In Tuscany, in search of the floor of Siena Cathedral
08 September 2022
The floor of Siena Cathedral, a masterpiece forged over the centuries
The floor of Siena Cathedral, on public display from 27 June to 31 July and from 18 August to 18 October, is a work created over 500 years, from the 14th to the 19th century. It took five centuries to compose 50 panels, i.e. elaborate ornamental paintings created through the sophisticated and meticulous decoration technique that involves cutting out each individual element, then combining them to form scenes. In this example, the work is on polychrome marble with gilded inserts, in skilful combinations of colours and shades. The artists who supplied the designs are mainly Sienese: Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, Domenico Beccafumi, plus the Umbrian Pinturicchio, who has left us the famous floor panel with the Monte della Sapienza (Mount of Wisdom).
A path of spiritual elevation: the significance of the floor of Siena Cathedral
The carpet of polychrome marble that unrolls along the aisles of the Cathedral of Siena dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption is intended, through its depictions, as a reminder of Wisdom. It is a true story punctuated by numerous scenes, leading towards a divine dimension; a path that ultimately leads to salvation through faith, virtue and knowledge. You will not only find yourself before one of the most remarkable works of art of all time, but by carefully observing the scenes you will be led on an intimate spiritual journey.
Like stars in the world
The extraordinary unveiling of the floor of the Cathedral of Siena 2022 has been given a highly evocative title: Come stelle in terra (Like stars in the world), a phrase by St Paul contained in the Letter to the Philippians, one of the texts of the New Testament. The invitation to shine with light is charged with deep meaning this year, as a wish for peace in a time of new wars and a return to hope after the pain caused by the pandemic. Earthly experiences, however sombre, should only be interpreted as a prelude to a higher divine existence: this is the meaning visitors are urged to embrace.
What to do in Siena Cathedral
There is a charge for viewing the Duomo's marble floor on the days of its unveiling. You can choose just the basic ticket, which allows you to admire what Vasari described as "the most beautiful, great and magnificent floor that has ever been made". Or go for more extensive solutions, in order to enjoy a complete artistic experience.
Indeed, there is also the option of purchasing a combined ticket, the Opa Si Pass, for access to all the museum venues of the Siena Cathedral complex (Cathedral, Opera Museum, Crypt, Baptistery), plus an additional ticket for admission to the roofs of the imposing religious building, the Gates of Heaven.
A guided tour service in various languages is also available. The opportunity is well worth seizing, because you can delve into the significance of the Cathedral's inlaid marble floor hidden among allegories and symbolism, Sibyls, the Sacrifice of Elijah and the Stories of Moses, and other biblical episodes.
You will have a clear view of the starry vault of the dome and all the works of art contained within the Cathedral, an absolute Gothic masterpiece inspired by the Heavenly Jerusalem. Thanks to the guides' narration, you will be able to interpret the profound meaning of light as a metaphor for God. The Cathedral Floor catalogue, which is available in five languages, can be purchased on site; this book is very useful for visitors.
If you book a visit to see the floor, from 18 August to 18 October, you can download a free audio guide onto your mobile phone.
All about Discovering the Floor of Siena Cathedral - Like stars in the world
Dates: 27 June to 31 July and 18 August to 18 October
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last admission half an hour earlier. Times may vary during religious celebrations.
Prices: Tickets to enter the Cathedral of Siena and admire the uncovered floor also cost €8 (full price) and €6 for concessions.
Free tickets for children up to the age of 6, residents or those born in the Municipality of Siena, disabled persons with an accompanying person, members of religious orders, students of the University of Siena and the University for Foreigners of Siena, and accredited journalists.
The Opa Si Pass to access all the museums in the Siena Cathedral complex (Cathedral, Opera Museum, Crypt, Baptistery) costs €15 (reduced to €2 for children aged 7 to 11). If you also add admission to the roofs of the Duomo, the price is €20 (reduced to €5 for children aged 7 to 11).
Reservations and tickets: Tickets can be purchased via the Vivaticket website by selecting the date and time. For information, please contact the call centre on 0577 286300.
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