The Cathedral of Siena is one of the most outstanding examples of an Italian Romanesque-Gothic cathedral.
It’s one of the city’s most precious treasures, and if you think the exterior is breathtaking, wait until you see the interior!
Crossing the threshold, you are immediately captivated by the striking contrast of the black and white marble of the columns that creates a surreal effect. Inside, the cathedral preserves numerous masterpieces created over the centuries, including the magnificent cathedral floor.
Described by Giorgio Vasari as ‘the most beautiful…, great and magnificent… that ever was made’, the floor is the result of five hundred years of artistic expression. It’s a symbolic journey in search of the highest values of humanity.
The preparatory cartoons were drawn by Sienese artists, including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, Domenico Beccafumi, as well as the Umbrian painter Pinturicchio.
This marble carpet of 56 panels, called inlays, was designed by Renaissance masters, copied by marble workers and worked by stonemasons. The inlays are well distributed inside the cathedral, starting from the three aisles depicting the characters and episodes of the Greek-Roman humanistic culture that prophesied the arrival of the Saviour, while the Madonna and Christ are placed at the foot of the altar; meanwhile, we find the stories of the Old Testament under the dome.
The inlays of the Massacre of the Innocents made by Matteo di Giovanni are also remarkable. Here, the marbles create a beautiful chiaroscuro effect, while the Story of Judith reminds us of Paolo Uccello’s paintings. This extraordinary masterpiece is not always visible, so it’s good to take advantage of the periods when it’s uncovered. Two-thirds of the floor of Siena Cathedral is usually covered with special panels that protect it from the wear and tear of the footsteps of visitors.
You can admire the uncovered floor every year from August 18, after the Palio dell’Assunta, until the end of October.