When you go into the Cathedral of Siena, the natural inclination is to look up at the majestic vaulted ceilings.
However, for a few months of the year (end of August to end of October) there is the uncovering “scoperchiamento” of this work of art of inlaid marble and you are allowed to view the Cathedral’s masterpiece underfoot.
Each illustration was drawn as a sketch by some of the most talented artists of the Renaissance (Pinturicchio, Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo) and then transformed into detailed marble inlay by the master craftsmen of the time.
(Below: top part “Stories of Moses on Sinai” 1531, and underneath “Mosé fa scaturire l’acqua dalla rupe di Horeb” (Moses Forces Water from the Cliff of Horeb) designed by Domenico Beccafumi 1524-1525)
(Below “Morte di Assalonne” (Death of Assalonne) by Piero del Minella, 1447.)
Created between the XIV and XIX centuries, these inlays are one-of-a-kind due to the mastery of the craftsmanship and the vastness of the mosaic. To put things into perspective, the marble inlays cover most of the Cathedral floor, which is 89m (97 yards) long and 50m (55 yards) wide. (Comes to about 48,000 square feet.)
(Below “Sacrificio di Iefte” by Neroccio di Bartolomeo dé Landi, crafted by Bastiano di Francesco 1481-1485)
The subject matter for the marble “carpet” (tappeto) begins at the entrance with pagan and classic antiquity tales of reason, fortune and virtue, and then continues on into the Cathedral, closer to the altar, with stories from the bible, mainly from the Old Testament.
(Above “Sibilla Eritrea” by Antonio Federighi 1482)
(Below a piece from “Allegoria del Colle della Sapienza” (Allegory of the Hill of Wisdom) designed by Pinturicchio and inlaid by Paolo Mannucci 1505)
There are 56 “riquadri”, which loosely translated means framed works of art.
(Below “Storia di Giuditta” (Story of Judith) by Francesco di Giorgio 1473)
Giorgio Vasari called it the most beautiful, grand and magnificent pavement ever created. He wasn’t exaggerating!
(Below: “Cacciata di Erode” (The Banishment of Herod) by Benvenuto di Giovanni 1485)