Update August 2013: this year the mosaic floor will be uncovered in its entirety until the end of October.
If you happen to be in Tuscany in the next couple of weeks, do not miss the rare opportunity to see the spectacular Renaissance mosaics covering the marble floor in Siena’s cathedral. The uncovered pavement can only be seen in its entirety for a short period each year (this year until October 24th). The rest of the year the mosaic panels are usually covered to protect them from the one million visitors who visit Siena’s Duomo each year, leaving only a few on display.
Described by the Italian writer and historian Giorgio Vassari as “the most beautiful, greatest and magnificent floor that has ever been done”, the marble pavement took almost two centuries to complete (from 1369 to 1547) and consists of 56 panels, depicting the sibyls, allegories and virtues, and scenes from the Old Testament.
The 14,000 square feet of marble mosaics were designed and crafted by about 40 artists and artisans, mostly from the region of Siena, among which Giovanni di Stefano, Domenico di Bartolo, Domenico Beccafumi, but also the Umbrian painter Pinturicchio, author of the famous Allegoria del colle della Sapienza in 1505, translated into marble by Paolo Manucci.
The techniques used include graffito and commesso marmoreo. The technique of graffito consists of the use of pointed instruments to carve out areas of white marble which are then filled with black stucco. The technique was later refined, incorporating more colors, similarly to wooden inlays, which is called commesso marmoreo.
Opening hours: 10:30 to 19:00, and from 9:30 to 18:00 on Sundays and public holidays.
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