Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

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    • Day 17

      Siena Cathedral

      September 20, 2022 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

      Today was a bit of a slower day as we have seen most of Siena’s sites on our last visit. It was nice watching the sunrise over our stunning view from our apartment window before we headed out to to wander the streets of Siena.

      Even though we have visited before we did want to see Siena’s medieval cathedral again. We love the amazingly detailed facade. Completed between 1215 and 1263 it is 77 metres high and is striking against the blue sky. We explored the interior last time and with the queue quite long we decided to give it a miss this time. We still managed to snap a few more pics of the exterior - how could we not.
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    • Day 18

      Siena Cathedral: Views from the Dome

      April 17, 2023 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 59 °F

      Today was all about the Siena Cathedral. It dates from the early- to mid-1200s, and was built on the site of an earlier structure. We could see some of the older church when we visited the crypt.

      There are 56 marble mosaic floor panels, created by the leading artists of the period. One technique, called graffito, used a chisel and drill to draw designs on white marble slabs, and then filled in with black stucco—looking a bit like a line drawing. Another technique placed colored marble pieces together, which is known as marble mosaic inlay.

      The panels extend across the whole floor of the cathedral, but they keep much of it covered up (to protect it?). In fact, today was the first day that a good portion of it was unveiled, whereas yesterday, none of it was uncovered. It’s a beautiful place.

      Small groups are allowed to walk up into the attic, so to speak, and get a view of the cathedral from above—under the large dome. The walk also took us outside to get views of the cathedral and the surrounding countryside from above—spectacular!
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    • Day 20

      Siena Explored

      September 8, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

      We finally got to Siena late last evening (in the midst of a thunderstorm) having been collected at Florence railway station by their pick-up service. Hotel Executive was not quite what we expected of a “Luxury Escape” it is ok and reasonable for what we paid but nothing exceptional or a "wow deal". The Superior Room with Balcony is pretty standard and actually has a weed infested patio (as it is on the ground floor) with a view of the car park. We were advised that it was “recommended” that we not come for dinner until 8pm as there was a “big group staying”. When we presented the staff were distracted, there was one thing on the menu I could eat (promises to be a tad monotonous by day 5!!!) and the bread was stale – at least there were 2 complimentary wines pp with dinner!
      Things didn’t seem much brighter this morning with reception staff being generally unhelpful and a chat over breakfast with a couple from NZ confirming our doubts as to the “Luxury” aspect of this “Escape” – Non che male (not that bad) might be closer to the truth.
      Armed with what turned out to be very dodgy directions from the not helpful reception staff we headed out towards the town. Siena is a very hill place and so we were going downhill to start with. At the bottom of the hill we found a CO-OP supermarket (I do like exploring supermarkets when overseas and this was, as always, an interesting experience) and purchased a few necessities. After that we decided to find the station as the hotel staff had said we needed to go that way to the town anyway. After some faffing about we did locate the station (actually several floors underground with no real signage). We ended and found that one passes the platform access then comes up in a shopping center on the other side. From then it is about a 20 floor climb via stairs or escalators up to the town, but it is inside this strange tunnel – it was odd but at the end of it we emerged on the street way up the hill above the station.
      We walked down through the old town towards the “Campo” (square). Siena is clearly a tourist town and the closer we came to the square the higher the prices became – we have worked out a “Gelato index” a single Gelato cone should not be more than 1,50 Euro – at the edge of Siena they were 1,80 near the campo they peaked at 6,50!!! In the square we tried to follow the directions of the hotel staff to find out where we activated our complimentary museum pass – not the square it turned out but rather the Cathedral (similar I guess and only about 1km apart… do you sense some sarcasm there?) It was almost 1pm by this time so we sat in the Campo to eat the lunch composed of items liberated from the breakfast buffet. The Campo is massive and is a sloping piazza that has been the heart and soul of the social and civic life of Siena since the middle of the 12 century. The site was earlier a Roman and is now considered one of the most important medieval squares in all of Europe. It is also the venue for the Palio, a famous horse race and festival that is conducted at the Piazza del Campo twice a year.
      After some food and some people watching we headed up to the Duomo to activate our museum pass. This was part of our accommodation package and we were not surprised to find that we had the “cheapest” one with more exclusions that inclusions – 5 museums only (not the good ones and no audio guides!!) Anyway – it is what it is! We Started off with a visit to the Cathedral which was designed and constructed between 1215 and 1263. It was designed by Nicola Pisano, a master in the Gothic style; with a striking black and white striped campanile in the Romanesque style. The cathedral is very elaborate with lots of different colour marbel and we were also able to visit the Libreria Piccolomini, with its Romanesque frescoes showing the life of Pope Pius II and 30 beautiful Renaissance choir books.
      Next stop was the crypt of the cathedral – although the name would suggest that it was used for burials this was never the case – it was kind of an entry area to the cathedral and lined with frescos, however in the 14th Century it was filled with debries during an expansion of the cathedral and abandoned – it was rediscovered in 1999 during restoration works – we viewed the frescos and an installation relating the items saved from the recent earthquakes. Next stop was the battistero or bastistry – it is lined with 15th-century frescoes and centres around a hexagonal marble font by Jacopo della Quercia, decorated with bronze panels depicting the life of St John the Baptist by artists including Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello however as there were no explanations and we didn’t have the audio guide it was all a bit vague (although pretty)
      Our final stop was the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana which is part of the Cathedral complex and is one of the oldest private museums in Italy and was set up in 1869the best part of this visit was the bit when we got to climb so incredibly steep steps to the top for an amazing view of not just the Duomo but of Siena itself.
      Pretty much all “Churched out” we decided to head back to the hotel, we wandered via the Campo (much emptier) and some lovely back lanes away from the tourist crowd – we finally got back to the hotel at about 7pm – however mindful of the … don’t come to dinner until 8pm “suggestion” we pottered around in the room and then made some “homemade spritz” before venturing to the restaurant at the prescribed time!
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    • Day 29

