Italy churches are treasure troves for art and history lovers. Each of them offers a glimpse into the glorious past of the country. The Cathedral of Siena is one of the most spectacular examples of a church that was built, extended and decorated over a number of centuries thus accumulating a dizzying amount of masterpieces by painters and sculptors from different epochs. The cathedral combines elements of Italian Gothic, Tuscan Romanesque and Classical architecture.
Before entering the Siena Cathedral, it is worth spending some time walking around it to see the exterior of the building. Each side is impressive, with richly carved, statues of Greek philosophers, Jewish prophets and pagan Sibyls, as well as lions, griffins, putti and foliage.
No matter how opulent the outside decor is, nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking splendor of the interior.
The striking black and white stripes made from local marble are continued inside as they symbolize the civic coat of arms of Siena. The busts of popes, Roman emperors and allegorical animals look down at you from the columns.
Take your time to walk around the cathedral as there are thousands of masterpieces to see: golden mosaics, splendid frescoes and spectacular sculptures fill up every available surface and space. Masters like Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio all worked here.
In the north transept, you will find a bronze statue of an emaciated St. John the Baptist by Donatello. of an emaciated St. John the Baptist. Halfway down the nave on the left is the entrance to the Piccolomini library with its majestic Renaissance frescoes by Pinturicchio depicting the life of Pope Pius II. The spectacular vault of the library is also painted by Pinturicchio with scenes from classical mythology, putti and nymphs.
The cathedral is also famous for its magnificent mosaic floors. Almost 60 etched and inlaid marble panels were created by forty artists over the course of almost six centuries. Some of the mosaics are protected by special flooring and only uncovered for a few months every year. Each panel tells a different story depicting mythical sibyls, scenes from history of Siena, and biblical scenes.
Photos by: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen, Steffen Ramsaier, Wikimedia Commons.