Templar mysteries and secrets in one of the oldest churches in Siena.
The ‘Poor Fellow-at-Arms of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’, known as ‘Knights Temple’ or more simply ‘Templars’ are the best-known religious order of chivalry in medieval Christianity and the legends that arose around their existence and exploits still hover in the streets of the city…
There is one place in particular still steeped in their thousand-year history: Maggiore Church, in via di Camollia. The name ‘Magione’ comes from the mansions of the knights Templarfound in the Holy Land and along pilgrimage routes, known as ‘Magioni’, form the French ‘maison’ and the latin ‘mansio’, meaning ‘a place to stop’.
Templar mansions were usually located just outside built-up areas, they were fortified and often concealed symbolic and esoteric references.
In Siena,the Templar mansion was located near the northern city gate, Porta Camollia, to welcome pilgrims entering the city, and included a hospital for wayfarers, the Templar house of the knights-monks and thechurch, still operating today and owned by the Knights of Malta.
The first historical record of the church dates back to the year 998, when it wasn’t yet part of the city walls, and a document from 1148 indicates that it was run by the Knights Templar. After the order was dissolved in 1312, the church and all its possessions passed to the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, later known as the Knights of Malta, and was known as ‘Commenda’.
This was the mansions heyday. The portico tombs and the refectory on the upper floor were frescoed and the internal loggia was built, which is still visible today.
Inside, you can find a wealth of works of art including a Gothic holy oil tabernacle from the second half of the 14th century, the Madonna with Saints John the Baptist and Peter by Diego Pesco, and fragments of frescoes by Cristoforo di Bindoccio and Meo di Pero. We also highly recommend taking a close look at the stones on the church’s exterior. Here, a discerning eye can spot Templar symbols and crosses engraved in the masonry, while symbolic graffiti can be seen inside.
Around 1623, the adjacent chapeldedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary at the Temple, was given to the Contrada dell’Istrice (porcupine neighbourhood), who made it their first headquarters before moving to Fontegiusta in 1700. However, this neighbourhood has always remained attached to the Magione Church, choosing it as the location for the ceremony conferring the contrada the honorary title of ‘Sovereign’ in May 1980. And every year, on the occasion of the ‘Festa Titolare’ celebrations in honour of St Bartholomew, the babies of the neighbourhood are baptised here.
Where: Via di Camollia
When: Everyday 9:00 am – 7:30 pm