The inlaid marble floor of the Cathedral of Siena is entirely visible until July 31 and from August 18 to October 28, 2018
The floor – “the most beautiful … largest and most magnificent … that ever was made” in the famous words of Giorgio Vasari – is the fruit of a plan that took on concrete form through the centuries, from the XIV century up to the XVIII century. The preparatory cartoons for the fifty-six panels were done by important artists, all from Siena, except for the Umbrian painter Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio who in 1505 authored the panel with the Hill of Wisdom. The techniques employed to transfer the ideas of the various artists onto the floor are marble intarsia and graffito.
But this year you could see the floor with a new way of reading, that illuminates the marble carpet with unusual color effects.
The floor will shine with new light thanks to a project by Opera Civita that, together with the Opera della Metropolitana, has contributed to the enhancement of the floor, to make it known to the whole world: the “wonder” of the city of Siena, as the Anglo-Saxon artists and travelers had sensed. In the late nineteenth century press the well-known marble carpet is defined as The Wonder of Siena, which attests to the fame and appreciation by the “foreigners” in the vision of “fermented polychrome” (Henry James).
Photos: Courtesy of Opera – Civita Group, Press Office
The Cathedral of Siena re-opens its “Gate of Heaven( 1 March – 6 January 2015). Once again, from 1st March, visitors will be able to admire the very peak of the building. The visiting path, opened forthe first timelast spring,has allowed to admire venueseveropen to the publicandonly used bythe workmen directed by a succession of great architects who have followed one another during the centuries. After the large attendance of Italian and foreign public registered during the last extraordinary opening, the Rector of the Opera della Metropolitana, MarioLorenzoni, has promoted also forthis year, a re-openingof the Gate ofHeaven.
The visit starts with the magnificent façade of the Duomo, flanked by two majestic towers ending in many spirelike forms that shoot upwards. In these towers, winding staircases, practically invisible to visitors, lead up to the ‘heavens’ of the Cathedral. Above the starry vault of the right aisle begins an itinerary reserved to small groups accompanied by expert guides, which reserves a succession of discoveries and emotions. Visitors will indeed walk ‘above’ the holy temple and admire fascinating views both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the Cathedral. From the polychrome stained glass windows depicting the Apostles by Ulisse De Matteis, visitors will gaze down onto the floor and the principal sculptural monuments, and even inside the dome with its ‘Pantheon’ of Sienese saints, the four Patron Saints, Saint Catherine and Saint Bernardino, the golden ‘giants’ who from above protect the community of the faithful. Then, from the balcony of the dome, they will contemplate the high altar, the copy of the stained glass window by Duccio di Buoninsegna with, in the centre, the mandorla of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and masterpieces of sculpture. From the left aisle, they will look out to admire a splendid panorama of the Basilica of San Domenico, the Medici Fortress, the entire dome of the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist, and the surrounding countryside up to hills known as the Montagnola Senese. Finally, they will enter behind the façade, at the balcony that looks out onto Piazza del Duomo and the view of the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, and enter the balcony on the counter-façade. Here unfolds an overall view of the nave; the gaze scans the heads of popes and emperors, the intarsias with the philosophers of the ancient world uttering sentences.
The “gate of heaven” is opened to visitors as though they were climbing the ladder that appeared to Jacob in his dream, the top of which reached heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28: 10-22). In his dream, God promises Jacob the earth on which he has slept and an immense lineage. When he rises, Jacob exclaims «This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven», a verse used by the liturgy of the mass in dedicating cathedrals. In the Litany of Loreto, though, the ‘gate of heaven’ is also the Virgin Mary, a definition that best expresses her power and goodness. As the Mother of Christ and of humanity, Mary contributes to our eternal salvation in Heaven where she is the ‘Queen assumed into Heaven’. The visiting itinerary “from above” will thus permit visitors to better understand the dedication of the Cathedral of Siena to the Assumption of the Madonna, and the strong connection the people of Siena have had with their ‘patron’ for centuries: Sena vetus civitas Virginis.
Strongly desired by the Opera della Metropolitana di Siena, the initiative is organised by Opera – Civita Group. Opera Civita Group manages the booking, information and guided tours services for the Cathedral of Siena complex and, for the extraordinary opening of the ‘Gate of Heaven’, proposes cultural packages that enrich the city’s touristic offer.
