By 1265 the basic work had been complete and one of the monks, Fra Melano, went to Pisa to commission a pulpit from Nicola Pisano and then in 1280 Nicola's son Giovanni was employed to work on the façade. By 1297 Giovanni had stormed off in a huff at the comune's accusations of mismanagement of funds and materials. Then in 1317 it was decided that the Duomo was going to be too small and on 23rd August 1339 a new and massive structure was planned
The plan was that the existing church should become merely the transept of a much bigger building. This work was begun but cracks and errors halted the work, which resumed but was finally halted by the plague of 1348, as the population halved and funding dried up. The remains of this extension still speak of Sienese ambition and hubris and are now used as a car park and the Museo dell' Opera. The space was filled with the Bishop's Place, removed in the 19th century, with the four large windows added in 1898.
The gothic façade was sort-of finished in 1377, but it was not until 1877 that the poor-quality mosaics were added in the topmost triangular pediments, under architect Giuseppe Partini, with the bronze door following in 1958. The façade is a mixture of sculpture, stained glass, mosaic and pinnacles, mostly depicting scenes and figures from the life of the Virgin, including the life of her parents, Joachim and Anna. The 14 statues of the the pagan sibyls, philosophers and prophets who foretold Christ's coming, on the second tier were carved by Giovanni Pisano. Those on the façade are copies, the originals being now in the Museo dell'Opera, except for one, the bust of the figure of the prophet Haggai, discovered in 1963, which is in the V&A in London. The bas reliefs over the door, of 1297-1300, are by Tino di Camaino, the Sienese sculptor who would carve the Petroni monument inside the Duomo 15 years later. The 36 busts of the prophets and patriarchs around the rose window are copies by Tito Sarocchi of the 14th century originals.
Gothic, essentially in its vaulting and looming quality, and somewhat overwhelming when you first enter, due to the stripes and there being decorated surfaces all
over. Also the crowds and the roped-off areas guiding your route.
Further disappointment on my visit at the scaffolding all around the Pisano pulpit.
Somewhat generic stucco busts of Popes stare down from a frieze bellow the clerestory
all round the church. A set of Twelve Apostles
Pisano adorned columns inside. In the 18th-century works by
Giuseppe Mazzuoli replaced the originals (now in the Opera Museum). The
black and white postcard (see below)
shows these 18th-century Apostles
in situ. These
replacements were themselves replaced by reproductions of the originals
and acquired in 1895 by the Brompton Oratory in London, where they remain.
The reproduction of the Pisano studio's originals are now to be found
outside on the roof of the nave and right-hand aisle.
The fifth altar, after four more skippable altars mirroring those opposite, from the door on the right is the Tomb of Tommaso Piccolomini, above the door to the campanile, by Neroccio di Bartolomeo Lando. Below are bas reliefs depicting episodes from the life of the Virgin by Urbano da Cortono, a collaborator with Donatello known for his Tomb of Cristoforo Felice in San Francesco in Siena.
Begins with geometric patterns and some
scenes outside and progresses to 56 figurative panels inside. Made between
1349 and 1547 and involving almost every artist who worked in the city
between these dates, preparing the cartoons that the stonemasons would
then make into coloured marble. The panels initially echoed the black and
white stripes of the walls, but by the time the biblical scenes in the
transept were being made the colouring had got richer.
in the Museo dell'Opera
A series of panels which
made up a reliquary cupboard by Benedetto di Bindo, who also decorated the
sacristy here, and trained Sassetta.
not in the Museo dell'Opera
Domenico Beccafumi's The Offering of the Keys of the City to the Virgin before the Battle of Porta Camollia, a panel of 1526/7, is painted taking place in front of the chapel dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazi, which housed the famous votive image, before the chapel was demolished in 1659. It is now in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. An earlier Offering of the Keys, from 1483, when exiles from the Novesco threatened to capture Siena, was commemorated in a Gabella panel by Pietro Orioli which also shows the chapel, more clearly. It is still in the Siena State Archives.
The Maestà by Duccio was painted between 1308 (the contract
1311, when it was processed at noon on the 9th of June with great crowds
and ceremony through Siena. It was unique, huge and double-sided, and part
of the ambitious plans for the expansion of the Duomo. Its display is now spread around
three walls of one room in the Museo dell'Opera - the main panel on one
wall and the spandrel and pinnacles panels on the other two - which I found functional
but dull. It is said to have originally had a
complicated carpentry mechanism involving curtains, a canopy and three painted
wooden angels who descended to hand the priest the Host, chalice and
corporal (linen cloth); with four more angels holding candles (two in
front, two behind) five more candlesticks and two ostrich eggs.
The Altars of the Patron Saints
The patron saints of Siena were Savinus, Ansanus and
Crescentius and their cults had long been celebrated in the early
13th-century cathedral. A later, and equally nondescript, addition to the
roster had been Saint Victor. As part of the ambitious plans of the early
1300s it was decided to commission altarpieces for the altars of each of
them devoted, unsurprisingly, to feasts of the Virgin.
But back to the altarpieces commissioned for
the Saint's altars, which began in 1333 with the one for Saint Ansanus.
