Explore the Siena Cathedral | History, Architecture, Visitor Information
The Duomo of Siena
Siena Cathedral, also known as the Duomo di Siena, is a historic church in the heart of Siena, Italy. Established in the 13th century, the cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of Italian Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It boasts a stunning exterior with intricate marble facades, exquisite interiors, and mosaic floors while holding impressive portraits and sculptures by artists like Pinturicchio, Duccio di Buoninsegna, and Donatello.
Here, you will get to view its striking black and white bell tower and find treasures such as the Piccolomini Library, which contains rare illuminated manuscripts and stunning fresco cycles. The cathedral is also home to important religious relics and artifacts that are kept in the Cathedral’s Museum. Visit Siena Cathedral with tickets that can be purchased online.
Quick Guide to the Siena Cathedral
Also Known As: Siena di Duomo
Location: Piazza del Duomo, Siena, Italy
Architect: Several, including Giovanni Pisano
Architectural Style: French Gothic, Romanesque, Classical
Number of Visitors Per Year: More than 1 million
Why Visit Siena Cathedral?
There are several reasons why one might visit the Siena Cathedral in the city of Siena. Here are a few good reasons:
- Stunning architecture and artworks: Get lost in the grandiose architecture of the interiors of the cathedral and admire its detailed facade. Also, explore its sculptures, frescos, and paintings from various Italian and Sienese artists.
- The Gates of Heaven Tour: Climb the staircase of the cathedral to reach the “Gates of Heaven”, an elevated corridor overlooking the nave, and even step out to the rooftops to view the city of Siena.
- Enter the Piccolomini Library: Marvel at the impressive Piccolomini Library and its collection of illuminated manuscripts and ancient books and elaborate frescos.
- Beyond the Cathedral: Access other parts of the cathedral complex including the Baptistry of San Giovanni, the crypt, and also the Museo dell'Opera which houses important artifacts from the cathedral.
Plan Your Visit to Siena Cathedral
Address: Piazza del Duomo, 8, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
The Siena Cathedral is located in the Piazza del Duomo of Siena and is a 4-min walk from the Piazza del Campo.
Nearest Train Station: Siena FS (1km)
The Siena Cathedral is open every day. However, timings vary depending on the time of year and religious celebrations:
1 April to 31 October: 10 AM – 7 PM
1 November to 31 March: 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM
26 December to 6 January: 10:30 AM – 6 PM
Last Entry: Half an hour before closing time.Opening Hours of the Museum, Oratory & Mass Timings
History of Siena Cathedral in a Nutshell
In 1196, a guild of masons called the Opera di Santa Maria was put in charge of constructing a new cathedral in Siena. By 1215, mass was regularly said in the basic structure of the new church. Renovations to the Cathedral took place from 1226 onward and large volumes of black and white marble were transported to the cathedral for the construction of the facade and the bell tower. The ceiling vaults and the transept were constructed in 1260. Around this time the work on the west facade by architect Giovanni Pisano under the Opera del Duomo was underway. The architect began imbibing elements of French Gothic, Tuscan Romanesque, and Classical architecture into the cathedral's structure. The church’s iconic dome was completed in 1264. Another major renovation to the church happened in 1339 under architect and sculptor Giovanni di Agostino in order to double the size of the structure by building a new nave. The Black Death had stalled work in 1348 and the expansion was abandoned.
Architecture & Design of the Siena Cathedral
Siena Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, displaying inventive design and exquisite craftsmanship. The facade is vividly detailed with complex engravings and biblical statues perched on its ridges in airs of contemplation. The interior is equally impressive, with an unusually long nave intersected by striped black-and-white marble columns and an elaborately designed marble inlaid floor. The apse is decorated with stunning frescoes and stained glass work. The hexagonal dome, which dominates the skyline of Siena, is ornately designed from the inside and requires a keen eye to distinguish its numerous decorations. The cathedral also has an upper gallery overlooking the nave with corridors that lead to the rooftops.Siena Cathedral's Interior Architecture
What to See at the Siena Cathedral
The facade is built in Tuscan Romanesque style, and divided into an upper and lower part. It is packed with finely carved embellishments, busts, and statues of allegorical and biblical figures. The facade is known for its three richly decorated portals with vortex-like carvings in the tympanums that act as entrances to the Cathedral. Above the portals is a rose window depicting The Last Supper and in the triangular gable at the top, a glowing mosaic of the Coronation of the Virgin.
