One of Siena’s most beautiful wonders, uncovered from after the August Palio to autumn.
Inside the cathedral unparalleled great works abound, but it’s the floor that is the truly extraordinary work. Using the marble commesso and graffito techniques, the preparatory cartoons made by great artists became the 56 inlay panels of the floor.
This unique work of artconceals allegorical messages and invites the continuous search for wisdom. From the 14th to the 19th century, great artists from Siena and elsewhere worked on it including Sassetta, Domenico Beccafumi, Matteo di Giovanni and Pinturicchio. The latter painted one of the most beautiful scenes in 1505, The Mountain of Wisdom, depicting a symbolic road to virtue and a splendid representation of Fortune.
Vasari described this marble carpet as the ‘largest and most magnificent’ that had ever existed The 56 preparatory cartoons drawn by the Renaissance masters became the inlay panels copied by the marble workers and worked by the stonemasons using splendid local marbles, from the grey of the Sienese Montagnola to the precious yellow broccatello.
On the parvis at the top of the steps in front of the cathedral are the first marble inlay panels depicting Jews and pagans, who as non-Christians don’t have the right to enter the cathedral and secure salvation. In front of the portals are the Initiation Ceremonies with a Deacon, a priest and a bishop, anticipating the sacredness of the building.
Inside,, the three naves are dedicated to the episodes and personalities of Greek and Roman humanist culture who prophesied the coming of the Saviour, such as Hermes Trismegistus, the precursor of the prophets. The Madonna and Christ are only seen at the foot of the altar while under the dome are stories from the Old Testament such as Domenico Beccafumi’s drawing dedicated to the sacrifice of Isaac.
Beccafumi perfected the technique of the marble commesso to such an extent that he achieved a chiaroscuro effect. In the transept and choir, we find the story of the Jewish people and the events of salvation accomplished by Christ, constantly referenced and never depicted on the floor.
Two-thirds of the floor of the Cathedral of Siena is usually covered with special panels that protect it from the wear and tear of time and trampling of visitors. Every year it’s uncovered, immediately after the Palio dell’Assunta (16 August) until the end of October.
FLOOR UNCOVERING PERIOD
Valid for 2022:
27 June – 31 July; 18 August – 18 October
From Monday to Saturday
– Cathedral, Baptistery, Crypt from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; – Opera Museum from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm; – Oratory of San Bernardino from 1:30 pm to 7:00 pm.
Sunday (only during the floor uncovering period)
– Cathedral from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
– Crypt, Baptistery from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm; – Opera Museum from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm; – Oratory of San Bernardino from 1:30 pm to 7:00 pm.
Last admission half an hour before museum closing time.
Times may vary due to religious events.