Siena Cathedral floor: new uncovering and new national spot

On the occasion of the new uncovering of the Floor of Siena Cathedral, Opera della Metropolitana and Opera Laboratori have created a new national spot. "The overall view of the floor can be a moment of personal and silent reflection."

On the occasion of the new unveiling of the Siena Cathedral Floor from next Aug. 18 until Oct. 18, 2023,Opera della Metropolitana and Opera Laboratori have created a new commercial that will occupy promotional space on major national TV stations. The constant work to enhance the value of this magnificent masterpiece of history and art has made the Floor of Siena Cathedral one of the major attractions for Italian and foreign visitors who, for years now, have been planning their visit based on the possibility of admiring it completely uncovered.

“The overall view of the fifty-six inlays of the floor,” says Rector of the Opera della Metropolitana di Siena Giovanni Minnucci, “can represent a moment of personal and silent reflection, forgetting, at least momentarily, our harried races and our daily worries, in the fruitful search for the meaning that each of us intends to give to our lives.”

The precious carpet of marbles is unique, not only for the technique used, but also for the message of the figurations, a constant invitation to wisdom, starting in the naves with the protagonists of the ancient world, disheveled sibyls and philosophers, to the biblical subjects under the dome, in the chancel and transept; a symbolic journey in search of the highest values of the human spirit.

The floor is the result of a complex iconographic program carried out through the centuries, from the fourteenth century to the nineteenth, over fifty in all, whose preparatory cartoons were drawn by artists, almost all “Sienese,” including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, Domenico Beccafumi, as well as the Umbrian painter Pinturicchio, author of the famous panel with the Mount of Wisdom, a symbolic depiction of the path to Virtue as the attainment of inner serenity, “a sure path even among the waves” (Wis. 14,3).

The path opens with the entrance inscription, in front of the central portal, an invitation to enter “chastely” the Virginis templum, the house of Mary, evidence of the strong bond that Sienese citizens have had for centuries with their ’patroness’: Sena vetus civitas Virginis.

Our Lady is also defined as Sedes Sapientiae, seat of Wisdom, and immediately afterwards the inscription is followed by the famous inlay with Hermes Trismegistus, the Egyptian sage, the first great theologian of antiquity. This is followed by philosophers such as Socrates and Cratetes in Pinturicchio’s tarsia, Epictetus, Aristotle, Seneca, and Euripides who accompany the Wheel of Fortune and invite detachment from earthly, futile, indeed cumbersome possessions in order to devote oneself to philosophical thought.

We move on to the biblical itinerary in which Domenico Beccafumi, compared to the artists of previous generations, makes use of new stylistic modes by renewing the technique of the marble commesso. Instead of using stones of various colors, the artist juxtaposes marbles of different shades from the basic hue. Through tonal gradations of gray-green, Beccafumi thus succeeds in achieving astonishing results of chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow delineate figures with such artistry that they look like masterpieces made with the silographic technique or monochrome paintings.

Beccafumi accomplishes such a revolution in the frieze with Moses makes water spring from the rock that fits between the two pillars supporting the dome, toward the chancel. The main source of the subject is a passage from Exodus (17:1-7, but see also Numbers 20:1-13), in which the people of Israel, after crossing the Red Sea on their march to the Promised Land, are forced to endure the lack of water, until the miracle in which Moses strikes the rock in Horeb, in the presence of the elders: “from it shall flow water, and the people shall drink.” According to St. Paul’s interpretation, in his first letter to the Corinthians (10:4), the rock represents Christ, from whom salvation gushes forth for those men who draw water from its source: “they all drank the same spiritual drink: for they drank from a spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

On the occasion of the unveiling, visitors will also have the opportunity to “walk” around the choir and apse where the wooden inlays by Fra Giovanni da Verona are preserved, executed in a technique similar to that of marble commesso, with woods of different colors, depicting urban views, landscapes and still lifes, cabinets showing interior shelves with liturgical objects rendered with perspective skill.

The complete OpaSiPass itinerary allows, in addition to a visit to the Floor in the Cathedral, a visit to the Museo dell’Opera in which one can admire, in the Hall of Statues, mosaics with the symbols of Siena’s allied cities and Antonio Federighi’s original inlays of the Seven Ages of Man. In the Sala dei Cartoni, whose entrance flanks Duccio’s magnificent Maestà, the famous floor plan of the Duomo outlined by Giovanni Paciarelli in 1884 can be seen, giving an overview of the inlays and the route from the entrance to the high altar. The integrated ticket also includes access to the so-called “Crypt,” under the Cathedral Floor and the Baptistery.

By booking a visit to the Cathedral Floor, it is possible to have afree audio guide of the Cathedral complex on your smartphone or request a guided tour. With the QR Code on all information materials it will also be possible to secure access to the Cathedral, vitating the queues at the ticket office by showing up directly at museum entrances.

On the occasion of the extraordinary unveiling 2023, the new official catalog of the floor of the Cathedral of Siena A Marble Book, written by Marilena Caciorgna and published by Sillabe was presented

Siena Cathedral floor: new uncovering and new national spot
Siena Cathedral floor: new uncovering and new national spot

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