For more information, visit our website at: www.operaduomo.siena.it
1 March 2014 – 6 January 2015
Cathedral of Siena
Tickets (by reservation only)
Full: € 25.00
Children up to 11 years old: € 7.00
Group: € 400.00 (max 17 pax)
OPA SI PASS + (Museums and Attic of the Duomo) € 30.00
Ticket price includes the guided tour to the Attic of the Duomo and to the Cathedral
Information and Booking
Tel. +39 0577286300 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm)
Opera – Civita Group
Barbara Izzo – Arianna Diana
Salvatore La Spina
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF OPERA DUOMO – PRESS OFFICE; LUCA PECCANTINI
Following last year’s success that witnessed the participation of more than 350,000 visitors, starting next August 18th, right after the Palio dell’Assunta and until October 27th the magnificent Cathedral of Siena “unveils” its extraordinary marble intarsia floor. The precious marble “carpet” is usually protected from being walked upon by visitors and the numerous worshippers who every day enter the sacred temple to pray, and is therefore not totally visible. The floor is “the most beautiful …, largest and most magnificent” that ever was made, according to Vasari’s well-known definition.
The floor of the Cathedral is fruit of a complex iconographical plan that took on concrete form through the centuries, starting in the XIV century and lasting right up to the XIX century. The technique employed is that of graffito and marble intarsia using local marble. The preparatory cartoons for the fifty-six panels were designed by important artists, almost all of them “Sienese”, including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, and Domenico Beccafumi, in addition to “foreign” painters like Pinturicchio from Umbria who, in 1505, authored the famous panel with The Hill of Wisdom, the symbolic portrayal of the way to Virtue as the attainment of inner peace.
In the nave and two aisles, the itinerary unfolds recounting themes from classical and pagan antiquity: the She-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, the Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus, the ten Sibyls, the philosophers Socrates, Crates, Aristotle and Seneca. The transept and choir instead narrate the story of the Hebrews, the episodes of salvation fulfilled and realised by the figure of Christ, constantly evoked and never represented in the floor depictions, but present on the altar that the artistic and spiritual itinerary converges towards.
In the period of the unveiling, visitors will also admire the part designed by Domenico Beccafumi who here perfected the technique of marble intarsia to the point of attaining results of light and shadow comparable to the chiaroscuro effects of drawing. The hexagon beneath the dome is the location of the Stories of Elijah and Ahab, while the panels near the altar narrate the episodes of Moses making Water spring from the Rock, Stories of Moses on Mount Sinai, and The Sacrifice of Isaac. Visitors will also be able to admire from close up the frescoes in the apse and the bronze angels set against the pilasters near the altar by Domenico Beccafumi, one of the most representative exponents of Mannerism.
The Cathedral of Siena never ceases to amaze, however: visitors will also be able to “stroll about” the choir and the apse to see the wooden intarsias Fra Giovanni da Verona executed employing a technique similar to that of marble intarsia but using wood of different colours to depict urban views, landscapes and still-lifes in the form of various objects arranged on the shelves of cupboards: liturgical objects, musical instruments, multifaceted polyhedrons, skulls and hourglasses, symbols of the vanity of earthly glories.
The spectacle continues with the extraordinary opening of “The Gate of Heaven”, the lofts of the Cathedral where, for centuries, no one has entered except for the workmen to carry out specific jobs. The itinerary towards the ‘heaven’ of the Cathedral starts out from a winding staircase inside one of the two towers ending in spires that flank the magnificent façade of the Cathedral.
Once above the starry vault of the right aisle begins an itinerary reserved to small groups accompanied by expert guides, where they will walk ‘above’ the holy temple to admire the interior of the Cathedral and views of the city outside. From the balcony of the inner wall of the façade unfolds an overall view of the nave and two aisles with the intarsias depicting figures of the ancient world.
For the duration of the unveiling, guided visits to admire the Floor and the Gate of Heaven will be held following the usual timetable, as well as at night. The two itineraries will indeed be open every Saturday from 24th August to 26th October, 2013, from 8 pm till midnight.
