Sunday, September 30, 2012

Siena and San Gimignano

28 Settembre

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
After a somewhat bumpy ride south on the Firenze-Siena autostrada through some attractive Chianti wine country, we arrive in Siena, or Sienna if you will. A walk through a pleasant park located next to  a wall of the Fortezza Medicea took us to the Piazza San  Dominico where we met our guide, who took us, first of all, inside the basilica of St. Dominic to  view some sacred relics: the head and a finger of St. Catherine. Along the walls surrounding the nave were the flags of the seventeen districts, or contrade, which make up the town. Our guide appeared to be a little bereft of historical fact, asserting that the town of Siena was founded in 1200, wheras  we knew that the Etruscans were here  at least as early as 400 BCE, and  Roman statuary can still be found around the city. After a visit to the birthplace of St. Catherine, we began to suspect our guide was somewhat hipped on the subject and we decided to make our way on our own to the Duomo. Siena is a hilly town, and I wonder how they manage when it snows or has a hard frost,  We worked our way up to the Piazza Independenza, thence to a osteria smack in front of the Bapistry where we paused for a cappucino and a good up-front look at this building.
The Bapistry is attached to the Duomo, located underneath the choir of the cathedral, and due to time constraints, we were not able to see the sculptures of Ghiberti and Donatello it contains.
Photo: Meredith Taylor
As you can see from the photo on the right, one can reach the main entrance to the Duomo by climbing a set of stairs alongside the Bapistry; we elected to go around to the front door.

Photo: Sandra C. Haynes
The place was packed, not surprisingly,  and required a 20 minute wait for a ticket. I wondered about somewhat cryptic logo 'OPA' which was to be seen in many places near the ticket office, and later discovered stands for "opera della metropolitana" the cathedral works committee which oversees the restoration of  the cathedral's works. Finally we were admitted, and it was worth the wait.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The interior was a lot more crowded than when this shot was taken, and the floor tiles have been roped off to preserve them so it is difficult to approach some of the works, notably the one we were most interested in: the pulpit carved by Nicola Pisano in 1255-60.It was one of a series of four monumental pulpits he created with his son Giovanni, two in Pisa and another in Pistoia. There are seven carved panels at the top depicting scenes from the life of Christ, and what I liked best a series of lions at the base upon whose backs some of the pillars are resting. The momma lions are nursing their cubs, and the males are feasting, no doubt on heretical pigs that have escaped the Dominican's canes, but this, and other details, are difficult to see unless you can view this piece up close and in the round. As the  photo shows, you are kept at some distance from the work because of the efforts to protect the floor tiles, but at least it is possible to walk around and view it as a whole, by dodging ropes and other tourists.
So much more to see: the Chapel of St. John, containing a remarkable sculpture by Donatello, who is rapidly becoming one of our favorites of the Renaissance, works by Cimabue and Duccio in the Museo which we didn't have time to enter...definately another trip here is in order.
On leaving the Duomo, we discovered a car show was being assembled at the entrance.  Shades of La Dolce Vita!

Here I am fending off the curious next to a 356
 Porsche 1600 similar to one I once owned.

San Guimignano?  Maybe next post. These trips through medieval catherals are exhausting.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to send an invitation for an art exhibition in San Gimignano.It is a sculpture exhibit of Maria Bayardo, Mexican sculptor,so you can share it with people traveling around.
    It is on may 11 at Galleria Antonio Breschi. the opening is at 5 p.m. and I have the digital photo of the invitation. can you tell me if you are interested?