The Power of Absolution: Siena Cathedral

Lara Belfield

 Figure 3: Modern map of Siena with Siena Cathedral marked, 2013.  Photo credit: Google Maps

Facade of Siena Cathedral. Photo Credit: Look Up Architecture

Figure 4: Facade, Siena Cathedral, 1284-1317, Siena. 
Photo Credit: Look Up Architecture

Siena Cathedral is located near the city’s center, in close proximity to the university and the Piazza del Campo (fig. 3). Though the first date of construction for Siena Cathedral is unknown, the earliest records show some construction had occurred by 1226.  The original nave must have been completed by the 1260’s, as Nicola Pisano was commissioned to create the pulpit in 1265.[1]  The original nave and choir were quite narrow at 80 feet and 62 feet, respectively.  An enlarged eastern section, which included a dome, two-bay choir, and transept, was connected to the original nave in the late 1260’s.  However, the nave as we know it today was primarily constructed between 1270 and 1285.[2]  Giovanni Pisano was primarily responsible for the design of the façade, which spanned from 1284 to about 1296 (fig. 4).[3]  The entire façade was completed by about 1317.  In the mid 1600’s, Pope Alexander VII had the square on the southern portion of the nave remodeled.[4]  During his pontificate, he also ordered a redesign of a chapel that would become a memorial to his family, the Chigis (fig. 5).

Plan of Siena Cathedral.  The Chigi Chapel is the round chapel in right corner of the transept.  Photo Credit: Miami University Ohio Figure 5: Plan of Siena Cathedral. The Chigi Chapel is the round chapel in right corner of the transept.
Photo Credit: Miami University Ohio

 

[1] David M. Gillerman, “Cosmopolitanism and Campanilismo: Gothic and Romanesque in the Siena Duomo Facade,” The Art Bulletin 81, no. 3 (September 1999): 437.

[2] Guido Hinterkeuser, “How Siena Came by Its Cathedral,” Max Planck Research no. 3 (2005):41.

[3] Gillerman, 437.

[4] Hinterkeuser, 41.