After visiting the Cathedral, the visitor will have a better understanding of the words Cosima, wife of German composer Richard Wagner, wrote in her diary on August 21st 1880: “I arrive in Siena around 10 am … visit to the Cathedral! Richard, moved to tears, says that this is the strongest impression he has ever received from a building. I wish I could hear the prelude to Parsifal beneath this dome! In the midst of so many worries, a moment’s happiness: having shared with Richard this rapture, a sentiment of gratitude for my destiny”. The available services include guided tours in various languages led by professionals who will accompany visitors to discover this extraordinary masterpiece.
The initiative is strongly desired by the Opera della Metropolitana di Siena and organised by Opera – Civita Group.
INFOS AND BOOKINGS
Cathedral of Siena – 18th August – 27th October 2013
Weekdays 10:30 am – 7:30 pm
Holidays: 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
Opa Si Pass all inclusive ticket € 12.00
Cathedral, Floor and Piccolomini Library
Full price: € 7.00
Reduced price for schools: € 3.00
Reduced price groups of more than 15: € 5.00
Gate of Heaven plus Floor and Piccolomini Library: € 25.00
Guided tours: every day at 11 am – 12 pm – 3.30 pm – 4.30 pm
Night openings: every Saturday, by reservation, from 24th August to 26th October, 2013, from 8 pm till midnight, guided tours are organised to see the Floor and the Gate of Heaven at night.
Multimedia guide on tablet: for individual guided tours
Itinerary Catalogue: “Virginis templum”, Livorno, Sillabe 2013, € 18.00
Photos: Courtesy of Opera Duomo, Siena – Press Office
Guest Writer: Carmelina Rotundo
A gently sloping green landscape where olive trees enrich the sscenery, isolated hamlets: in the tangle of branches the buds and flowers in soft clusters along with leavesare reawakening. Here and there, the cypresses, some young, others ancient; the bare geometric vines delineate spaces to then leave room for a forest; the shining yellow; I love this interplay of intertwining branches;more cypress trees in corona, others solitary in the foreground next to glimpses of churches.
How the vineyards climb, and even more bunches of small yellow small flowers glow. Now the landscape is dotted with buildings, factories, now crowded with houses, steeples; the big glass building of Montepaschi Siena stands out.
It is beautiful, this letting go into the weight of a Firenze-Siena journey, united towards the goal: Caravaggio, the painter of the brush of light, that artist that remained in my vision, in my heart when, in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, unforgettable, the conversion of Saint Paul appeared to me: a moment of light in time and space; the conversion had so touched Caravaggio.
I continue the climb, up, up to the “Gate of Heaven” where one gaze embraces little Siena from the North, South, East and West, and the tiles as they let themselves be caressed by the Sun; each ray today made luminous the Torre del Mangia; the only one so close to heaven, celestial blue now, the gaze now flies across rooftops of Siena Convent of San Domenico, the Apuan Alps. I cannot be still and I move on the terraces and into the attics that conserve old machines, tools that, used by the hands of skilled stonemasons, managed to obtain miracles from matter.
The gaze returns to inside the Cathedral; the stained glass windows arelight and color; the arches, marble columns are elegance; statues I now face, at the same height, and from the rooftops, with the gaze and heart that flies from roofs, in the sky we descend into the cave of the heart of the Duomo di Siena, in the crypt where, in silence and in meditation, he appears to me, by Caravaggio: St. John the Baptist.
That brush of light once again sculpts the form: idea-imagination-creation of a work of art that, launched into time, has been enriched by the looks of the citizens of the world who have admired it, always discovering something new and old, strong and sweet, and that light that was caressing therooftops of Siena. Caravaggio imprisoned and “carved” it into his St. John the Baptist.
SIENA CATHEDRAL, APRIL17-AUGUST 18, 2013
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi, Milano 1571 – Porto Ercole 1610)
San Giovanni Battista, 1602-1603,olio su tela, cm 129 x 95
Roma, Pinacoteca Capitolina.
Le immagini sono state fornite dagli Organizzatori dell’evento, ad esclusivo utilizzo collegato alle esigenze di Ufficio Stampa dell’iniziativa medesima. La possibilità di utilizzare questa immagine è riservata unicamente al fine di corredare con la stessa servizi, articoli, segnalazioni inerenti la mostra cui si riferiscono. Qualunque diverso utilizzo è perseguibile ai sensi di Legge ad iniziativa di ogni avente diritto.