Churches of Tuscany

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The Siena cathedral has it's beginings around 1200 a.d.    We know that the transport of the black and white marble blocks was being recorded by 1225.


The color scheme of black and white may derive from some ancient tradition or from the simple availability of the stone.    Black and white are also the colors of the Dominican order of preachers that predominated in the religious life of Siena.


In 1339 the cathedral underwent a massive renovation and enlargement, extending a new nave from the old one, which in turn would have become the transept.    The great Black  Plague that spread over all of Italy in 1348 reduced the city to a standstill, both artistically and financially, returning several  times during the rest of the century.


So the plans to make the church one of the biggest in Europe had to be put aside and when work resumed in 1376 the original nave was kept and embellished by new architects.    Year by year new additions were raised, and the present gothic facade was created by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.     One can still see the remains of the  huge unfinished nave, reaching out to the right of the present church.


The interior is one of the most lavish in Italy.  The floor inlays are the most amazing marble work to be seen, covering the entire floor  of the cathedral.     The extraordinay marble pulpit was sculpted by the Pisanos with the help of the young Arnolfo di Cambio.


Not to be missed is the Piccolomini Library, inside the church itself with its collection of hand crafted and decorated choir books lining the lower walls which were skillfully  frescoed by Pinturicchio.


Unrestored, and keeping their original bright colours, these amazing series of paintings,  based on the life of Pope Pius II Piccolomini, might be called the Sistine chapel of Siena.



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