Piccolomini Library


Raphael’s ideas and Pinturicchio’s frescoes inside Siena Cathedral.

The Piccolomini Library is a monumental room inside Siena Cathedral. Located along the left aisle before the transept, it features a cycle of frescoes of exceptional pictorial value in which Pinturicchio illustrated ten episodes from the life of Pius II, with his endless wealth of narrative and colours.

To honour the memory of his maternal uncle Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) and to preserve the rich bibliographic heritage that the pontiff and humanist collected when he was in Rome, Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, the archbishop of Siena (later Pope Pius III) had a library built on the premises of the old presbytery along the north-western flank of the cathedral around 1492.

Todeschini was inspired by the French tradition of libraries annexed to cathedrals and the opening of the Vatican Library by Sixtus IV, which epitomised the Renaissance intentions of creating an institution that was both a centre of study and an artistic expression of the Modern Era.

As for the chronology of the frescoes decorating the library, they were painted by Pinturicchio and his workshop between 1503 and 1508. They celebrate the life and acts of the pontificate of Pius II and feature real and imaginary landscapes and costumes, and refined representations of ceremonies and characters, executed with rich enamel colours.

The humanist Giovanni Antonio Campano, secretary first to Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini and later to his nephew Francesco Tedeschini, wrote The Life of Pius II and The Commentarii of Pius II, which together are the key reference for the creation of the individual scenes and the framing for the entire biography of Aeneas Silvius. The fifth scene of the cycle is one of the best known. It depicts the meeting between Emperor Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal, which took place on 24 February 1452 near Porta Camollia by request of the pontiff.

Pinturicchio focuses primarily on the depiction of fabrics, ornaments, and jewellery worn by the characters gathered around the future bride and groom.

In the scene depicting the Canonisation of St. Catherine of Siena, two figures stand out among the audience of religious orders in the bottom left-hand corner: the young Raphael (with red stockings), who is said to have collaborated with Bernardino di Betto in the Library frescoes, and Pinturicchio himself (with a red cap).

From 1 April to 31 October:
10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Holidays: 1:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Days before public holidays: 10:30 am – 6:00 pm
From 1 November to 31 March
10:30 am – 5:30 pm
Holidays: 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Days before public holidays: 10:30 am – 5:30 pm
From 26 December to 6 January
10:30 am – 6:00 pm
Holidays: 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Days before public holidays: 10:30 am – 5:30 pm
Last admission half an hour before museum closing time.
Times may vary due to religious events.

Information, bookings and ticket sale: +39 0577 286300


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