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Santa Maria della Scala 

P.zza Duomo, 1
53100 Siena
Full euro 10,00
Reduced euro 8,00
Free to minors under 11 and disabled persons
Opening hours
Every day from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm

The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is one of the oldest "hospitals" in Europe. Established along the via Francigena, right in front of Siena's majestic Duomo, the complex today is an important and huge museum displaying important artworks.

Santa Maria della Scala was one of the first European examples of a place completely dedicated to offering lodging and shelter to pilgrims, as well as offering support to the poor and a home to abandoned children - so it was called hospital in the sense of hospitality! It had its own independent organization that was initially run by religious members of the Duomo and later by the Siena municipality. Thanks to generous donations from Sienese noble families, the hospital became an important institution for the city. It owned a lot of land and properties across the lands of Siena, known as grance, that for a long time represented a huge part of Sienese patrimony.

Santa Maria della Scala played an important role in the cultural scene of Siena. Many important artists worked here, such as Simone Martini, who frescoed the big cycle of the Stories of the Virgin (lost), Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti and later Sebastiano Conca.

Today, the complex of Santa Maria della Scala, some parts still under restoration, is one of the most important museums in Siena. The whole complex actually hosts several museums and splendid monumental areas. The museum is spread out over 4 floors, 3 of which are open to the public. When you enter from Piazza del Duomo you actually start on the 4th level and then head down. It hosts 7 main sections: the main section that used to be dedicated to hospitality and treatment, the original fountain Gaia by Jacopo della Quercia, the National Archeological Museum, the Flags from all of the Contrade (from the Stibbert Museum), Siena, a Story of the City (from its origins to the Middle Ages), the Treasures (relics and gold) and the Children's Art Museum. In addition, events, exhibits and congresses are often organized here.

The main section of Santa Maria della Scala is called the Pellegrinaio, or Pilgrim's Hall, and is on the first level we visit (actually the 4th floor of the building since it is built on a hill). The Pilgrim's Hall is a huge ward entirely decorated with an important cycle of frescoes depicting the hospital's history by Domenico di Bartolo, Lorenzo Vecchietta and Priamo della Quercia. At this same level, you'll find the 13th century Church of Santissima Annunziata, displaying a stunning bronze Risen Christ by Lorenzo Vecchietta, as well as the Old Sacristy, known as the Sacred Nail Chapel, the Palazzo Squarcialupi, the Chapel of the Madonna and the Chapel of the Mantel. The Children's Museum is also on this main level.

On the 3rd floor is the Corticella, a small courtyard where you'll also find the medieval hayloft that displays the original marble Fountain Gaia (of Joy) by Jacopo della Quercia (what you see in Piazza del Campo is a copy), as well as the Oratory of the Company of Saint Catherine of the Night and the historical headquarters of the Society of Executors of Pious Dispositions.

On the 1st level is the Archeological Museum whose collection is displayed along impressive tuff tunnels.

The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is a huge museum complex, a city within the city. We highly recommend a stop here to admire the many works of art and sections but most of all to experience a piece of Siena's long history.

Author: Lourdes Flores

I'm from California but have called Florence my home for over a decade. I love to explore Italy; it is a lot of fun to try to see everything like I'm seeing it for the first time, keeping you, our readers, always in mind. I enjoy sharing what I know and helping others as they make their travel plans for Tuscany through our Forum. If you have itinerary-related questions, please post them there!


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