It’s not often I rave about churches especially in Italy where there are so many, but the Cathedral (Duomo) in Siena is a great Gothic building filled with treasures.
What really stood out for me was the white and greenish-black striped marble. As well as being the symbolic colours of Siena, it gives the Cathedral a slightly modern look which isn’t what you would expect from a church built-in the 13th century.
But while these massive, bold columns are incredible it’s the Cathedral floor that holds the treasures. It’s decorated with mosaic masterpieces.
The 56 inlaid marble panels were designed by 40 leading artists between 1369 and 1547, all from Siena except one. They took six centuries to complete with the last one finished in the 1800’s.
The mosaic panels in the nave and aisles are protected from pedestrian traffic by barriers, but the most precious mosaics are under the apse and in the transepts. As this is where people sit for mass, they are protected by special flooring and are only uncovered in honour of the Palio on July 2 and August 16 (the famous annual horse race in Siena) and also in September and October.
One of the oldest designs in the centre near the entrance is – the Sienese Wolf Surrounded by Symbols of Allied Cities, dating back to 1369.
If you want to visit Siena plan your trip to coincide with the Palio (held twice a year on 2 July and 16 August) and you’ll also see the best of the mosaic masterpieces.