Simone Martini's famous Annunciation, with Saints Ansanus and Margaret,
painted with Lippo Memmi, his brother-in-law. It's the only one of the
three with a gold ground, but its depth and illusionistic detail are
impressive and innovative. The female saint has also been identified as
Saint Maxima, the mother of Ansanus. Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Presentation
in the Temple was next, for the altar of Saint Crescentius, followed
by brother Pietro's Birth of the Virgin, both in 1342. They share
the importance of being the first narrative scenes made the central panels
in an altarpiece. They have also both lost their flanking saint panels,
confirmed as present in early inventories and
to have included the dedicatory saints.
Most Italian baptisteries are freestanding structures opposite their church's façade, so Siena's is unusual, to say the least, in being under the apse of the Duomo. Work resumed on the Gothic façade by Domenico di Agostino in 1355, but it was never finished. This original plan had involved extending the Duomo by two bays over the baptistery. Also planned were twenty-three male and female heads. Only eight of these have survived - the originals are on the wall in the last room of the Crypt, replaced by casts on the Baptistery façade. They are thought to have had no significance beyond being purely decorative.
Completed c.1325, probably by Camaino di Crescenzio, it carries on the stripy and decorated look of the Duomo. Two bays long with two aisles and a half-domed apse.
There's an hexagonal font of 1417-30 with eight bronze panel of scenes from the life of the Baptist by Lorenzo Ghiberti (The Baptism of Christ and The Baptist before Herod), Donatello (The Head of the Baptist Presented to Herod) and Jacopo della Quercia (The Angel Announcing the Baptist's Birth to Zaccaria ). Jacopo was also responsible for the marble tabernacle above, the summit statue of John the Baptist and five niche statues of the Prophets. Donatello also did two of the corner angels (Faith and Hope) and (with Giovanni di Turino) the small putti on the tabernacle above. There's a cast of this font in the Victoria and Albert museum in London which has all five of these putti, one having been lost from the original since the cast was made in 1875-7.
Three unmajor altarpieces to the left. In the right aisle are two gold-ground ones, a Madonna and Child with Saints (including Saint Stephen looking even more like Mickey Mouse than usual) (see below) by Andrea Vanni (taken from the church of Santo Stefano alla Lizza) with a slightly later predella by Giovanni di Paolo with scenes from the life of Saint Stephen and a Crucifixion with Saints Jerome and Bernardino. Also an 1896 one of The Immaculate Conception with Saints, Joseph, Anne, Paul and Elizabeth by Giuseppe Catani Chitti. Imagine a Pre-Raphaelite gold-ground altarpiece. Chitti later settled in Florence, where he met the English Pre-Raph artist John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, and was also a talented forger, of works in the style of Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, amongst others, and in collaboration with famed forger Federico Joni.
The fresco decoration of the ceiling and apse is mostly by Vecchietta and was painted between 1450 and 1454, in the wake of the the 1450 canonisation of local saint Bernardino. He and his concerns feature heavily, like the Articles of the Creed, an unusual subject also painted by Vecchietta in the sacristy of the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala. The three impressive Passion scenes in the apse vault (Agony, Crucifixion and Lamentation) are earlier work by the Bolognese artist Michele di Matteo, finished in 1447?!).
Calling this 12th-century space The Crypt is descriptive, maybe, but deceptive - it is thought to have been a narthex, maybe part of a reception area for pilgrims. When the baptistery was built this under-church was filled with rubble to support the Duomo's apse above. It was only found and excavated in 1999-2003, but as the rubble was holding up the church above a supporting steel structure had to be built before the debris could be cleared.
It's a delightfully ramshackle and random trio of spaces. There's the main middle fresco-fragment filled area itself (see below and right), the smaller space that you enter first, also decorated with frescoes, and the first space beyond, the so-called 'old foundry', which is without decoration but with some appealing stone and brickwork and random arches from the old cathedral structure. This area was used for workshops but chemical analysis of the much-blackened walls has revealed that it wasn't used for the smelting and working of metal s tradition had had it.
The frescoes (which have been dated to the last quarter of the 13th century) depict scenes from the Old Testament (on the upper wall and largely lost) and the New Testament below. The Passion scenes begin in the small left section, with a very fragmented Last Supper, followed by The Washing of the Feet and The Betrayal. In the larger middle section there is The Crucifixion, The Deposition, The Entombment (with a small lower fragment of The Resurrection above) then The Harrowing of Hell. In the right-hand section The Infancy scenes begin, with The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Adoration of the Magi (the last two both very fragmentary), The Presentation (very fragmentary), The Flight into Egypt, and Jesus at School.
They are uniformly vivid, but vary much in size, and state, having been covered in rubble for so long, and chopped about by various bits of building work resulting in parts lost behind walls and girders. There looks to be several different hands and more than one layer. The scenes are similar, it is said, to ones depicted on panels by artists in the circle of Guido da Siena, such as Rinaldo da Siena, Guido di Graziano and Dietisalvi di Speme. It has also been suggested, of course, that Duccio may have worked with them, specifically on the Entombment and the Bishop in Benediction.
Oltrarno :: Fiesole