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Discover the Enchating History and Frecoes of the Piccolomini Library

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Piccolomini Library | A Legacy of Art and Literature

The Piccolomini Library is a historic library in the Duomo of Siena, Italy. The library was built in 1492 by Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (Pope Pius III) to house the collection of manuscripts of his uncle Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II). A cultural landmark in the city, it contains animated frescoes on its walls and vaulted ceilings painted by the Umbrian artist Pinturicchio. On display are also rare illuminated manuscripts and codices that contain work of the some of the best Italian illustrators during the 15th century. The Piccolomini Library can be accessed from the Siena Cathedral and is a must-see for enthusiasts of art and history.

Piccolomini Library | Quick Facts

Piccolomini Library

Location: Piazza del Duomo in Siena, Italy
Construction start date: 1492
Construction completion date: 1502
Materials used: Marble and stone
Notable features: Ceiling frescoes, fresco cycles of the life of Pope Pius II, manuscripts, and codices.

Why Visit Piccolomini Library?

Piccolomini Library

Plan Your Visit to the Piccolomini Library

When Can I Visit the Piccolomini Library?
Where is the Piccolomini Library?
Piccolomini Library
Piccolomini Library

Address: Piazza del Duomo, 8, 53100 Siena SI, Italy

The Piccolomini Library is located inside the Siena Cathedral and can be accessed from the nave.

Highlights of the Piccolomini Library

The Three Graces Piccolomini Library

The Three Graces

In the center of the library, you will find the magnificent sculpture of the Three Graces. The Three Graces is a sculpture of three women in the nude who represent the daughters of Zeus. It is a 2nd-century copy of the original piece. The sculpture was discovered in the middle of the 15th century and purchased by Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (Pope Pius III), from Cardinal Prospero Colonna in Rome. After his death, it is said that many non-secular people, including a pope, took offence to the nudity displayed in the statue. However, being a lover of art, the wishes of Pope Pius III were respected and statue's place in the Piccolomini Library was secured as a work of art in a secular room.

The Life of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini

The Life of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini

There are ten episodic wall paintings in the Piccolomini Library that depict the life and career of Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, to whom the library is dedicated to. Some of the paintings depict a young Piccolomini leaving for the Council of Basil. In another, he is named as the imperial poet by Frederick III and Piccolomini as a cardinal. One fresco describes his ascension to Pope Pius II and another shows him announcing the launch of a crusade. The cycles of frescoes are done in the Renaissance style and is known for elaborate use of characters and landscapes. It took Pinturicchio seven years to complete the fresco cycle. It is said that Raphael, who was then an apprentice of Pinturicchio, was often used as a model for various characters in the frescoes.

Illuminated Codices Piccolomini Library

Illuminated Codices

The books of the Aeneas Piccolomini were ultimately never transferred to the library from Rome. What was brought over, however, was a group of 15th-century codices and illuminated manuscripts that included hymnals and liturgical books. They are masterfully illustrated by Italian illustrators like Girolamo da Cremona and Liberale da Verona from the north of Italy and by other Sienese artists. The collection of manuscripts are so extensive that they provide a complete overview of manuscript illumination in the 15th century which was the craft of painting manuscripts (usually made of animal skin) with precious metals such as silver, gold, and in other bright colors.

Ceiling Frescoes Piccolomini Library

Ceiling Frescoes

The frescoes on the vaulted ceiling contain elaborate detailing in every frame. The images are reinterpretations of classical themes in the Renaissance style. On the smaller panels, one notes the use of Roman mythological figures such as satyrs and sea monsters as the subjects of the frescoes instead of the usual biblical characters and events. They are bordered with intricate patterns and floral motifs. On the ceiling, you will find the celebrated frescoes of Diana Falling in Love with Endymion and The Rape of Proserpina. Above the bronze door leading to the library, there is a fantastic fresco depicting the coronation of Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini as Pope Pius III that is worth viewing.

The History of the Piccolomini Library In a Nutshell

Piccolomini Library

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was born to a noble yet impoverished family in the Republic of Siena in 1405. He became a trusted servant of Emperor Frederick III and a mediator between him and the Papal State. He was rewarded as being made first the Bishop of Siena and then the pope, naming himself Pope Pius II. While in Rome, Piccolomini, being a humanist and man of great intellectual curiosity put together a formidable collection of books and manuscripts. His nephew Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, who was first a cardinal and then became a pope himself, decided to erect a library in 1492 to honor his uncle and preserve the collection of manuscripts. His inspiration comes from the French tradition of building libraries attached to Cathedrals. The frescoes of the library were completed between 1503 and 1508 by the Umbrian painter Bernardino di Betto, better known as Pinturicchio.

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The Piccolomini Library Today

The Piccolomini Library stands as a cultural landmark in the city of Siena. It reflects the aspirations and intellectual interests of the long lineage of Popes that have come from the Sienese region. It's frescoes and sculptures, represent the accommodation of secular art in Christianity and are subjects of scholarly research. Today people can visit the Piccolomini Library during the opening hours of the Siena Cathedral and admire the creative efforts taken to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the people of Siena and her leaders.

Visitor Information on the Piccolomini Library

  • You can enter the Piccolomini Library from inside the Siena Cathedral.
  • It is located on the northwest side of the nave of the cathedral.
  • Tickets are required to view the Piccolomini Library which comes as a standard with entry to the cathedral.
  • Despite the opening hours of the cathedral, you may sometimes find that the Piccolomini library is closed. It is best to check with the administration in these cases.
  • By booking your tickets online, you can reserve a time slot for your visit to Siena Cathedral and the Piccolomini. This eliminates the need to spend time in waiting queues for tickets.

All Your Questions About the Piccolomini Library Answered

What is the Piccolomini Library?

The Piccolomini Library is a library located in the Siena Cathedral complex in Siena, Italy, housing a collection of valuable manuscripts and decorated with elaborate frescoes.

Do I need tickets to visit Piccolomini Library?

Yes, visitors need a ticket to enter the Piccolomini Library.

Where is the Piccolomini Library located?

The Piccolomini Library is located in the Siena Cathedral complex, in the city of Siena, Tuscany, Italy.

What is the significance of the Piccolomini Library?

The Piccolomini Library is significant for preserving the legacies of Pope Pius II and Pope Pius III, two popes of Sienese origin through a collection of manuscripts, as well as its Renaissance frescoes.

When was the Piccolomini Library built?

The Piccolomini Library was built in the late 15th century starting in 1492 and ending in 1502.

Is the Piccolomini Library still in use today?

Yes, the Piccolomini Library is still in use today as a museum and cultural site.

Where can I buy Piccolomini Library tickets?

Tickets for the Piccolomini Library can be purchased at the ticket office of the cathedral or preferably online.

Can I visit Piccolomini Library with Siena Cathedral tickets?

Yes, access to the Piccolomini Library comes as a standard feature with entry tickets to the Siena Cathedral.

What are the famous features of the Piccolomini Library?

The famous features of the Piccolomini Library include its Renaissance frescoes by Pinturicchio and its collection of rare illuminated manuscripts.

Why is the Piccolomini Library a must-visit?

The Piccolomini Library is a must-visit for its historical, cultural, and religious significance, as well as for its impressive collection of manuscripts and frescoes.