Biblioteca Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library), Siena

Biblioteca Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library), Siena (must see)

The Piccolomini Library is located inside the Siena Cathedral. It was built by Pope Pius II's nephew, Francesco Piccolomini. Pope Pius II was formerly the Bishop of Siena. Pope Pius II appointed his nephew to be the Archbishop of Siena, then Cardinal Piccolomini.

Cardinal Piccolomini commissioned the Piccolomini Library in 1502 as a memorial to Pope Pius II. The library was intended to showcase texts assembled by Pope Pius II. Cardinal Piccolomini followed his uncle's path and later became Pope Pius III.

The complete trove of manuscripts was never transferred to the library; however, several hand-painted texts from the 1400s are on display. The main draw of the library is the remarkable frescoes.

The frescoes are the star of the library. The frescoes were created by Pinturicchio and assisted by 21-year-old Raphael. The walls are divided into ten scenes depicting an important part of Pope Pius II's life. Painted columns frame each scene. Each fresco is meticulous, with luxuriously clothed figures and vibrantly colored backgrounds. Scenes include the Pope's time as ambassador to European courts, paying respects to the new Emperor, mediating the marriage of Emporer Frederick III and Eleonora of Aragon, and becoming Cardinal and then Pope.

The fresco at the entrance shows Pope Pius III's coronation. Unfortunately, Pope Pius III died just ten days after his coronation.

In the center of the room, visitors will find a gorgeous copy of The Three Graces. The Three Graces are based on an ancient statue from the Hellenistic Period (fourth to second century BC).

Remember to look up; the ceilings are intricately painted.

Why You Should Visit

The frescoes are remarkably well-preserved. Art lovers will relish seeing work created by Pinturicchio and young Raphael. The frescoes tell the story of a powerful Siena family, the Piccolomini's, and focus on the life of the most famous Piccolomini, Pope Pius III.


There are several hidden gems to search for. Pinturicchio and Raphael painted themselves into the scene showing the canonization of St Catherine. Raphel is wearing red stockings, and Pinturicchio is wearing a red cap. Visitors should also notice the half-moons. The half-moon was the Piccolomini family symbol and is hidden everywhere in the frescoes.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Siena. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Biblioteca Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library) on Map

Sight Name: Biblioteca Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library)
Sight Location: Siena, Italy (See walking tours in Siena)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Siena, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Siena

Create Your Own Walk in Siena

Creating your own self-guided walk in Siena is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Medieval Siena Walking Tour

Medieval Siena Walking Tour

Siena is a beautiful medieval city whose Gothic-era identity, acquired between the 12th and 15th centuries, has been successfully preserved due to the centuries of political and economic irrelevance in the shadow of its grander neighbor Florence. Today's Siena is a cultural gold mine and ideal place to revel in medieval Italy.

No tour of Siena is complete without visiting its heart, the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Siena Old Town Walking Tour

Siena Old Town Walking Tour

Siena was originally settled by Etruscans of Italy and later settled by Romans, who emulated Etruscan culture and named the city Sena Julia. The Lombard Kings then developed the city. By the 12th century, Siena was self-governing.

Siena established the Council of Nine in 1270. This Council was responsible for a flourishing economy, a focus on art, and a building boom. In 1348, Siena was...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Siena's Palaces Walking Tour

Siena's Palaces Walking Tour

A leisurely stroll through downtown Siena – a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of imperious castles, palaces and other historic buildings – promises an exciting day of discovery and a pleasant experience for architecture buffs.

While most Italian cities have a church on their main square, Siena's famous Piazza Del Campo gathers around the city hall, known as Palazzo Pubblico...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles