Top Religious Buildings (Self Guided), Siena

Churches in Siena have both historical and cultural value, as almost every one of them is decorated with Renaissance art. Some of the masterpieces date back to the 13th century. A walking tour of Siena's places of worship is the best way to learn about the cultural and spiritual center of the city. Take this tour to visit some of Siena's most famous churches.
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Top Religious Buildings Map

Guide Name: Top Religious Buildings
Guide Location: Italy » Siena (See other walking tours in Siena)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: irenebo
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilica of San Domenico
  • The sanctuary of Santa Caterina
  • Duomo di Siena
  • Chiesa Della Santissima Annunziata
  • Sant'Agostino
  • San Giuseppe
  • Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi
  • San Giorgio
  • San Cristoforo
  • Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano
  • Basilica of San Francesco
Basilica of San Domenico

1) Basilica of San Domenico (must see)

The Basilica of San Domenico is a church established by the Dominican Order. The church was begun in 1226-1265, but was enlarged in the 14th century to the Gothic appearance it has now. The site was donated by the Malavolti family. It is a large edifice built, like many contemporary edifices of the mendicant orders, in bricks, with a lofty bell tower on the left, that was reduced in height after an earthquake in 1798 that had badly damaged the whole building. The present structure is the result of extensive renovations made between 1940 and 1962. The interior is on the Egyptian cross plan with a huge nave covered by trusses and with a transept featuring high chapels. The church contains several relics of St. Catherine of Siena, who was born in a nearby building that is now a Santuario or convent. After the canonization of St. Catherine, her head and thumb were brought from Rome to Siena by her confessor, Raymond of Capua, and remain preserved in the church.

The Basilica of San Domenico has a plain and austere Dominican style exterior and an interior covered with religious artwork by famous artists. The chapel on the western part has a portrait of St. Catherine by Andrea Vanni. The Chapel of St. Catherine is covered with paintings depicting her life by the artist, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi II, who was better known by the name Sodoma. There is also a painting of St. Catherine performing exorcism, by Andrea Vanni, in the chapel. The head of the saint is on a marble altar worked by sculptor Giovanni di Stefano. Some of the finest works of the Sienese artist, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, are also found in the church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The sanctuary of Santa Caterina

2) The sanctuary of Santa Caterina

The sanctuary of Santa Caterina is located in Sienna on the Coast of San Antonio. A portal leads to the church of the Crucified, with plant to a Latin cross, which derives its name from the "Crucifix" miraculous, from which Catherine received the stigmata, now placed within a frame on the high altar with doors decorated. The sanctuary dates from 1464 and is dedicated more to meditation and contemplation than its artistic qualities.
Duomo di Siena

3) Duomo di Siena (must see)

From its earliest days, The Cathedral of Siena was dedicated as a Roman Catholic Marian church, although it has since been dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross, with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius.

In the interior, the pictorial effect of the black and white marble stripes on the walls and columns is striking to the eye. The round, stained-glass window in the choir was made in 1288 from the designs of Duccio. It is one of the earliest remaining examples of Italian stained glass. The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy and covers the whole floor of the cathedral. It consists of 56 panels in different sizes. The facade of Siena Cathedral is one of the most fascinating in all of Italy and certainly one of the most impressive features in Siena. Each of the cardinal points (west, east, north, and south) has their own distinct work; by far the most impressive of these is the west facade. Acting as the main entryway to the Duomo proper, it boasts three portals; the central one is capped by a bronze-work sun. There is debate as to when work on the upper facade was completed. Most scholars agree that it was finished sometime between 1360 and 1370, though when it began again is not known.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Chiesa Della Santissima Annunziata

4) Chiesa Della Santissima Annunziata

The Church of Santissima Annunziata is part of the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. It has a rectangular shape and a two-meter-high altar. The church contains some important works of art, including the apse fresco that was built in 1731 by Sebastiano Conca.

