Four hundred years of faith and history in the centre of Siena.
Places of faith are notoriously linked to the history and identity of an area and its inhabitants. From its earliest days, Siena has interwoven the most exalting and critical phases of its history with a singular devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, alive and evident in the traditions linked to the famous Palio race. There are countless places of Marian devotion in Siena, from the most intimate and local to full-blown ‘institutional sanctuaries’. Among them, the Collegiate Church of Provenzano occupies a prominent position, which is largely considered and called the ‘Basilica’ of Provenzano by the Sienese.
The ‘basilica’ of Provenzanowas erected between 1595 and 1604. It features a Latin cross plan, with a single nave and a dome in the centre of the presbytery and a beautiful marble facade divided into two floors by a cornice and culminating in a central tympanum flanked by two side volutes. We will let you discover for yourself the numerous works of art housed inside the Collegiate Church, including the terracotta bust of the so-called ‘Madonna di Provenzano’, the protagonist of one of the most famous miracles of the city of Siena.
This miracle took place around the middle of the 16th century, during the occupation of Siena by the imperial troops of Charles V, who decreed the end of the ancient Sienese Republic (1555). The Provenzano district got its name from the presence of houses owned by the Provenzano Salvani family, the Ghibelline leader of the Battle of Montaperti mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Paradise of the Divine Comedy, and it’s popular belief that an enamelled terracotta image of a Madonna was placed on the outside wall of one of the houses, perhaps even by Saint Catherine of Siena.
A Spanish arquebusiers, perhaps as a stunt, fired a shot at the sacred image that left the bust of the Madonna intact, but destroyed the arms and the rest of the figure. The image of the Virgin immediately became a symbol of the wound and trauma that the foreign occupation had inflicted on the dignity of Siena. So, the sacred image was reassembled in its aedicule and immediately became an object of fervent veneration by the Sienese and a source of redemption for the entire Provenzano district, one of the most degraded in the city at the time.
The Collegiate Church of Provenzano is closely linked to the Palio di Siena, particularly the 2 July Palio, known as the ‘Palio di Provenzano’ and dedicated to its Virgin Mary. The effigy of the Madonna of Provenzano is always depicted on the ‘drappellone’, the precious painted cloth commissioned by the Municipality of Siena and given as a prize to the winning Contrada, even though the theme of the Palio can be very varied.
According to the Regulations of the Palio di Siena, ‘The cloth is solemnly transported for the 2 July Palio to the Church of Santa Maria in Provenzano […] and remains there until it’s time to hoist it onto the chariot for the Historical Procession’ The city authorities and the Contrade go to pay homage to the Madonna of Provenzano, carrying the cloth in procession on the afternoon of 1 July before the dress rehearsal and on the eve of the race. After the greeting and blessing of the city, the ancient hymn of Maria mater gratiae is sung and the cloth is hoisted onto a right-hand pillar of the dome, where it remains until the late morning of 2 July when it’s taken back to the Palazzo Pubblico and displayed on the chariot during the historical procession.
At the end of the Palio, on the evening of 2 July, the citizens of the victorious Contrada go to Provenzano, carrying the cloth to give thanks to the Virgin Mary and sing the hymn Maria mater gratiae, popularly called Te Deum.
Where: Piazza Provenzano, Siena
When: normally open during the daytime
Contact details: http://www.collegiataprovenzano.siena.it/
Tel: 0577 49883