Siena Cathedral  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Duomo di Siena is the medieval cathedral of Siena, Italy. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Siena-Colle di Val d'Elsa-Montalcino.

The Cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome is octagonally based and only becomes circular above the supporting columns. The lantern, atop the dome, was added by the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of striped white and greenish-black marble, with addition of red marble on the façade. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, derived from the black and white horses of the legendary city's founders Senius and Aschius.

In Renaissance art, the Roman statue group of the three graces in the Piccolomini library in Duomo di Siena inspired most themes.

Piccolomini Library

Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini library, housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, probably based on designs by Raphael.

The visual impact of these very colourful frescoes is stunning. The frescoes tell the story of the life of Siena's favourite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who eventually became Pope Pius II. He was the uncle of cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (then archbishop of Siena and the future pope Pius III), who commissioned this library in 1492 as a repository of the books and the manuscript collection of his uncle. The ceiling is covered with painted panels of mythological subjects. They were executed between 1502 and 1503 by Pinturicchio and his assistants.

The entrance is a finely carved marble monument with two openings with round arches, executed in 1497 by Lorenzo di Mariano. It contains a round relief of St. John the Evangelist (probably) by Giovanni di Stefano and, below the altar, a polychrome Pietà by the sculptor Alberto di Betto da Assisi in 1421. Above this marble monument is a fresco of the Papal Coronation of Pius III by Pinturicchio in 1504.

In the middle of the library is the famous statue Three Graces, a Roman copy of a Greek original.

Pinturicchio painted this cycle of frescoes around the library between 1502 and 1507, representing Raphael and himself in several of them. This masterpiece is full of striking detail and vivacious colours. Each scene is explained in Latin by the text below. They depict ten remarkable events from the secular and religious career of pope Pius II, first as a high prelate, then bishop, a cardinal and ultimately pope:

  • Enea Silvio Piccolomini (ESP) leaves for the Council of Basel. The storm scene in the background is a first in western art.
  • ESP, ambassador at the Scottish Court
  • ESP crowned court poet by emperor Frederick III
  • ESP makes an act of submission to Pope Eugene IV
  • ESP, bishop of Siena, presents emperor Frederick III with his bride-to-be Eleanora of Portugal at the Porta Camollia in Siena.
  • ESP receives the cardinal's hat in 1456
  • ESP, enters the Lateran as pontiff in 1458
  • Pius II convokes a Diet of Princes at Mantua to proclaim a new crusade in 1459
  • Pius II canonizes Saint Catherine of Siena in 1461
  • Pius II arrives in Ancona to launch the crusade.

Beneath the frescoes, the psalters of the cathedral's sacristy are on display. These exquisite illuminations by Liberale da Verona and Girolamo da Cremona were executed between 1466 and 1478 and later carried on by other Sienese illuminators.

Pulpit

Pulpit (Siena Cathedral)

The pulpit is made of Carrara marble and was sculpted between the end of 1265 and November 1268 by Nicola Pisano and several other artists. This pulpit expresses the northern Gothic style adopted by Pisano, while still showing his classical influences. The whole message of the pulpit is concerned with the doctrine of Salvation and the Last Judgment. In the top level seven scenes narrate the Life of Christ. The many figures in each scene with their chiaroscuro effect, show a richness of surface, motion and narrative. On the middle level statuettes of the Evangelists and Prophets announce the salvation of mankind. The pulpit itself is the earliest remaining work in the cathedral. The staircase dates from 1543 and was built by Bartolomeo Neroni. At the same time, the pulpit was moved from the choir to its present location.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Siena Cathedral" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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