The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour 17 – Siena, Misc

We did a number of interesting things today – The Basilica of San Domenico which is also known as Basilica Cateriniana, The Cathedral Baptistry and The Santa Maria della Scalla.

At Basilica Cateriniana (they don’t allow pictures) we saw the relics of Saint Catherine – her thumb and her head. It’s odd to say so but we are getting used to such relics after seeing quite a few in Rome. Here is some detail from the carvings around the church doors.

Second stop was the Cathedral Baptistry, which is situated under the choir of the Cathedral and is accessed via a seperate entrance. When inside, one is overwhelmed by the beauty and detail in the ceilings.

The Baptistry

Of particular note are three groups of four frescos portraying the 12 articles of The Creed.

In the Baptistry you can clearly see the impact of restoration work where there are gaps in the painting. What is remarkable is how much has survived.

I am really enjoy looking at the floor decorations in these ancient buildings, so here is the detail from three floor motifs.

The Santa Maria della Scalla is a museum housed in what used to be a hospital. Founded as early as 898, or possibly 1090, the hospital contains many frescoes, some of which depict events in the hospital’s history. In this one, Pope Celestine III on the left can be seen resolving a dispute between the cathedral cannons and the brothers who founded the hospital. The outcome was they he granted them the autonomy to run their own affairs including appointing their own rector.


The lower floors of the hospital go down under the foundations where archaeologists have found a treasure trove of artefacts dating back to the second century. Among them pots, urns, knives, coins and arrow heads.

These are burial urns, many dating from between the second and fourth centuries.


Everywhere there are nooks and crannies, going sideway from the passage like the one below. Others go even deeper into the hillside the hospital is built on.

The museum also houses a large collection of relics that were purchased by the hospital in 1359. These were assembled by Church of Constantinople from around the 4th Century. The one below is Reliquiario del Sacro chiodo or Shrine of the Sacred Nail – considered to be one of the most important relics owned by the hospital. The hospital went to a great deal of trouble to authenticate the provenance and therefore the value of the relics. Could this be one of the actual nails used to nails Jesus to the cross?

After having a coffee with Zac Smith – a member of our Church who is studying and working in Siena – we went looking for a birthday gift for me. (It is is my birthday today, 15 May).

We found a little art shop, with originals and prints, and I chose one which the artist offered to cartoon and dedicate at the bottom. Here he is doing the dedication.


A few final thoughts before we leave Siena. There seem to be many more tourists in town in the morning and around lunch, as they come on day-trips from Florence. I cannot imagine only spending a half day here, and we overheard one American lady saying she wished she could see more.

Some of the tour groups have 20-30 people, all with wireless receivers so that their guide can easily talk to them without having to raise their voice. One of the locals commented that these large groups tend to crowd out everyone else as they move around a venue. We have become quite adept at spotting and avoiding them.


We leave Siena tomorrow, far too soon for both us, bound for Florence by train.


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