name:English (United Kingdom) The hidden treasure of Siena Cathedral: the floor

The hidden treasure of Siena Cathedral: the floor

Siena Cathedral is one of the symbols of our city, the majestic church in white and black marbles, with its strong charm. If you go on holiday in Siena, only for one day, schedule a visit to the Cathedral: you won’t regret it!  

Together with the wonderful architecture, the marble columns and the suggestive tour of the roof – the Gate of Heaven -  one of the most valuable pearls is at your feet. The floor of Siena Cathedral, in effect, is a composite masterpiece, described by Giorgio Vasari as “The most beautiful..., largest and most magnificent...ever made”. Such an artistic heritage, however, needs to be protected: so, the floor is displayed to the public only a few months in the year, covered by a Masonite carpet for the rest of the time.

Techniques and artists 

The floor of the Cathedral is certainly one of the most beautiful work of art in the world because of its structure, the technique and the surprising message enshrined in its 56 figured panels. The marble inlays, product of a program implemented between the 14th and the 19th centuries, were all created by leading Sienese artists, save for the Umbrian painter Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio.

The techniques used to realize the floor developed year by year, achieving an amazing degree of perfection as we can appreciate today. Beside the “graffito” technique, was developed the marble mosaic inlay, based on placing colored marble pieces together using the marquetry method. The material, as the artists, was local for the greatest part: yellow broccatello, green of Crevole and Red of Gerfalco. The final result depends on the perfect combination of precious marbles and great artisans: a feast for your eyes.

The marble inlays and their meanings  

The general theme of this masterpiece is not easy to catch at the first sight, but it needs a bit of attention and analysis. Together with a pinch of curiosity, always nice. With any effort, you manage to recognize some biblical stories. However, the focus of the whole floor, according to many experts, is an invitation to embrace Wisdom, a constant reference in every panel. This attitude of the soul begins on entering the nave, where pagans and Jews have no access, excluded both from the sacred building and the chance of salvation. Inside the Cathedral, in front of the main door, you see Hermes Trismegistus with a book in his hands, representing the beginning of human wisdom. In the side aisles, ten Sybils evoke Christ, the redeemer of the known world.

The transept relates a new phase of the path to human salvation: the figure of Christ is constantly evoked in biblical scenes as the Slaughter of the Innocents. Then you can recognize the stories of the prophet Elijah and Moses, followed by Jewish people walking as the visitor, on a pilgrimage inside the Cathedral. At the end of the iconographic itinerary, the stories of David represent Jesus, the Peacekeeper of the world.

The floor of the Cathedral is displayed to the public, this year, from August 18 to October 26. Do not miss the chance to admire it, during your summer stay in Tuscany.

For information and opening hours, visit the official site of Duomo di Siena https://operaduomo.siena.it/en/sites/floor/

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