The Basilica of San Francesco is a Romanesque church in Siena, located in the homonymous square. Dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, the church is officiated by the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.
The Franciscans arrived in Siena shortly after the death of Saint Francis in 1226. Between 1228 and 1255, a first church was erected on this site.
The current church was built between 1326 and 1475 in Gothic style, enlarging the pre-existing church.
In 1655, a fire damaged the church, leaving it in ruins for over two centuries. Between 1763 and 1765, the current bell tower was built, based on a project by Paolo Posi.
In 1855, following the suppression of religious orders carried out by Napoleon, the convent became the property of the Archdiocese of Siena, which made it the seat of the Archiepiscopal Seminary.
The church was restored in Neo-Gothic style at the end of the 19th century. The works were entrusted to Giuseppe Partini for the interior, and to Vittorio Mariani and Gaetano Ceccarelli for the exterior.
In 1968, the ancient Convent adjacent to the Basilica was purchased by the University of Siena, where the Department of Economics, Politics and Statistics is now based.
The facade of the church, built with bricks in Neo-Gothic style at the beginning of the 20th century, is simple and sober.
Among the few decorations on the facade, there is a marble cusped portal which depicts, in the lunette, Saint Francis and Saint Bernardino in adoration of the Virgin and Child, two angels on the sides and, on top, Christ with the cross.
On the sides of the rose window, there are the symbols of the four evangelists. The coats of arms scattered on the facade, also in marble, represent the city of Siena and the families who contributed to the restoration of the church. The rose window is the only ancient element, inherited from the 15th-century facade by Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
The church has an Egyptian cross plan, with a single nave and a transept covered with trusses, and many cross-vaulted chapels on both sides. Due to the Egyptian cross plan, also known as a Tau cross plan, the choir and the apse are missing, and are replaced by a central chapel similar to the others in the transept.
All the internal walls are characterized by bands of white and green marble, similar to the ones of the Cathedral of Siena.
There are 36 stained glass windows in the church, made by the F. Zettler glassworks in Munich around 1885-1890. Of these, 25 were rebuilt by the same glass factory shortly after the Second World War, after being destroyed by bombing.
Inside the church, we can find numerous works of art, among which we can mention a Madonna with Child and Saints by Jacopo Zucchi, a Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti and a fresco by his brother Ambrogio, a Prayer of Saint James by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini, a Martyrdom of Saint Martina by Pietro da Cortona, and a Madonna with Child frescoed by Jacopo di Mino del Pellicciaio.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of San Francesco is located about 1.8 kilometers away from the Siena railway station. The closest bus stop, Risalita San Francesco, is located about 300 meters away, on the bus Lines 525, 567 and 568.