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Notes on the Geography of Italy: Siena

Here are a few hints of Siena's early wealth and its desire to display it.

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Italy: Siena picture 1

The Porta Camollia, the north gate to the historic city.

Italy: Siena picture 2

The Piazza Salimbeni, framed by the Tantucci, Salimbeni, and Spannocchi palaces. The statue is of Sallustio Bandini, founder of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, an important bank.

Italy: Siena picture 3

Another angle.

Italy: Siena picture 4

Nearby, the St. Christopher church seems austere in comparison.

Italy: Siena picture 5

The Palazzo Publico, built in the first half of the 14th century. Lippo Memmi's famous Torre del Mangia was built just before the arrival of the Black Death. It has attracted extravagant praise, like this from William Dean Howells: "I stood in the piazza and saw the Tower of the Mangia leap like a rocket into the starlit air." Howells continued, "When once you have seen the Mangia, all other towers, obelisks, and columns are tame and vulgar and earth-rooted; that seems to quit the ground, to be not a monument but a flight" (Tuscan Cities, 1886, p. 139).

Italy: Siena picture 6

The cathedral has a partly Gothic facade and a wholly Romanesque tower..

Italy: Siena picture 7

The mosaics are a 19th century improvement.

Italy: Siena picture 8

Amazingly, this nave was supposed to be the transept of an even grander church, but the Black Death intervened, and plans were scaled back.

Italy: Siena picture 9

Another angle of this mixed Romanesque and Gothic behemoth, as showy as a women in an elaborate gown, striped taffeta perhaps, with frilly jewels. This was not a church for men of humility.

Italy: Siena picture 10

The carved marble pulpit, by Nicola Pisano, has panels showing the life of Christ, separated by angels and prophets; the lower level has the Virtues separated by trefoiled arches.

Italy: Siena picture 11

Some forty artists shared the work of designing merely the paving.

Italy: Siena picture 12

A bit of their handiwork.


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