A Guide to the Piccolomini Library - History, Frescoes, and Visitor Information

Piccolomini Library | A Living Legacy

The Piccolomini Library is a historic library in the Duomo of Siena, Italy. The library was built in 1492 to house the collection of manuscripts of Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini), and it is now an important cultural landmark in the city. It contains marvelous animated frescoes painted by Pinturicchio painted on its walls and its vaulted ceilings. It also is used to house illuminated manuscripts and codices that contain work of the some of the best illustrators in Italy 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

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 nude women, representing the daughters of Zeus, and is a 2nd-century copy of the original. The sculpture was discovered in the middle of the fifteenth century and was purchased by Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini from Cardinal Prospero Colonna in Rome. It is said that many non-secular, including a pope, were offended by the nudity of the statue. However, being a lover of art, the wishes of the Pope were respected, and the statue's place in the Piccolomini Library was justified as it was meant to be a secular room.

The Life of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini

The Life of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini

There are ten wall paintings around the Piccolomini Library that depict the life and career of Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, to whom the library is dedicated to. The cycles of frescoes are done in the Renaissance style and are very elaborate in the use of characters and its landscape. Some of the paintings depict Piccolomini as a youth leaving for the Council of Basil. In another, he is named as the imperial poet by HRE Frederick III and Piccolomini as a cardinal. One fresco depicts his ascension to being Pope Pius and another shows him announcing the launch of a crusade. It took Pinturicchio seven years to complete the cycle of frescoes. It is said that Raphael, who was 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 Piccolomini were never transferred to the library from Rome. What was brought over was a group of 15th-century codices and illuminated manuscripts that included choir books and liturgical books. They are masterfully illustrated by Italian illustrators like Girolamo da Cremona and Liberale da Verona from the north of Italy and other Sienese artists. The collection of manuscripts are are so extensive that they provide a complete overview of manuscript illumination in the 15th century which was the process 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 have been done in the Renaissance style and contain elaborate detailing in every frame. It deploys reinterpretations of classical themes and 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 biblical characters and events. They are bordered with intricate patterns and floral motifs. On the ceiling, you will find Diana Falling in Love with Endymion and The Rape of Proserpina are the most well-known frescoes. Above the bronze door leading to the library, there is a fantastic fresco depicting the coronation of Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini as Pope Pius III as well.

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. Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, the nephew of Pope Pius II, 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. He took his inspiration comes from the French tradition of building libraries attached to Cathedrals and also the Vatican Library. The frescoes of the library were completed between 1503 and 1508 by Umbrian painter Bernardino di Betto, better known as Pinturicchio.

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Additional Information About 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

Do I need tickets to visit Piccolomini Library?

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

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 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.

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.

Is the Piccolomini Library still in use today?

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

When was the Piccolomini Library built?

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

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.

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