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Exploring Duomo di Siena and its Baptistery

Exploring Duomo di Siena and its Baptistery
About Florence


Located in the historical center of the city of Siena, the Duomo di Siena, known in Italy as Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta, is one of Italy’s most important Romanesque and Gothic churches.
It used to be a Roman Catholic Marian Church and it is now the seat of the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa Montalcino and is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

The Siena Cathedral was consecrated by Pope Alexander III in 1779 but, since then, it kept on being built for over two centuries…

Let’s find out more about the Siena Cathedral and its Baptistery and book a day trip to Siena!

A little history about Duomo di Siena

Not many people know that the Duomo of Siena was actually built and consecrated on a site where a Roman temple used to be, just like many other European churches.

Its construction on the highest point of the city of Siena began in 1226 and it was carried on for many years, starting from the back and ending on the facade so that people could still attend the mass while the Church was being built.

The Church was built by three architects in total: Giovanni di Agostino, Giovanni Pisano and Camaino di Crescentino. More precisely, Giovanni Pisano worked on the façade from the end of the XIII century and the bell tower was not finished until 1313.

Part of the reason why this Church took so long to be finished is that in 1317 it was chosen to extend this architectural site because the city of Siena was gaining a lot of power and its population was growing. Unfortunately, though, the idea to make this Church bigger was scrapped when the plague hit it in 1348, reducing the population significantly.

The façade of the Siena Cathedral

As mentioned before, the façade of the Siena Cathedral was designed and worked on by Giovanni Pisano. It’s made of white marble and decorated with Prato’s serpentine marble and red Siena marble.

The façade is typically divided into two parts:

  • The upper section: built in the Fiorentino Gothic Style. It presents a rose window surrounded by Gothic Niches and it’s decorated with the busts of Prophets and Apostles in honor of Jesus Christ and the Holy Mary;
  • The lower section: built in a Romanesque-Gothic style by Giovanni Pisano;

The Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista

A very interesting aspect of the Siena Cathedral is its baptistery. Built between 1316 and 1325, the Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista was designed by Camaino di Crescentino in a Gothic style. The façade of this baptistery is actually unfinished though.

A fascinating aspect of this religious building is its interior, presenting two aisles and a nave and containing great works of art by important sculptors like Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and more.
The church is also decorated with panels figuring the life of John the Baptist such as:

  • “Baptism of Christ” by Ghiberti;
  • “Annunciation to Zacharias” by Jacopo della Quercia;
  • “Arrest of John the Baptist” by Ghiberti and Giuliano di Ser Andrea;
  • “The Feast of Herod” by Donatello;

Visiting the Siena Cathedral and its Baptistery surely are a must if you’re planning on going to the beautiful city of Siena. Make sure to book a private tour with us for the best experience possible and check out our other blogs to get to know more about Italy!

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