The inside of the cathedral is covered in colored marble, mostly black and white (the colors of the civic coat of arms in Siena). Large striped black and white pillars stand in the aisled nave of the church. The capitals of these pillars are decorated with allegorical busts and animal statues while a long upper ledge runs along the nave with beautiful mouldings. Its vaulted roof is studded with blue and golden stars and elaborate motifs. Looking up from the transept one can observe its large hexagonal dome.The Structure of the Siena Cathedral
Gates of Heaven
While you are in the Cathedral, go on a Gates of Heaven tour that allows you to access the upper gallery of the church. Climbing up 80 stairs, one can get a spectacular view of the colonnaded church nave from above. You can stroll the corridors and even the outer passages on the rooftops, taking in the solemn ambiance of the church and the views of the city.
The crypt of the Siena Cathedral was accidentally discovered in a room under the pulpit when the church was being renovated. The room took about three years to be carefully cleared of debris by historians and archeologists. The room is covered with frescoes from the Sienese school that date back to the 13th century. Some of the scenes depicted in the frescos are the Passion of Christ, the Deposition from the Cross, the Crucifixion, and the scenes from the Old Testament.
The Piccolomini Library, built by Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, leads off from the nave into a small room. It is intricately decorated with colorful motifs, biblical scenes, and 10 episodes about the life and career of Piccolomini. It was painted by the Renaissance painter Pinturicchio and his assistants, one of whom was Raphael. The library was initially purposed to hold Piccolomini’s extensive collection of manuscripts, a few of which are displayed inside.About the Piccolomini Library
Baptistry of San Giovanni Battista
The Baptistry located outside the cathedral was built in the 1310s and the 1320s by Camaino di Crescentino. It is a solid structure with plenty of detailed frescos and paintings. Its most prized possession is the Baptismal Font — a bronze, marble, and enamel piece that depicts the life of St. John the Baptist with two statues surrounding it. It was worked on by several sculptors from the Renaissance period, including Donatello.
The inlaid marble floor of the Siena Cathedral is a unique marvel in Italy. It consists of 56 panels, each telling a story of Christian or Roman origin. It was undertaken between the 14th and 16th centuries with contributions from 40 different artists. The most popular panels include the Wheel of Fortune, the She-Wold of Siena, the Four Virtues, and Mercy. Some parts of the floors are covered with a cloth to prevent them from being damaged.The Siena Cathedral Floor
In the right wing of the Siena Cathedral complex is a building that is the Cathedral’s museum. Founded in 1869, it contains artifacts, statues, bas-reliefs, and artworks that were at some point part of the Duomo of Siena. It includes sculptures by Giovanni Pisano, and paintings by Duccio di Boninsegna, Ambrogio, and Pietro Lorenzetti. In its treasury, you will find liturgical objects including gold-gilded reliquaries and chalices from the 15th and 17th centuries.
The Bell Tower
The towering campanile or bell tower of Siena Cathedral is an iconic structure in the city that is visible from several vantage points. The bell tower was constructed in 1313 much after the completion of the Cathedral. The bell tower contains a total of six bells placed in successive levels of the tower and culminates in a pyramid-shaped roof. The oldest bell was known to be cast as early as 1149.
Book Tickets to the Siena Cathedral
Frequently Asked Questions About Siena Cathedral
Siena Cathedral is a famous medieval church located in the city of Siena, Tuscany, Italy.
Admission to Siena Cathedral is not free. You will need tickets to enter the cathedral. Ticket prices vary depending on the activity and whether you book in advance.
Siena Cathedral is famous for its Romanesque, Gothic and Classical architecture, including its intricate facade, beautiful marble floors, and impressive dome. It is also home to many works of art, including sculptures by Donatello and frescoes by Pinturicchio and other artists.
While at the Siena Cathedral, you can admire its beautiful architecture, explore its many works of art, and climb to the upper gallery for panoramic views of the church and city. You may also visit the museum and Piccolomini library.
The original design of Siena Cathedral’s facade is attributed to Giovanni Pisano, but the cathedral was later expanded and modified by several different architects and artists.
The basic construction of the Siena Cathedral was completed in 1215 and continued over several centuries, with additions and modifications being made as late as the 19th century.
Siena Cathedral is located at the Piazza del Duomo of the historic center of Siena, a city in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Siena Cathedral is easily accessible by public transportation, including buses and trains. However, walking is the preferred mode of getting around in Siena.
The opening hours of Siena Cathedral vary depending on the season and day of the week. Generally, it is open from 10 AM to 7 PM, with shorter hours on Sundays in March.
The main entrance is in the western facade of the cathedral. It also has entrances to the crypt, the museum, and the Piccolomini Library.