Siena's Duomo stands in all its gothic splendour in Siena's Piazza del Duomo. The
Romanesque-Gothic cathedral was designed and completed by Gionvanni Pisano between 1215 and 1263. The copper
sphere on top of the dome was added in 1264. The lantern on top of the dome was created by Gian Lorenzo
Bernini. Great things were expected of the cathedral, if it hadn't been for a lack of money, poor construction
and the plague. In 1339 a second addition was planned to extend Pisano's work. However any plans of
building the largest cathedral in the Christian world were soon thwarted when the flea carrying rats reaked
havoc in Europe in 1348. Construction did commence under the direction of Giovanni d'Agostino but was halted
when the plague hit Siena hard, killing over two thirds of the population of 100,000. Some of the greatest
artists of Italy adding their magic touch to the duomo were Donetello, Duccio di Buoningegna, Giovanni Pisano,
Michelangelo, Pinturicchio and Nicola Pisano (son of Giovanni Pisano).
What a Facade
The main statues of the facade were sculpted by Giovanni Pisano and his various
assistants.The statues represent prophets, philosophers and apostles.Unfortunately most of the sculptures on
the facade are actually copies, the originals are safely stored in the 'Crypt of Statues' at the Museo
dell'Opera which is located near the cathedral.
It Only Gets Better
The interior and exterior of the cathedral are constructed of striped white and blackish marble. The choice of
marble colour was chosen because they represent the colours of Siena.They are the colours of the civic coat of arms
of Siena. The black and white marble represents the black and white horses of the city's founders Senius and
Aschius (sons of Remus).The walls and columns of the cathdedrals interior are covered with black and white marble.
The floors are inlaid with the works of Domenico Beccafumi.
The Popes and One Popess
Inside the cathedral you will discover 172 pope stautes adorning the ceiling. Now a point of note one of the
popes represented is believed to be that of Pope Joan. Yes she was said to be the first and only female pope. So
much controversy surrounds this mysterious woman that I will just leave it up to your imagination but if you are
curious I tell you what I know. In 1601, Pope Clement VIII declared the legend of the female Pope to be unfounded.
Evidently there was a bust of her, inscribed Johannes VIII, femina ex Anglia, in the Duomo around the 1400's.
Johannes VIII was believed to have reigned between Leo IV (847-855)and Benedict III (855-858). However the statue
mysteriously disappeared with many believing it was either destroyed or recarved. The best rumour is the statue was
recarved and now bears the name Pope Zachary.
The Piccolomini Altar
The Piccolomini altar was started by Andrea Bregno in 1481. Michelangelo created the lower four statues of
Saints Gregory, Paul, Peter and Pius between 1501-1504 and the statue of the Virgin with child which is on top of
the altar was created by local sculptor Jacopo della Quercia.
Near the altar is the Piccolomini Library which as built for Pope Pius III to house the personal books and
papers of his uncle, Pope Pius II. The library features the frescoes by Pinturicchio. The frescoes depict the life
of Pope Pius II.
Chapel of Saint John the Baptist
Past the library you will find the Chapel of St John the Baptist. The chapel features a bronze statue of St John
the Baptist by Donatello and the gothic octagonal pulpit which was designed by Nicola Pisano. If you look closely
at the pilpit you will noticed the carved scenes from the life of Christ. The chapel also features eight
This museum houses many of the original works of Donatello, Giavanni Pisano and Sienese artist Jacopo della
Querica. It also houses the original sculptures from the exterior walls of the cathedral. One of the most
impressive peices in the museum is the 'Maesta'(1308-1311) by Duccio di Buoningegna featuring the Madonna
surrounded by angels, apostles and saints.
San Giovanni Baptistry
The baptistry which is located behind the cathedral,contains the baptismal font with bas-reliefs designed by
Donetello, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Jacopo della Quercia.
Romulus and Remus Statue
Near the facade is the statue of Romulous and Remus suckling from the she- wolf. As legend has it the sons had the
statue stolen from the Apollo Temple in Rome.
Interestingly during the 1999-2003 excavation of the area around the cathedral unearthed the entrance to an
earlier church and frescoes depicting the Old Testament dating back to c.1280 were also discovered.