From August 18 through October 24, the extraordinary pavement within the Duomo of Siena will be completely uncovered, considered one of the masterpieces of Italian Gothic
If you’re visiting Siena, one of the the “must-see” places you need to visit is the cathedral, or Duomo, of Siena. Many arrive to Piazza del Duomo and admire the rich decorations on the facade and the colors of the marble used to create this splendor and don’t usually go inside…why?
Maybe because of lack of time or maybe because you have to pay to go in, but let us assure you, the time and entry fee to see the inside the Duomo is definitely worth it and we’ll tell you why:
The Duomo’s PAVEMENT and the Piccolomini Library!
When you first enter into the cathedral, you’ll remain wide-eyed at the richness of the decor. While Siena comes after Florence in importance in the region, back in the Middle Ages it was far more important and rich. Siena was right along the Via Francigena, the major pilgrimage road between France and Rome and welcomed thousands of pilgrims in its “ospedale“, as in hospital in the sense of hospitality and not in the sense of a place where the sick go to get cured.
Its maximum artistic and architectural splendor goes back to this time, when the Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Pubblico and its tower and the Duomo were being built and expanded. This is the time of Duccio Buoninsegna and his Maestà being created for the Duomo.
In 1339, the city started construction of the expansion of the cathedral – that is the piece of wall you see to the right of the Duomo still standing today (in the first picture above). The Black Plague of 1348 changed everything but this is to give you an idea of the richness and influence Siena had in those days and which you can see in the inside of the Duomo even today.
Inside the Duomo
Returning to the main reason why you should enter the Duomo: its pavement. The entire floor of the church is decorated with depicted scenes from classic mythology and thoughts, while the parts toward the altar contain biblical stories such as the Massacre of the Innocents. Many of the scenes are cordoned off to protect them from stomping feet but still visible throughout the year – but the major ones under the dome and close to the altar are completely covered by sheets of Masonite where benches are usually placed.
The pavement is an incredible and complex iconographic work of art. Throughout the centuries various artists contributed to its creation, with Sassetta, Beccafumi, Pinturicchio being just some of the masters that drew up some of the 56 inlaid scenes.
The inlaid or intarsio were made with two techniques: some scenes were created by engraving/etching out part of the stone, then filling these parts with black plaster to create the figures and images while other scenes were made with the much more complex system of cutting out different pieces of colored marble to create puzzle pieces that fit together to create the subject.
Under the dome, the hexagonal area that is always covered reveals the inlays by Domenico Beccafumi dating back to the 15th century. These are particularly complex, done in the second technique mentioned above and visiting the Duomo during this period allows you to see these masterpieces not generally seen at all!
We’ve been to Siena several times and have yet to see the whole of the pavement uncovered – a great occasion we’re not going to miss, and if you’re in Tuscany soon, we highly recommend you don’t miss this extraordinary event!
Uncovered Pavement: August 18 – October 24
Weekdays: 10:30 – 19:30
Sundays: 9:30 – 18:00
Entry fee: adults € 6,00; reductions € 5,00
OPA SI pass (to visit the entire museum complex of the Duomo di Siena – very good deal!): € 12,00
Advance booking fee:€ 1,00 per person
– Visit the cathedral with a multimedia guide on a tablet
– Guided visit for small groups of visitors every day at: 11:00am – 12:00pm – 2:30pm – 3:30pm
For more information and to book your tickets, go to the official website for the Duomo of Siena: www.operaduomo.siena.it
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this blog and website, particularly offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum!