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Siena, Tuscany, Italy
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 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 facade. 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.
Chapel of Saint John the Baptist
The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist is situated in the left transept. At the back of this chapel, amidst a rich renaissance decorations, is the bronze statue of St. John the Baptist by Donatello. In the middle is a 15th c. baptismal font. But most impressive in this chapel are the eight frescoes by Pinturicchio, commissioned by Alberto Aringhieri, and painted between 1504 and 1505.
The Chigi Chapel
The small Chigi Chapel (or Cappella della Madonna del Voto) is situated in the right transept. It is the last, most luxurious sculptural addition to the Duomo, and was commissioned in 1659 by the Sienese Chigi pope Alexander VII. This circular chapel with a gilded dome was built by the German architect Johann Paul Schor to the baroque designs of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, replacing a 15th century chapel. At the back of the chapel is the Madonna del Voto (by a follower of Guido da Siena, 13th century), that even today is much venerated and receives each year the homages of the contrade.
Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini library, housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, probably based on designs by Raphael.
Unlike Florence or Pisa, Siena did not build a separate baptistry. The baptistry is located underneath the eastern bays of the choir of the Duomo. The construction of the interior was largely performed under Camaino di Crescentino and was completed about 1325. The main attraction is the hexagonal baptismal font, containing sculptures by Donatello, Jacopo della Quercia and others.
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