Since we’re focusing on the religious buildings of the Siena area, the city’s Cathedral is the place to begin. It’s one of the most beautiful and surprising churches in the world. The earliest documentation of the Italian Gothic- and Romanesque-style basilica dates to 1226, when the Siena Republic started to note down the costs and contracts inherent to the construction of the Cathedral, which probably began in the mid 12th century on the remains of a previous building that had been built where a Minerva temple had once stood.
Today’s church is topped by a platform with a few steps and is divided into a Latin cross with a nave and two aisles and a cupola where the two wings meet. The nave is punctuated by multistyle pillars with a transept divided in two. The cross vault of the transept consists of a hexagon topped with a daring dome boasting a dodecagonal base, which was one of the largest of the era. The entire cathedral is dominated by a black and white colour scheme, a reference to Siena’s coat of arms. Among the countless works by Tuscany’s greatest medieval and Renaissance artists we’ll stick to the most vast and incredible of them all: the marble inlay floor, a uniquely ornate accomplishment in Italian art due to its vastness, inventiveness and the importance of those who worked on it. Split into 56 panels, the floor displays depictions that adhere to the theme of the Revelation. The oldest panels date to the second half of the 1300s, while the more recent ones were added in the 19th century. The artists who worked on the floor designs down the centuries include Francesco di Giorgio, Pinturicchio, Il Sassetta, Neroccio di Bartolomeo de’ Landi, Antonio Federighi, Urbano da Cortona and, most of all, Domenico Beccafumi, who made 35 scenes, profoundly innovating the genre.