Behind Piazza del Campo, a beautiful loggia marks the transition between the Middle Ages and the Sienese Renaissance…
Just behind Piazza del Campo and a must-see for those who adore the art and beauty that only Siena knows how to truly express, is the Loggia della Mercanzia (Loggia of Merchants), a harbinger of Gothic and Renaissance influences. Walking from Via Banchi di Sopra down to the square, you will certainly notice it in all its elegance and grandeur at the Croce del Travaglio, the meeting place of the three main roads from which Siena was born: the aforementioned Banchi di Sopra, Banchi di Sotto (two branches of the ancient Via Francigena that crossed the city), and Via di Città.
The Loggia was built as an extension and embellishment of the Art centre in the building next to the Loggia. The Mercanzia was independent from the Municipality of Siena, and its seat located right in front of Palazzo Pubblico also conveniently alluded to the dialogue that had to take place between the two entities, so that the decisions taken would be beneficial to the city in every aspect. of the Mercanzia della Repubblica di Siena, of which it housed the headquarter from 1310.
Designed by Sano di Matteo, the Loggia della Mercanzia was built under his direction between 1417 and 1428, then under Pietro del Minella from 1428 to 1444, in a transitional style between Gothic and Renaissance. There are five statues of saints dating back to the second half of the same century: a ‘Saint Paul’ and a ‘Saint Peter’ by Vecchietta (1458 and 1460), and a ‘Saint Savino’, a ‘Saint Ansanus’ and a ‘Saint Victor’ by Antonio Federighi (1456-63). The cross vaults were instead built and decorated in the 16th century, while the upper floor on the Croce del Travaglio was added in the 17th century.
Inside are two beautiful marble pews with reliefs. In the one on the right, you can admire ‘Illustrious Roman Men’ by Federighi (1464) and, in the one on the left, ‘Cardinal Virtues’ by Urbano da Cortona.
The elegant loggia was not affected by the eighteenth-century transformations that partially changed the area and remains a symbol of the city’s great beauty. In 1764, the structure became the property of a group of nobles known as Signori Uniti del Casino, who made it the seat of the Circolo degli Uniti gentlemen’s club. The Club is the oldest exclusive club of nobles in Italian and perhaps European history. It was founded on 13 November 1657 by twenty-one Sienese gentlemen under the name Nobile Conversazione de’ Signori Uniti nel Casino di Siena (known as Casin de’ Nobili). They chose a sundial as their emblem and the motto‘Una Moventur Varie’..
After having been located for some time in a palace in Via di Città, the seat of the club was relocated by Grand Duke Francis Stephen of Lorraine on 18 April 1793 to the palace that housed the Tribunal of Merchandise.
There were many feasts, receptions and races organised by the Club, many to celebrate the visits of princes, kings and cardinals. Particularly noteworthy was the Palio organised by the Club for the arrival of Violante di Baviera, widow of Ferdinando de’ Medici the Grand Prince of Tuscany, appointed governor of Siena, who arrived in Siena on the evening of 13 April 1715 accompanied by a sumptuous procession. The princess attended the Palio in July of that year from a large stage set up in her honour by the Club on the first floor of the palace. The Savoy royal family Umberto I and Queen Margherita also attended the Palio on 16 July 1887, while on 17 April 1904, the King of Italy HM Vittorio Emanuele III attended the extraordinary Palio run in his honour.
At the request of the Club, the loggias were restored in 1882, under the direction of the painter Luigi Mussini and sculptor Tito Sarrocchi.