The Cathedral of Siena, dedicated to the of the Assumption of Saint Mary, is located in the homonymous square in the historical center of the city, being one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, a great exemple of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
It seems that the current cathedral replaced a first church dedicated to Saint Mary, built around the 9th century, which in turn replaced an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva.
The first real information about the building of the cathedral is from 1226, when the first costs and contracts related to the construction were recorded. Probably, the works had begun some time before that, because the consecration tooked place, according to the tradition, on November 18, 1179.
Between 1238 and 1285, the church was administered by the monks of San Galgano. From 1284 to 1297, Giovanni Pisano was responsible for the construction of the lower part of the facade, completed between 1299 and 1317 by Camaino di Crescentino, father of the sculptor Tino di Camaino. The bell-tower, at a height of 77 meters, was finished in 1313. The works were completed in 1370.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is elevated on a platform of 11 steps, and is a Latin cross with three naves and a dodecagonal dome.
The facade, all in white marble with decoration of Siena Red and green marble from Prato, is divisible in two halves, inferior and superior, built in two distinct constructive phases. The richness of the decoration, mainly sculptural, hides irregularities and asymmetries derived from the long construction period.
The lower facade, with the three portals and the two side towers, was built by Giovanni Pisano between 1284 and 1297. The rear end of the cathedral, facing north-east, has its own facade, which is also the facade of the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The facade is divided into two orders superimposed by a decorated cornice.
The dome is characterized by two orders of loggias, one made of slender twin columns and pointed arches and the other of shorter single columns and lowered arches. The hemisphere is made of bricks and covered with lead plates. It was completed in 1263, but the top of the dome was rebuilt by Barna di Turino in 1385, before the present lantern was built in 1667, for a total height of 48 meters.
The interior, measuring 89.4 meters in length and 24.37 in width, is divided into three naves by pillars, with a transept divided into two naves and a deep choir.
Inside, the Cathedral of Siena preserves numerous masterpieces executed over centuries – sculptures made by Nicola Pisano and by his son, Giovanni Pisano, by Donatello, by Michelangelo and by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, frescoes by Pinturicchio and by Ventura Salimbeni, stained glass windows by Duccio di Buoninsegna, by Pastorino de’ Pastorini and by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are not many bus routes in the historic center of Siena, but the area is relatively small and you could easily walk from one point to another. The nearest bus station is Piazza Postierla, on the bus lines 590, 645 and S54, about 170 meters away from the cathedral. If you want to explore the city on foot and you need a map, use the one below.