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Designed and completed between 1215 and 1263, Siena Cathedral is a medieval church, dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church, and now dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The cathedral lies in a piazza above the Piazza del Campo, a great Gothic building filled with treasures by Pisano, Donatello and Michelangelo as well as frescoes by Pinturicchio.
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The cathedral's building took more than two hundred years to build. It was supposed to be enlarged in 1339, but the work stopped with the arrival of the plague that killed off much of the population. You can still see the unfinished nave (called “facciatone”) and today visitors can climb it to get an amazing view point of the church and its surroundings. There are other things to do at Siena Cathedral when you're visiting. The cathedral is equally stunning inside and out, featuring the work of Italy's finest artists of the day: Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello, Pinturicchio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Bernini. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade. Black and white is the symbolic colors of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius. Here are the things to do at Siena Cathedral:
The first thing to do at Siena Cathedral is to admire its facade. Siena Cathedral has one of the most fascinating facades in all of Italy and certainly one of the most impressive features in Siena. On the facade there are 35 statues of prophets and patriarchs grouped around the Virgin. Giovanni Pisano started the decorations of the lower part of the facade, but in 1296 he left the city and his work was completed 100 years later by Giovanni di Cecco. The mosaics were added in the 19th century.
The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral. This undertaking went on from the 14th to the 16th centuries, and about forty artists made their contribution. The technique used to transpose the various artists' ideas onto the floor is known as graffito and mosaic marble inlay. Simple to begin with, the technique gradually achieved an astonishing degree of perfection. The floor consists of 56 panels in different sizes. Most have a rectangular shape, but the later ones in the transept are hexagons or rhombuses. They represent the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues.
Do not miss this one thing to do at Siena Cathedral. With one ticket to enter the cathedral, you can also visit the magnificent library. After being mesmerized by the amazing works of art in the church, take one piece at a time and head to the Piccolomini Library. The walls are divided into 10 scenes representing various important stages in the life of Pope Pius II. The ceiling itself offers another impressive view with its main rectangle and half voltas painted in blue, red and gold with grotesque designs.
Best Time to Visit
Every year, usually from August to the end of October, the amazing marble intarsia floor of Siena Cathedral is visible to the public. For the rest of the year, it's protected by carpets, with only a few select panels on display. You surely do not want to miss this occasion, so go to Siena Cathedral during this time. Early morning right before it opens is the best time to visit and buy tickets before it gets crowded with tourists.
Will I Need a Guide?
You won't need a guide inside the museum complex sites since there are staffs everywhere to help you with direction. Take your time to appreciate all the art works and spend 3-4 hours in the complex to make your visit worth the tickets.
How To Get There?
Siena Cathedral can't be reached by bus since it's located in the middle of narrow streets. There are a few bus stops near the cathedral if you take the bus no 590 or 645. From there, you need to walk for a few minutes to reach Siena Cathedral.