Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Italian Vacation: the Duomo in Siena

Today it’s all about the Siena Duomo, a cathedral that’s grand and beautiful, filled with works of art in all forms. Built in the mid-1200s it is Gothic in style with white and greenish-black marble stripes throughout. Originally, we’d thought that, due to the summer crowds, we would not even be able to go in, but the outside alone is awe-inspiring.

The grandeur is almost impossible to compare to anything we have in the United States. For as much as Americans think 'we're all that', we really have nothing to compare to this kind of scale and visual impact.

A closer in view of the front facade with more Gothic carving and sculpture than I can possibly describe.

This is the top portion of the facade close-in. This is a mosaic of the Coronation of the Virgin, made in the late 1800s.

The bell tower. And this may seem like a minor point, but I'm not using any filter on this photo. The sky is truly that deep and bright a blue.

The entire floor of the cathedral is marble mosaics, one of the largest inlaid mosaic floors in Italy. There are over 56 panels all told and because they are so delicate they are covered for a majority of the year. Below are just two that we were able to see.

This panel is of the She Wolf of Siena, showing Romulus and Remus and the confederate cities of Siena. It was made in 1373.

Pintoricchio's Allegory of the Mount of Wisdom- at the very top left is Socrates.

With so much beauty and history at your feet it can be hard to remember to look up, but when you do it is well worth it. Every inch of the Cathedral is exquisitely designed and decorated, often by masters of their times. 

The ceiling:

The entry vaulted ceiling, leading to the main altar and the dome. At the top of the arches are busts of 172 popes.

 The dome of the St. John the Baptist chapel is made of gilded stucco.

Close-up of the center of the dome and Bernini's golden lantern. The opening is surrounded by cherubim.

Works of art:

Saint John the Baptist by Donatello (sorry so blurry, the crowds made stopping for a photo difficult)

Saint Paul by Michelangelo

The high altar, by Peruzzi in 1532

Finally, my most favorite room (not surprisingly) in the Duomo-- the Piccolomini Library. This room is dedicated to cardinal Piccolomini, or as he is better known, Pope Pius II. 

There is a profusion of color and texture throughout the Duomo, but it pales in comparison to vibrance and beauty of this library. The ceiling alone is enough to overwhelm the eye. All of the work was done by Pinturicchio.

The saturation of each color is even more astonishing when you consider it was painted in 1502.

Close-up of one of the pendentives in the library.

The walls contain ten panels of frescoes showing various scenes from Pope Pius II's life. 

This is the Pope presenting bride-to-be Eleanora of Portugal to Emperor Frederick III

One of the most important frescoes in the library (according to me): the Canonization of St. Catherine of Siena. She is one of the three patron saints of Italy. I thought this might earn me more respect from my brothers, but sadly they are barbarians.

Just one of the many illustrated manuscript pages from the 1400s found in the library.

I know, that's a lot of photos, but honestly there is so much more I did not even capture. If I were going back to Tuscany I would plan a half-day exploration of the Duomo- with a guide, because so much is lost not knowing the language.

Next stop: Arezzo

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