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July 1: Siena & Priene August 3, 2010

Posted by msmith78 in Uncategorized.


Siena has a chronology similar to Florence. It had its own competing republic at the end of the 12th century that rivaled Venice. A the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century it was at the height of its wealth. The primary areas of economics in the area were wool, merchants, and bankers. Major families in the area included the Picalomoni (Pius II) and the Chigi(Alexander VII) families. Then with the Black Plague it was greatly devastated and did not recover. Siena is like a medieval Pompey frozen in time at the peak of its influence. At its peak it had 50,000 inhabitants, and it took until the 20th century to return to its full numbers. The city wanted to emphasize its differences from Florence; therefore, there are no Roman aspects.

Piazza Publica

The she-wolf is the mascot of the town city crest is half back and half white. The town hall(1297) is symmetrical except for its tower which was completed in 1325. It is not a logical placement military speaking because it does not overlook two sides and not aesthetically sound because it is not symmetrical. It is higher than the tower in Florence because it was built to compete with Florence. The paving of the square in front was completed in 1348 with a drainage system to the front of town hall. The lower portion is in stone and the upper part is in brick. Also noted for the frescos on the interior.

Fontana Gaia

The first fountain in this spot was commissioned in 1342. The current fountain dates from 1419. It was designed by Jacapo della Quercia with a mix of Classical and Christian figures with the Madonna at the center. This fountain has the first nude women depicted since Classical times.

Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral

Construction began in 1339. The Black Plague began in 1348, and the church was never fully finished. This is a more international Gothic due to the connections of Siena to the north. The campaniles is Romanesque from the 12th century. The dome builder is unknown but the lantern is attributed to Bernini under the commission of Alexander VII. There are 56 floor mosaics textured with paint. Above the arches are cornices complete with the heads of 172 popes and emperors. The rose window was designed by Pastorini. The interior includes alternating black and white stones. The exterior has the green, pink, and white stone work as seen in the facades in Florence.


Pius II was very well educated and traveled. Here in Pienza he created a citadel of culture, science, and religion. The palace was built for himself and his family next to the cathedral, bishop house, and town hall with a square-like area in a trapezoidal shape connecting the buildings. He invited others to buy land here as well and develop a community.


Alberti’s palace in Florence was the model for this building which was built by Benardo Dosolino who was Alberti’s pupil. Siena also has a replica of that palace.

Bishop Palace

It is very regular with Gothic cap windows and Gothic crosses. It is late medieval Roman architecture and not ancient or Florentine.

City Hall

This was a guild house style of building.


The space is marked with a grid with the spirit of geometric unity like was seen in the Opera di Santa Croce. The angling of the buildings and the grid makes the space seem like it is bigger then it actually is by tricking the eye. There is only unity at the scale of the building and not an urban environmental unity. Alberti felt that too much regularity is boring and that design needed visual excitement through irregularities.


The façade of the church is Travertine stone, which is not local and very expensive. The façade is also very classical and not reflective of the interior of the church. The pope spent a lot of time in Germany, and he wanted the church to reflect that spirit of Gothic design. The aisles are the same height and are measured at a, 2a, and a. The piers are very Gothic in shape, but they are topped with capitals with an egg and dart, Classical or Renaissance pattern however you would like to look at it. The tracery in the windows is very Germanic gothic in style.


The placement of the drain in Siena really puzzled me. I think its placement must be structurally based because it to be so close to centered. The large break in the brick work for the sun like piece may have weakened the overlying structure enough they did not want to threaten the base at all. A feature that I enjoyed the most today was tracing the piers in the church that created the arches around the crossing. They are exactly the same as the other piers except they have additional ribbing that becomes the arch. I wished we had spent more time exploring in the countryside in Tuscany because every view was breath taking.



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