):

The pulpit, sculpted between 1265 and 1268 by Nicola Pisano:

The high altar and choir behind:

The Chigi chapel, commissioned in 1659 by pope Alexander VII Chigi, himself a Sienese, with the image of the Madonna del Voto, Protectress of Siena and still much venerated:

Adjoining the cathedral and accesible from it is the Piccolomini library, commissioned in 1492 by the archbishop of Siena, Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini, the future pope Pius III, to house the collection of his uncle, Siena's favourite son, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the later Pope Pius II. His life is told in wonderful frecoes by Pinturicchio, who decorated the entire library.

A last view of the cathedral:

Should you wonder about relics of St Catherine of Siena, the most important, her head, is not at the cathedral, but at the dominican church of San Domenico:

(All pictures were taken by myself.)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: