About Siena Cathedral

Siena Cathedral is a Gothic wonder decorated with mosaics, sculptures, marble and frescos. It is also known as Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption and holds an inestimable cultural and artistic value. The cathedral features art pieces from the greatest artists of the early Renaissance and Gothic periods, including Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio. It is a true jewel of Italian art and offers profound insight into the cultural and religious traditions of the city. The most spectacular feature of this cathedral is its library which houses a series of immaculately preserved sixteenth-century frescoes by Pinturicchio. Other highlights include stunning marble floors, a bell tower, sculptures by Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini and a stained-glass window.

The internal structure is dominated by white and black, referring to the Siena coat of arms colors. The Siena Cathedral mosaic floor is considered the master work of the Cathedral and it took nearly six centuries to complete it.

Floor Plan of Siena Cathedral

Floor Plan of Siena Cathedral

Cumaean Sibyl - Giovanni di Stefano

Stories of Ahab and Elijah - Alessandro Franchi and Domenico Beccafumi

She-wolf nursing Remus and Romulus - Leopoldo Maccari

Stories of Moses- Domenico Beccafumi

Moses makes water gush from a huge rock - Domenico Beccafumi

Massacre of the Innocent - Matteo di Giovanni

Allegory of the Mt of Sapienza – Pinturicchio

Sybil Ellespontica - Neroccio di Bartolomeo

Hermes Trismegistus - Giovanni di Stefano

Siena Cathedral Floors

The inlaid marble mosaic floor of Siena Cathedral is a masterpiece that has been forged over the centuries. The floor consists of fifty six panels in rectangular or hexagons or rhombuses shape. These panels create a unique interlocking marble carpet that extends throughout the nave and apse of the cathedral. The most famous panel of the Siena Cathedral floor is Massacre of the Innocents by Matteo di Giovanni located near the pulpit. The mosaic floor tells mythological and biblical stories and represents the sibyls, allegories, virtues and scenes from the Old Testament. Siena Cathedral floor is usually covered for two-thirds of the year with special cloths to protect it from wear and tear and is revealed on August 18 every year until late October.

Aisles
Aisles

At the entry pathway to the central nave, you’ll find a beautiful inscription that invites you to adopt an attitude appropriate to enter the sacred temple: ”Remember to enter into the chaste temple of the Virgin chastely”. After that you can see the first marble inlay that was made in 1488 by Giovanni di Stefano and depicts Hermes Trismegistus, who was the founder of human wisdom. The side aisles are part of an iconographical pathway entirely based on Lactantius’ Divinae Institutiones, a fourth century Christian writer. The three aisles on the Siena Cathedral mosaic floor depict episodes and people from Greco-Roman culture that foreshadowed the coming of Saviour. According to the Varronian scheme, there are ten Sibyls that derive their name from the geographical places: the Persian Sibyl, the Eritrea, the Ellespontica, the Phrygia, the Delphic, the Samia, Libya for Africa the western ones, the Cumea, the Tiburtina and the Cumana.

Transept and choir
Transept and choir

As you enter the three naves you'll see that the pathway winds through wonderful themes related to pagan and classical antiquity. The choir and the transept depict the story of the Jewish people and the events of salvation achieved by the figure of Christ. Most of the subjects have been taken from the Old Testament, except for Matteo di Giovanni’s Massacre of the Innocents. Under the dome you’ll find a hexagon that depicts stories of Ahab and Elijah, Lord's prophet. Near the altar there are panels that depict wonderful stories about the sacrifice of Isaac and Moses.

FAQs

Why are the floors of Siena Cathedral so famous?

    Siena Cathedral Floor is a unique artwork full of allegories, hidden messages and scenes from the Old Testament. It has been forged over the centuries by some of the greatest Sienese artists like Domenico Beccafumi, Pinturicchio and Matteo di Giovanni.

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