First up today is a visit to the Pinacoteca Nazionale. This art museum concentrates on Sienese painters and has a large collection of 13th to 17th century art. We are mostly interested in the earlier works.
There is a definite recognizable style to Sienese painting and between the 13th and 15th centuries it rivaled Florence artistically. The Gothic-looking gold backgrounds, often embossed, and the elegant stylized figures with elongated narrow eyes are hallmarks of the style. While Florentine painters were moving towards more solid naturalistic portrayals of people in real surroundings, the Sienese remained rooted in their ethereal, other worldly figures.
We spend almost three hours enjoying the art. Here are some favorites.
Time for lunch! Trying to avoid being ripped off at the restaurants around the Campo we wander the streets looking for somewhere to eat. We finally settle on a place in the direction of our next sightseeing stop. It turns out to be pretty mediocre. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
After lunch we head to the church of San Domenico which houses the relics of St. Catherine of Siena. She seems a little delusional claiming she has a wedding ring and stigmata given to her by Jesus but that only she can see them. She becomes politically involved and tries to broker peace between the Papal States and Florence. She also implores the pope to return from Avignon to Rome. Ultimately she stops eating and drinking water and dies at 33.
During her short life she garners a following and according to legend they go to Rome to steal her remains. Not being able to manage a whole body they just take the head. On their way back to Siena they are stopped and have to open the sack. Miraculously the sack contains only rose petals but reverts back to being a head when they reach Siena.
So, we head (no pun intended) to the church of San Domenico to see St. Catherine’s head. Unfortunately no pictures allowed. You can, however, find macabre pictures of it on the Internet. I think I will stick with one of the live renditions.
We have one more stop to make on today’s itinerary but it will have to wait until after a little jet lag break. In our hour and a half rest both Sarah and I fall asleep. But we are up again at 4PM ready to take on the Palazzo Pubblico with its amazing frescoes, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.
The Palazzo Pubblico is the iconic building that you see in all the pictures of Siena. Construction began in 1297 and the building’s purpose was to house the republican government of Siena. The governing body of Siena, the Council of Nine, met in the room where Lorenzetti’s The Allegory of Good and Bad Government was painted in 1338-39.
On one wall Justice and Wisdom pass judgements down to Harmony seen handing them out to the people. Justice and Wisdom are advised by the Virtues. On one adjoining wall is the fresco, The Effects of Good Government. Here merchants are busy, people are happy, and Siena is bustling and prosperous. The fields outside the city are bursting with crops and healthy animals.
On the opposite wall is the fresco, The Effects of Bad Government. In these scenes a tyrant is ruling and his counsellors are greed, pride, and cruelty. The city is crumbling and the populace is downtrodden, sick, and starving. Beyond the city walls the animals are dying and the fields lie fallow.
If you are a member of the Council of Nine you need only look up to realize what your civic duty should be.
It has been a full day. My fit bit registers over 10,000 steps and 27 flights of stairs. It’s time for some drinks and snacks at our favorite table over looking the Campo with the Palazzo Pubblico in the background.