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Siena's Duomo is a beautiful mixture of Romanesque-Gothic architecture designed by architect Nicola Pisano. It is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (Saint Mary of the Assumption). It is already considered one of Italy's greatest cathedrals and it would have been the largest cathedral in the Christian world if 14th century plans would not have been abandoned due to the plague of 1348. The Duomo consists of masterpieces from the likes of Donatello, Duccio di Buoningegna, Giovanni & Nicola Pisano, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio.
The interior is magnificently designed. If you look to the ceiling you will notice that 172 popes are looking back at you. If you look to the marble floor you will see 56 panels depicting various sacred scenes. For most of the year these panels are covered to protect them, but they are uncovered during special occasions for every one to admire. Giorgio Vasari referred to it as "the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that ever was made."
Located in the northern aisle is the Piccolomini Altar, which was started in 1481 by Andrea Bregno. Between 1501-1504 Michelangelo created the four lower statues, which depicted Saints Gregory, Paul, Peter and Pius. The top statue of the Virgin with Child is attributed to the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia. Just beyond the altar is the entrance to the Piccolomini Library, which began in 1492. The library houses the personal books & papers of Pope Pius II. The highlights of the library include the frescoes by Pinturicchio that depict scenes from the life of Pope Pius II and the 3rd century Roman copy of Three Graces originally done by the Greek artist Praxiteles. Just beyond the library is the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which contains a statue of the Saint, and the Pulpit by Nicola Pisano. The Pulpit contains scenes from the Life of Christ.
Located in the unfinished nave is the Museo dell'Opera. This section of the nave was roofed so the museum could occupy the space. The museum contains many of the original pieces by Donatello, Giovanni Pisano and Jacopo della Quercia. Of all the pieces the most important is the Maestà by Duccio di Buoningegna. One side of the Maestà contains the Madonna surrounded by angels, apostles and saints. The other side contains 26 various scenes from the Life of Christ. Located near the Museo is the archway to the baptistry. The baptistry contains the baptismal font designed by Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Jacopo della Quercia.
One fascinating feature that has not always been available to the public is the Porta del Cielo (Gate of Heaven). Spiral staircases, which many refer to as the "stairway to heaven." lead you to a walkway giving you breathtaking views of the cathedral. You also get a closer look at the hexagonal dome and trompe l'oeil coffers painted in blue with golden stars and topped with Bernini's gilded lantern.
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