Saturday, August 31, 2013

Visit to the Duomo di Siena

For our second trip to Siena, we decided to take a tour the Duomo, so Simone bought us an all-inclusive ticket that got us into the duomo, the baptistery, the crypt, the museum, and allowed us to climb up to the terrace of the Facciatone (the unfinished facade to the "New Duomo", a huge project that was abandoned after plague hit the city).

Siena's duomo is gorgeous, and that's putting it mildly.  They started building it way back in 1196, it was consecrated in 1215, and the front facade was finished sometime between 1360 and 1370, although some additions were made over the ages.  The intricately carved marble and brilliant mosaics are absolutely stunning.  Both the exterior and interior boast the beautiful white and black/green marble in horizontal stripes.

A close-up view of the center mosaic

Upon entering the duomo, I was struck by the fact that I really didn't know where to look first!  The soaring gothic interior, rising up to the gorgeous dome?  The incredible mosaic floors?  The countless works of art?  It was actually a bit overwhelming!  

The inlaid marble mosaic floor is incredible.  When we were there, much of it was covered with rugs (probably to keep it safe from the millions of visitors walking around), but right now, between 18 August until 27 October, if you are in Siena, you can see the entire mosaic floor without any of the carpeting.  They uncover the floor each year around this time for a few weeks, so if you're thinking of taking a trip out there someday, keep that in mind!  These magnificent mosaics were laid beginning in 1372, a section (or panel) and a time.  The last panel was added in 1547.  There are 56 total panels on the floor, covering pretty much the entire floor of the duomo.  

The striped walls and pillars reaching up toward the gorgeous ceiling are spectacular.  The vaulted ceiling is blue with gold stars, emulating the heavens.  The large golden decorated dome takes its place in the center of the church, making it impossible to miss.

There is beauty absolutely everywhere you turn in this cathedral.  There are works by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello, among others.

The main altar

Looking toward the front entrance from in front
of the main altar

The pulpit

Part of the library room
After we toured the duomo, we headed over to the museum (no photos were permitted) and then climbed up to the Duomo Nuovo to view a gorgeous panorama of Siena and the countryside surrounding it.  The Duomo Nuovo (translated "new duomo"), was supposed to be a huge addition onto the cathedral.  Building started in 1339, but was halted in 1357 due to the devastating Black Plague.  What remains today is Facciatone (facade) and what was to be part of the nave, which is now where the museum is located, and a wall opposite which was used to build the Palazzo Reale.  

The views are stunning to say the least.

Looking down on the Piazza Jacopo della Quercia and the Duomo

Looking down toward the Piazza del Campo and the Torre di Mangia

Looking out over the countryside of Siena
The baptistry was next on our agenda.  Siena's baptistry was built between 1316 and 1325 by Camiano di Crescentino.  It's a rectangular building, located right next to the duomo.  Funny thing about the history of the baptistry, it was built in this location because back in 1317, it was decided to lengthen the choir of the cathedral.  The cathedral, however, was already built near the edge of a hill, so they needed to build something that would support the expanded choir from below.  So, they decided to build a new baptistry in order to do so.  

The baptismal font is absolutely exquisite.  It's made of marble, bronze and enamel and was created by several famous sculptors:  Donatello, Ghiberti, Giovanni di Turino, Neroccio, and Jacopo della Quercia.  

The ciborium in the center of the font

The hexagonal basin of the font with its bronze panels

 The ceilings are covered with beautiful, brightly-colored frescoes depicting Apostles, Articles of the Creed, and various biblical stories.  These were painted by Agostino di Marsiglio, Vecchietta (who also sculpted the ciborium that is placed on the high alter in the Duomo), Michele di Matteo Lambertini, Benvenuto di Giovanni, and Pietro degli Orioli.

On the wall to the left, there is a gorgeous i Brescianini painting titled "Battesimo di Cristo".

Above the side alter on the left, there is this statue of Christ that I got a kick out of.  To me, it appeared that he was there, just hanging out.

The main altar, located directly behind the baptismal font, is made of beautiful marble.  Above it is a fabulous painting by Alessandro Franchi, titled "il Battesimo di Gesu" (The Baptism of Jesus).  

After we left the baptistry, we stopped by the Oratories of San Bernadino.  We weren't allowed to take pictures there, or at the crypt where you can see the ancient frescoes that were a part of the original church that was on that site.  

Touring all of these sites took a few hours to complete.  I believe they say that the fastest you can possibly get through all of the sites that are on the Opa Si Pass (the multipass that we bought - only 12 euro!) would be around 2 hours.  We took our time though, and it took us quite a bit more time than that, but then we also stopped for a cold drink at one point, and took our time walking from site to site.  

If you visit Siena, this is a must-see.  There is so much to see - I could fill a book with the photos that I took (the ones I posted here are a tiny fraction of what I have)!  Really, though, photos are nice, but to see it with your own eyes is much, much better.  

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