To start the day, we had a lecture on Renaissance art in Italy. Then we boarded the bus to Siena. First we saw the modest church where St. Catharine worshipped, San Domenico. Then we walked the narrow streets of the parishes (Contrada) and the saw the local banks and the Loggia della Mercanzia where merchants and money lenders worked. The city is built on seven hills and full of medieval houses. Finally, we wound our way up to the Duomo. From the back it is quite simple but when you walk around to the front it is amazingly ornate. Inside the Duomo the floor frescoes were uncovered (only in October and November) so we got to feast our eyes on them. The ceilings and striped marble columns and walls were amazing too. The Duomo has St Catherine’s finger and her skull. The skull is only taken out once a year. The library was spectacular. Only a few people are allowed into the library at a time and only for a short while. We had a hard time leaving as it was so beautiful. The illuminated manuscripts were fascinating. Each page was made from a single sheepskin. The floor had a Turkish symbol of a crescent.
The Duomo is quite ecumenical encompassing symbols from many faiths. We saw a sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo which is actually a self-portrait. Next we walked down to the Piazza del Campo where the Palio horse race is held. This place used to be fields outside of the town. The piazza is divided into nine sectors symbolizing the Medieval Council of Nine. Siena was conquered by Florence in 1550 and development was essentially frozen. So Siena is a classical medieval town.
Dragon Contrada (1977 sculpture)
The new Olive Oil display
Bank of the people (evolved into 3 different building styles)
Laurels (college graduate)
The saints were supposed to protect the town which worked until 1550 when the town was sacked by Florence. It has basically been frozen in time since then.
San Domenico (chapel dedicated to St Catherine)
Back of Duomo (1136-1382)
Front of Duomo-full Gothic style
Full Gothic Style
We were fortunate to visit at the end of October because the inlaid marble floors were open for viewing. Usually they are covered for protection. They move the church services for the two months that the floors are open for viewing.
Moses by Michelangelo, actually a self portrait
Piccolomini Library with frescoes by Pinturicchio (1509) dedicated to Pope Pius II
The ceiling was even more incredible
Moorish design on the floor
Illuminated Manuscripts of Chants (each page is a sheep skin)
Inside of the dome
Piazza del Campo- note the shadow of the bell tower of the town hall
The Palazzo Publico town hall (1342) with the Smile, created by a modern artist
Bell Tower (330 ft tower, 2nd highest in medieval Italy)
Instead of touring the rest of Siena we sat down in a restaurant recommended by a chef friend of one of our group from Washington D.C. It was called the Loggia and was just off the square where the Palio is held. The menu was entirely in Italian so we were happy to have a “friend” to decipher it! We will tell you more about it on another blog.
Mark and Wink