      Cripta del Duomo di Siena, Siena

      September 27, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

      We made our way to the Piazza del Duomo, the square in front of the Siena Cathedral. While this is nothing like the Piazza del Campo, it is a lot smaller, it is the central point for many of the main sites we next visited, the Duomo di Siena, the Libreria Piccolomini, the Facciatone, the Battistero di San Giovanni, and the Opera delle Metropolitana. The confusing thing was most of these places were actually all part of the Cathedral, but they all had separate entrances and were independent of each other.

      First place we visited was the Cripta del Duomo di Siena. Situated under the Duomo’s pulpit, this vaulted space was totally filled with debris in the late 1300s and was only excavated and restored in 1999. Originally functioning as a cathedral entrance and confessional, it was decorated with 180 square meters of richly coloured 13th century pintura a secco (dry or mural paintings) covering walls, columns, pilasters, capitals and corbels. Fortunately, these managed to survive their mistreatment.

      The Cripta is not exactly a crypt and was never used for burials. It is thought to have functions as a sort of porch with stairways leading directly up into the nave of the cathedral. Constructed at the same time as the Duomo, Siena’s citizens barely got a change to enjoy its frescoes before it was filled with debris and abandoned. Expansion work on the choir began in 1317 that required dismantling the crypt’s vault and the construction of the baptistery soon destroyed the façade. The crypt was subsequently used as a storeroom for construction materials and was closed up for good.

      It lay unseen for nearly 700 years until its re-discovery during routine excavations in the Duomo in 1999 and the room was opened to the public in 2003. It is amazing what has survived all these centuries and the colours of the murals are so vivid to this day. You can see where the new buildings were added with no thought or care to cutting through a mural, destroying the images. I guess it was just an everyday thing for them, no big deal, and yet to us, today, we are amazed and enthralled by the artistry.

      It is believed that there is another crypt in the cathedral, the original one, under the dome, but in places still inaccessible today due to the risk of static problems. You can just imagine how much is still buried and undiscovered today and possibly forever. The history, the sense of time, it is so hard to explain the feelings it evokes. It is pretty amazing.
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    • Day 29

      Duomo di Siena

      September 27, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

      Next up was into the amazingly beautiful, Gothic Duomo di Siena, a medieval church originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263. Built in the form of a Latin cross, the interior and exterior is constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes with the addition of red marble on the façade. It is a truly striking building! I could spend hours photographing and admiring the exterior of this building, let alone the interior. The statues and gargoyles that adorn the façade are so detailed and interesting, and the three large mosaics on the gables glisten in the sunshine. It really is a remarkable building.

      This is one of the Cathedrals that is just as elaborate on the inside as it is on the outside and there is so much that draws your eye. I just didn’t know where to look first.

      Usually I look up first but this time I just had to look down as the floors are the most impressive and beautiful of the treasures the cathedral holds. The floors are decorated with the art of mosaics, using various techniques, to create storytelling masterpieces. There are 56 etched and inlaid marble panels, designed by 40 of the leading artists between 1369 and 1547, all from Siena. Completion of the designs took six centuries, with the last ones finished in the 1800s. They are amazing and once again I am amazed at the intricacy of the work.

      The interior of the duomo is filled with amazing works of art created by famous Italian artists, and some of the works that once belonged in the Cathedral are now in museums and galleries in Siena and Florence. From the beautiful stained-glass windows, the marble high alters, the frescoes on the ceilings and the walls, the amazing candelabras, the rich and detailed paintings, the beautiful wooden choir stalls, there was so much to see and admire, and be in awe of. I think this is one of the most elaborate churches we have been in so far.
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    • Day 29

      Libreria Piccolomini, Siena

      September 27, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

      If we thought the Cathedral was a feast for the eyes, we could not comprehend the beauty of the adjoining Piccolomini Library. Housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, this room literally takes your breath away. The visual impact of these very colourful frescoes is stunning. The frescoes tell the story of the life of Siena’s favourite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who eventually became Pope Pius II. The ceiling is covered with painted panels of mythological subjects, executed between 1502 and 1503 by Pinturicchio and his assistants.

      Unlike the cathedral, there was only one statue standing in the middle of the library, The Three Graces, a Roman copy of a Greek original. The smooth marble of the beautiful statue is in stark contrast against the colourful backdrop of the frescoed walls. This room rivals the beauty of the Scrovegni Chapel and the workmanship, the rich glazed colours, the well-preserved manuscripts, there is so much beauty and so much to admire. This is a photographer’s paradise.
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    Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

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