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Photo © Luca Aless
Photo © Luca Aless

Cathedral of Santi Donato e Pietro in Arezzo

Places of worship

The splendid cathedral contains the works of Piero della Francesca and Andrea della Robbia

The Cathedral of Santi Donato e Pietro, Arezzo’s cathedral, is the city’s main place of worship and was built above an ancient pre-Christian church.

The visit of pope Gregory X in December 1275, on his return from the Council of Lyon, was fundamental in the establishment of the cathedral. The pope, gravely ill, died in Arezzo on January 10th, leaving the sum of thirty gold florins intended for the construction of the new cathedral. The works began in 1278, overseen by bishop Guglielmino of the Ubertini, and concluded only in 1511.

The external façade, left bare for centuries, was transformed between 1900 and 1914 into how we see it today. The three-nave interior, with five aisles divided by compound pillars, is characterised by a polygonal apse. The seven glass windows attributed to Marcillat are true masterpieces, painted in two phases between 1516-1517 and 1522-1524. Marcillat is also credited with the bible stories painted in the vaults of the first three aisles in the central nave and in the first aisle of the left side aisle, as well as the design of the staircase with which you access the cathedral.

St. Mary Magdalen by Piero della Francesca
St. Mary Magdalen by Piero della Francesca

The interior of the magnificent cathedral houses many works by great artists associated with the city of Arezzo.

These include Piero della Francesca's fresco of Mary Magdalene, painted around 1460 in the left aisle.

The high altar complex, documented since 1362, is monumental. The wooden choir was designed in 1554 by Giorgio Vasari. The illustrious Arezzo native is also credited with the design of the organ basement along the left aisle. Today it frames the Madonna and Child, a valuable wooden sculpture from the mid-13th century.

Major transformations to the original layout of the cathedral were made around 1810, with the intention of creating an "interior itinerary" capable of expressing the continuity of the history of the Aretine church, and which has its culminating moment in the chapel of Madonna del Conforto, whose sacred image according to tradition is linked to a miracle that occurred in the 18th century. Inside the chapel are placed - after being taken from other city churches - the large altarpieces by Andrea Della Robbia.

The cathedral is a very important place for the city's inhabitants. In fact, during the Giostra del Saracino , the quarter that won the competition parades with the Lancia d'oro through the streets of the city until they reach, as a last stop, the great Cathedral of the Duomo: here the quarter-goers invoke a song of thanksgiving to the Madonna del Conforto or San Donato before returning to the headquarters of their quarter.