It safeguards the historical documents of Siena’s public bodies.
The State Archive of Siena is located in Via Banchi di Sotto on the corner of Via Rinaldini, in the historic Palazzo Piccolomini. It houses all the historical documents produced by the public bodies of the province of Siena and any other archive or documentary collection of historical importance voluntarily submitted.
It’s one of the most extensive state archives in Italy It contains documents from 736 AD to today. The State Archives were established by Grand Duke Leopold II on 17 November 1858. Three archive complexes were established within it: the reformation archive (also known as the government archive), the contracts archive (or notarial archive) and the diplomatic archive.
With the dissolution of the old offices, the number of documents increased and 105 plates from 1258 to the 18th century were added to the collection in 1864. The ‘biccherne’ are the covers of the administration registers of the Biccherna, the most important and oldest magistracy of Siena.
These works initially consisted of paintings on the covers. This practice was also commissioned by the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, the Tax Office and the Council Chamber. The same example was soon followed by institutions dedicated to producing inventories and due registers, which began to commission the valuable covers. Some of them from the 15th century onwards became real paintings by top Sienese artists such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
The material held in the State Archives over the centuries continued to grow thanks to spontaneous donations or contributions of private family archives as well as records belonging to state offices. Today, it preserves around 60,000 parchments, the deliberations and statutes of the Republic, and the papers and acts of the judicial and financial administrations (the famous Biccherna).
Some of the most important documents are displayed in rotation, in exhibitions such as the one related to the characters of the Divine Comedy (written by Brunetto Latini and Pier della Vigna). The Archive also preserves the testament of Giovanni Boccaccio and manuscripts by Pius II, Cesare Borgia, St. Francis de Sales, Isotta da Rimini, Bianca Cappello, Giovanna II of Naples, and Caterina de’ Medici. Among the correspondence of artists, we find letters by Jacopo della Quercia, l Sodoma, Baldassarre Peruzzi and Sano di Pietro. Among the documentation of famous works, we find ones related to the grand Siena Cathedral, Fonte Gaia and the Pulpit of Siena Cathedral.