Siena Duomo’s intricate marble floor is being unveiled to the public an unprecedented month earlier than usual this year as part of Milan Expo festivities. Although usually covered to protect it from the cathedral’s hordes of visitors and revealed each year on August 18 after the Palio and until the end of October, 2015 sees the floor exposed throughout the month of July as well.
Described by Giorgio Vasari as “the most beautiful, grand, and magnificent” pavement ever created, it is famous not only for its detailed inlaid work but also for the themes regarding the search for knowledge that it conveys. Work on the pavement began in the fourteenth century and continued over subsequent centuries until the nineteenth century.
The floor was created using engraving techniques and variously hued local marble ranging from yellow to grey and green. The initial designs for the 56 inlays were produced by important artists, almost all from Siena, including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, Domenico Beccafumi, as well as the ‘foreign’ painter Pinturicchio from Umbria, whose Monte della Sapienza is famous for its symbolic representation of the path to virtue through inner serenity.
Domenico Beccafumi’s frieze of Moses Drawing Water from the Rock, creating using his innovative technique of colouring marble hue by tinting the base instead of using different pieces of stone, also reflects Milan Expo’s theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, with water as the source of both life and additionally, in Christian iconography, a symbol of salvation.
A catalogue is available detailing the iconography of the entire floor, as well as audio guides and multimedia tablets that enable closer examination of details that are otherwise difficult to see.
Siena Duomo Floor
Open: July 1–31; August 18 – October 27
Mon to Sat: 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sun: 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Tickets: €7/€12/€15/€20 (depending on sites selected)