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The Cathedral of Siena (Italian: Duomo di Siena), dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church and now to Santa Maria Assunta (Most Holy Mary of Assumption), is a medieval church in Siena, central Italy. The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the fašade. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius. The origins of the first structure are obscure and shrouded in legend. There was a 9th century church with bishop's palace at the present location. In December 1058 a synod was held in this church resulting in the election of pope Nicholas II and the deposition of the antipope Benedict X. In 1196 the cathedral masonsĺ guild, the Opera di Santa Maria, was put in charge of the construction of a new cathedral. By 1215 there were already daily masses said in the new church. There are records from 1226 onwards of the transport of black and white marble, probably for the construction of the fašade and the bell tower. The vaults and the transept were constructed in 1259-1260. In 1259 Manuello di Ranieri and his son Parri carved some wooden choir stalls, which were replaced about 100 years later and have now disappeared. In 1264, Rosso Padellaio was paid for the copper sphere on top of the dome. A second massive addition was planned in 1339. It would have more than doubled the size of the structure by means of an entirely new nave and two aisles ranged perpendicular to the existing nave and centred on the high altar. The construction was begun under the direction of Giovanni di Agostino, better known as a sculptor. Construction was halted by the Black Death in 1348. Basic errors in the construction were already evident by then, however, and the work was never resumed. The outer walls, remains of this extension, can now be seen to the south of the Duomo. The floor of the uncompleted nave now serves as a parking lot and museum, and, though unfinished, the remains are testament to Sienese power, ambition, and artistic achievement. Underneath the choir of the Duomo, a narthex containing important late-13th century frescoes (probably about 1280) was found and excavated in 1999-2003. The frescoes depict scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ. This was part of the entrance of an earlier church. But when the baptistry was built, this under-church was filled with rubble. The narthex is now open to the public. The fašade of this cathedral was built in two stages. The lower part in polychrome marble was begun around 1284. It is built in Tuscan Gothic style by Giovanni Pisano, replete with gargoyles. Giovanni Pisano worked on the lower levels until 1296, when he suddenly left Siena. At that time, between 1270 and 1285, the nave of the church had been raised and a higher fašade became necessary. Work at the fašade continued for another fifteen years and was then stopped. Meanwhile in 1288, the rose window, a large circular stained-glass window, was installed in the choir, based on designs by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
The three portals, surmounted by lunettes and Gothic pediments, were designed by Giovanni Pisano. The columns between the portals are richly decorated with acanthus scrolls, allegorical figures and biblical scenes. Work on the upper part of the fašade only resumed in 1376 under the direction of Giovanni di Cecco, working on a new elaborate design, inspired by the Orvieto Cathedral. It was to be erected much higher than foreseen, because the nave had, once again, been raised. The division of the upper part does not match the division of the lower part. The pinnacles of the upper part do not continue over the columns flanking the central portal. The weight of the elegant side towers was reduced by adding windows. The statues of the lavish fašade were sculpted by Giovanni Pisano and assistants. They represent prophets, philosophers and apostles. The half-length statues of the patriarchs in the niches around the rose window are the work of other sculptors. Almost all the sculptures on view are copies. The originals are kept in the "Crypt of the Statues" in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. The bronze central door is recent and dates from 1958. It was made by Enrico Manfrini. The scenes on the door represent the Glorification of the Virgin. The three large mosaics on the gables of the fašade were made in Venice in 1878. The large central mosaic, the Coronation of the Virgin, is the work of Luigi Mussini. The smaller mosaics on each side, Nativity of Jesus and Presentation of Mary in the Temple, were made by Alessandro Franchi. On the left corner pier of the fašade, a 14th century inscription can be found, marking the grave of Giovanni Pisano. Next to the fašade stands a column with the she-wolf breast-feeding Romulus and Remus, symbol of Siena (and also of the contrade Lupa). According to legend, Senius and Aschius, sons of Remus, founded Siena. They had stolen the statue of the she-wolf from the Temple of Apollo in Rome.

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Additional Photos by Valter Palone (bayno) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1353 W: 297 N: 2584] (18342)
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