Explore the Inside of Siena Cathedral | Frescos, Sculputures & More
The Siena Cathedral is home to many treasures that are revered by the Sienese people. Here, you will find artworks in the form of statues, sculpted sarcophagi, stained glass windows, paintings, frescoes, and much more. Once within the hallowed halls of the cathedral, we suggest taking your time to truly appreciate the craftsmanship, technique, and unique history behind each piece. Read on to know about the treasures you will find inside the Siena Cathedral.
Top Things To See Inside Siena Cathedral
What is inside the Siena Cathedral?
Sculptures and Artifacts
You will find as many noteworthy sculptures inside the cathedral. Among them is the darkened statue of St. John the Baptist in bronze by the Renaissance sculptor Donatello which is kept in the eponymous Chapel of St. John the Baptist. The Angel Candleholders by Domenico Beccafumi near the altar and Wall Tomb of Tommaso Piccolomini near the bell tower entrance are must-see sculptures. In the left transept, you can find artifacts such as the Tomb of Cardinal Riccardo Petroni, which features four figures carrying a stone sarcophagus. The detailed holy water stoups by Antonio Federighi that sit at the entrance of the Cathedral are also skillfully carved stone artifacts to be admired.
Paintings and Frecos
Most of the Cathedral’s artworks are on display in the museum within the cathedral complex. Works like the cathedral altarpieces like Assumption of the Virgin by Bartolomeo Cesi in 1594 garner significant interest in the art world. The four frescoes in the chancel areas like The Fall of Manna and Esther and Ahasuerus by Ventura Salimbeni in1610 are done in vivid detail. In the apse of the cathedral, behind the altar, you will find the large fresco of Saints and Paradise by Domenico Beccafumi. The large painting in the chancel entitled ‘The Adoration of the Sheperds’ by Alessandro Casolani is considered a masterpiece.
On the left of the nave, you will discover a spectacular stone altar. It was commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (Pope Pius III) in the hope that one day become this tomb would become his final resting place. It features a large stone structure of Carrara marble built by Andrea Bregno between 1481 and 1485. Later, between 1501 and 1504 four marvelous niche sculptures of St. Peter, St. Augustine, St. Paul, and St. Gregory were sculpted by Michelangelo and added to the arrangement. In the center of the structure is a Sienese school painting of the Madonna with Child by Paolo di Giovanni Fei.Giotto Bell Tower
Near the altar, a stunning pulpit stands mighty before the church pews. It is a raised platform from where sermons are delivered. This particular pulpit is made of Sienese Carrara marble and sculpted by Nicola Pisano between 1265 and 1268. It is supported by columns that begin from a short staircase that leads upwards to the platform. At the bottom of the columns are allegorical figures of lions consuming prey. The platform of the pulpit tells many stories in its intricate engravings. There are seven scenes of the Life of Christ, from his birth to his crucifixion, carved in breathtaking detail.
The Choir consists of wooden choir stalls arranged near the presbytery. The stalls are centuries old and were crafted into complicated designs and wood carvings. There were originally ninety choir stalls out of which 36 remain. Embedded in the backs of the choir stalls are beautiful wooden panels that were accomplished using the technique of marquetry wherein shapes of different types of wood are fitted into each other. They are considered the greatest work to come from Fra Giovanni da Verona who created them between 1456 and 1525.
In the northwest wall of the nave, you will find the Piccolomini Library as an adjoining structure. It is a beautiful room with vaulted ceilings adorned with frescoes. It was commissioned by Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (Pope Pius III) in honor of his uncle Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) and to persevere his unique collection of illuminated manuscripts and books. The walls of the library are painted with a fresco cycle depicting the life of Pope Pius II done by Pinturicchio. The ceiling, on the other hand, are ornate with exquisite frescoes of Roman mythological figures and stories.Read More on the Piccolomini Library
Cappella del Voto or Chapel of the Vow
Situated in the right transept is an enclosed space that is known as the Cappella del Voto. It holds the sacred painting of Madonna del Voto by Dietisalvi di Speme. It is of great importance to the Sienese people. As legend has it, the people of Siena pledged their devotion to Mother Mary in front of this painting before the battle of Montaperti and later triumphed in a clash with the invading Florentine soldiers. On either side of the centerpiece are two masterfully sculpted statues of St. Jerome and St. Mary Magdalen undergoing a mystical experience that were created by Gianlorenzo Bernini.
Chapel of Saint John the Baptist
In the left transept, you will find the Chapel of St. John the Baptist. It contains frescoes by the masterful Pinturicchio depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. Some of these scenes include the Nativity of John the Baptist, John the Baptist in the Desert, and John the Baptist Preaching. They were commissioned by Alberto Aringhieri, the superintendent of the church who was also in charge of mosaic floors. The haggard and rugged rendition of John the Baptist in bronze by Donatello evokes a sense of the Saint's powerful wild nature and is a treasured possession in the cathedral’s collection.
Stained Glass Windows
Above the apse in the presbytery is a large rose window called the Life of Mary by Duccio di Buoninsegna. It contains scenes of the death of Mary, her assumption into heaven, and her coronation. Although what we see now is a copy, the original is a centuries-old work of art and is approximately six meters in diameter. Another spectacular stained glass piece is fitted into the facade of the cathedral. Created by Pastorino de Pastorini in 1549, the piece is a detailed portrayal of the Last Supper of Christ and is an exemplary example of Italian stained glass.
Can I go Inside Siena Cathedral?
Yes, the Siena Cathedral is open to the public and can be visited during its opening hours. People from all faiths and beliefs are welcome inside the Cathedral to behold its vast treasures and seek its spiritual ambiance. However, purchasing a ticket is mandatory to enter the cathedral.
- Remember to dress modestly while entering the Siena Cathedral as it is a religious site.
- Entry inside the cathedral requires an entry ticket that can be purchased online or at the ticket office.
- Wheelchair users can easily access the inside of the Siena Cathedral through a dedicated ramp on the left-hand side of the building.
- If you would like to see more artworks including the original stained glass window of The Life of Mary, you may buy a ticket to the Museo dell’Opera, the cathedral’s museum that is located within the premises. You will also find the works of Giovanni Pisano there.
- You may also visit the Baptistry of San Giovanni and the cathedral’s crypt for its stunning frescoes. For paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries, you can visit the Oratory of St. Bernardino.
- You may take photos inside the cathedral. However, refrain from using flash and ensure that it is for personal use only.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Inside of Siena Cathedral
Siena Cathedral houses artworks by Sienese and Italian artists and sculptors. Its main attractions include the stone pulpit, the holy water stoups, and other stone artifacts and altars inside the church.
Yes, tickets are required to enter Siena Cathedral.
No, there is an admission fee to enter Siena Cathedral. Visitors need to purchase entry tickets to go inside the church.
Yes, Siena Cathedral is open to visitors upon purchase of an entry ticket.
No, guided tours of the Siena Cathedral are presently not available for visitors.
Yes, photography is allowed without flash inside Siena Cathedral.
Yes, along with its stunning interior architecture, the cathedral contains a cultural legacy of the Sienese people in the form of artworks, sculptures, frescoes, and much more.