• About

    The Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, is a Gothic church in Siena, located in Piazza San Domenico. The church contains the head-relic of Saint Catherine of Siena, placed in a splendid Renaissance chapel.

     

    SHORT HISTORY

    The Dominicans arrived in Siena in 1220, a year before the death of their founder, Dominic de Guzmán. In 1225, they received a piece of land on the Camporegio Hill, and built a church there between 1226 and 1265.

    In the 14th century, the complex was enlarged in Gothic style, and took its current appearance. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the church underwent numerous alterations in Baroque style, such as the reconstruction of the side altars.

    After the earthquake of 1798, the bell tower, already in ruins, was truncated to its present level, and equipped with the current crenellated crowning.

    The last intervention dates back to 1941, when the Baroque decorations were removed, the ancient Gothic forms were partially restored, and the stained glass windows with the Stories of Saint Catherine by Bruno Cassinari were added.

     

    ARCHITECTURE

    The basilica has a simple but massive appearance, typical of the mendicant orders. Suggestive is the view of the rear side of the church, which can be admired from the opposite hill.

    The facade is smooth and without decorations, with the exception of a rose window. It is largely covered by the vaulted chapel, which protrudes from its surface.

    On the left, there is the bell tower built in 1340, lowered at the beginning of the 18th century, and crowned with battlements after the earthquake of 1798.

    The church has an Egyptian cross plan, with a single nave and a transept covered with exposed trusses, and many cross-vaulted chapels. The central chapel is similar to the others, but larger.

    Within the right wall of the nave, opens the splendid Chapel of Saint Catherine (Cappella di Santa Caterina), commissioned in 1466 by Niccolò Bensi to house the head-relic of the saint.

    The Chapel of the Vaults (Cappella delle Volte), raised above the floor, is accessible from the counter-facade of the church through two large arches on pillars.

    The complex also includes a 14th-century Gothic crypt, which is accessed through a staircase at the end of the right aisle of the church. Divided by pillars into three aisles, with cross vaults and apses, the crypt is the place where today most of the religious functions are celebrated.

     

    ART

    Among the paintings present in the church, of particular interest is the fresco on the back wall dating back to the 14th century, depicting Saint Catherine and a devotee. It is considered a true portrait of the Saint, as her author, Andrea Vanni, was her disciple.

    The remaining canvases date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and describe episodes in the life of Saint Catherine.

     

    HOW TO GET THERE

    The Basilica of San Domenico is located about 1.7 kilometers away from the Siena railway station. The closest bus stop is San Domenico, near the church, on the bus Lines 0S3, 0S6, 503, 506, 520, 542, 544, 576, 584, 601, 705, S10 and S18.

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