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Siena Cathedral
Photo © Ilaria Giannini
Photo © Ilaria Giannini

From the floor to the Gate of Heaven: a journey into the secrets of Siena Cathedral

From the splendid marble carpet to the route through the Cathedral’s attics

Have you ever imagined taking a journey from Earth to Heaven? 
In Siena you can do so with a visit to the Cathedral, at the time of year that sees all its secrets revealed, from the extraordinary floor to the “Gate of Heaven”.

The precious marble carpet, which Vasari called the “most beautiful and magnificent” floor ever existed, is usually kept almost completely covered to protect it from the treading of visitors and worshippers. It is only uncovered for a few months of the year, usually after the Palio dell’Assunta (August 16) until the fall.

Great artists of Siena, such as Sassetta and Domenico di Bartolo, worked on the floor from the 14th to the 19th century, as well as Pinturicchio, author in 1505 of the famous panel with the Mount of Wisdom, representing the road to virtue as the achievement of inner serenity. The part drawn by Domenico Beccafumi, who in Siena perfected the technique of opus sectile, so much so that he achieved results of light and shadow similar to the chiaroscuro of drawing, is splendid.

Floor of Siena Cathedral
Floor of Siena Cathedral

The other surprise reserved for visitors is the extraordinary opening, each year, of the Gate of Heaven, the attics of the Cathedral, for centuries accessible only to authorized personnel.
The path to “Heaven” begins at a spiral staircase, inserted inside one of the towers ending in spires that flank the Cathedral’s magnificent facade.

Once above the starry vaults of the right aisle begins an itinerary reserved for small groups who find themselves walking above the sacred temple to admire not only the interior, with an incredible view from above, but also a splendid panorama of Siena and the Cathedral’s old facade.

The view of Siena from the Gate of Heaven
The view of Siena from the Gate of Heaven

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