Siena's Magnificent Mosaics

Submitted by HedonisticHiking on 6 Jul 2022

Anyone joining our Tuscan tours from August to October, with a plan to spend time in Siena, has a rare opportunity to see the stunning marble mosaic floors in the city's famous cathedral.  Most of the year this beautiful floor is covered with protective layers, but it is opened for just a few weeks giving visitors to the Duomo a chance to marvel at its pure magnificence.


The majority of the work was carried out from the 14th to the 16th centuries and the result was described by famous art historian Giorgio Vasari as "the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that ever was made."

There are 56 inlay panels depiciting Old Testament stories and tales from antiquity. The preparatory designs were created by leading Sienese artists (and Pinturicchio who was Umbrian) and there were two techniques used to transpose the various artists' ideas onto the floor. The first inlays were traced out on white marble slabs using a chisel, and then filled in with black stucco, a technique called "graffito". The second was a technique placing coloured marble pieces together using the marquetry method, a process known as marble mosaic inlay.  As work progressed, the craftsmen became more and more proficient in these skills and the finished result is a truly astonishing masterpiece.


The floor of Siena's Duomo is unique both in terms of the techniques used and in terms of the message enshrined in its panels which is a constant invitation to embrace Wisdom. To find out more and book online you can visit the Duomo's own website.  The floor is open this year from 27 June to 31 July and 18 August until 18 October, so if you will be in Tuscany during the autumn, take the chance to visit while you can!


With special thanks to Chris Bell for supplying the images.