From ancient hospital to important Sienese museum.
Santa Maria della Scala is a monumental complex located in the heart of the city of Siena, atop the Cathedral hill. The special position also determined its extraordinary layout on various levels, sloping down from the cathedral square to the valley behind.
Founded as a medieval hospital, linked to the development of the Via Francigena route, it was expanded over the centuries until just under fifty years ago when it became the city hospital. After a major restoration project, it still has parts under restoration alongside numerous spaces open to the public covering various uses, including as a museum, exhibition rooms, service areas, etc.
The current entrance to the museum is on the samelevel as Piazza Duomo. These monumental spaces are divided into large halls (wards for pilgrims), aisles and spaces for assistance and worship (Old Sacristy, Mantle Chapel, Church of the Santissima Annunziata). The rooms of the former apothecary’s shop are now used for educational activities, while the adjacent San Leopoldo aisle houses the Children’s Art Museum collection.
The centrepiece of this floor is the extraordinary male pilgrim’s wardfrescoed by Lorenzo di Pietro, Domenico di Bartolo and Priamo della Quercia in the 1440s with the mythical and real events of hospital history and with the accurate description of the hospital functions entrusted to the spaces and protagonists (Care and reception of a daughter of the Hospital, Administration of the sick, Distribution of alms).). The frescoes of the Old Sacristy date back to the same period and were painted by Lorenzo di Pietro. They illustrate the articles of the Apostolic Creed with episodes form the New and Old Testaments. This space now houses the hospital’s precious collection of reliquaries, created around the relics acquired in 1359.
In the section once dedicated to women and abandoned children, preceded by the grandiose women’s ward built around two courts, we find the Piccolomini Spannocchi collection. This is an important collection of works gathered by the two families and united by marriage in the second half of the 18th century, only recently placed on display.
On the level below are various museum collections, centred around a small courtyard, the so-called corticella. The large spaces of the former granary contain the original marble sculptures of Fonte Gaia fountain, built between 1409 and 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia, alongside casts and plaster casts by Tito Sarrocchi for the 19th-century replica. The courtyard is overlooked by the historical seat of the brotherhood dedicated St. Catherine of the Night since the late 15th century (furnishings and works of art are preserved in these rooms) and the access staircase to the brotherhood of St. Mary under the Vaults below.
Levels I and II are located in the lowest part of the structure and are characterised by large vaulted spaces and long tunnels excavated in the sandstone. It was developed along the route of a real road that was incorporated into the hospital during its expansion towards the valley, which today is a fascinating internal connection between several levels. The recovered spaces house the National Archaeological Museum, which displays evidence and artefacts from the Sienese territory and important local collections, and the exhibition ‘Siena. A Tale of the City from the Origins to the Middle Ages’.
Also open to the public are the Giuliano Briganti Photo Library and Library, as well as spaces for temporary exhibitions and conferences.
From Monday to Friday: 9:00 am -1:30 pm Tel: 0577 292614/615
ACTIVITIES AND WORKSHOPS
Children’s Art Museum
Bookings from Monday and Wednesday: 9:00 am – 12:00 am Tel: 0577 534531