5) Sant'Agostino

The construction of Sant'Agostino Church and its associated convent began in 1258 and lasted for more than fifty years. The interior, redesigned by Luigi Vanvitelli in the 18th century, has maintained the large, high altars made of polychrome marble from the 16th-17th centuries. The stucco statues in the nave and the transept date from after the Vanvitelli renovation. The church is home to a great deal of artwork. A partial list includes: 'The Baptism of Constantine' by Francesco Vanni, a Trinity and Saints altarpiece by Pietro Sorri, the funerary monument of Agostino Chigi (1631), 'The Birth of the Virgin' and 'A Nativity' by Francesco di Giorgio Martini and his workshop, an altarpiece with 'The Path to the Calvary' by Ventura Salimbeni, the monument to Pope Pius II (1850) and the Piccolomini altar made of polychrome marble (1596), which also includes paintings by Il Sodoma (Adoration of the Magi) and Perugino (Crucifiction).
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Giuseppe

6) San Giuseppe

The construction of the San Giuseppe Church began in 1521 and lasted until the 1650s. It was commissioned by the Contrada dell' Onda, one of the 17 districts, or contradas, of Siena. The brick facade of the church was completed in 1563, featuring two superimposed orders divided by pilasters. The dome has an octagonal shape with a lantern at the top. The interiors of the church were commissioned by the Nasini Family.

A museum, dedicated to the Contrada, is located inside the church, in the crypt, which is a hall built around the 16th century. Each district of Siena has its symbol and that of the Contrada Dell' Onda is a dolphin, since "Onda" means "wave" in Italian. Visitors are greeted by the sculpture of a dolphin outside the San Guiseppe church. The San Guiseppe festival, held in March, is a popular event among locals. During the festival, the adjacent streets and the square in front of the church are filled with stalls selling hot rice flour fritters, rattles, windmills and other toys. The church facade and the piazza are festooned with green wreaths and paper flowers, and the church itself is richly adorned with blue and white banners embroidered with the Contrada's dolphin symbol.
Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi

7) Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi (must see)

The Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi is a parish church in Siena that is famous for the artwork in its interiors and for its musical traditions. The church is built on the site of the former Church of San Clement, which was acquired by the Servite order in the Medieval era, from which it gets its name. The original Basilica was built in the 13th century on the site of the old church, but later underwent reconstruction and transformation which continued until the 15th-16th century. It was consecrated in 1533. From its consecration, the church has always held music concerts. In the 17th century it had 4 organs. Today, there is only one remaining organ that was constructed in 1900.

The Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi has an unfinished 13th century facade. The facade is simple and unadorned, with a single doorway and a rose window (indications of another can be discerned on the wall). The Romanesque bell tower was modified several times. The last reconstruction took place in 1926. The church has a portico with slender columns at the entrance and three naves. The interior is in great contrast with the rough and bare aspect of the exterior. A renaissance style has been adopted, the design of which is attributed to Baldassare Peruzzi. Near the entrance is a Crucifix of the 14th century and a Holy Water Stoup of the 13th century. Two aisles flank the central nave and, on the right, is a painting, called the Virgin and Child with Two Angels, by Coppo di Marcovaldo. Another famous work of art within the church is found in the south transept of the second chapel. It is a fresco, called Slaughter of the Innocents, created by painter, Pietro Lorenzetti, who introduced naturalism into Sienese Art.
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Giorgio

8) San Giorgio

The San Giorgio Church was built in 1260 to commemorate the victory of the Sienese soldiers in the Battle of Montaperti. It is dedicated to St. George because the soldiers used the name of the saint in their war cry. The Sienese soldiers, called the Ghibellines, contributed a portion of their pay to establish and construct the church. The Gothic Romanesque tower, built by Del Dugento, is the only part of the original medieval structure that has survived till today. The present church is the result of extensive renovations by Pietro Cremoni and dates back to 1738.

The 38 windows in the Gothic tower of the church represent each of the companies of Ghibelline Knights who took part in the Battle of Montaperti. The facade has two large columns and the coat of arms of cardinal Anton Felice Zondadari, who commissioned the restoration of the church. Art treasures in the interiors are the painting of the Crucifixion by Francesco Vanni and another painting by his son, Rafaello Vanni, called Encounter of the Lord with his Mother on the Calvary. The tomb of Francesco Vanni is located to the left of the main entrance and was designed by his sons, Rafaello and Michaelangelo. There are two other tombs of the Zondadari family in the transept of the church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Cristoforo

9) San Cristoforo

The church of San Cristoforo is one of the oldest in Siena. It is a small church flanking the Piazza Tolomei in the city.

The Church of San Cristoforo was first constructed in the 12th century. It was the seat of the Great Council of the Republic of Siena called the Council of the Bell between the 12th and 13th centuries. The Council of the Bell was so called because the members were summoned for meetings by ringing a bell. It has undergone several additions and renovations since. A brick facade and four columns were added to the original structure at first and in the 17th century, cloisters and statues were installed. It was damaged by the earthquake of 1798 and its height was shortened. The facade and the 13th century cloisters were renovated again in 1921.

Visitors enter the cloister of the San Cristoforo Church from the left. The cloisters are now used to host exhibitions. The nave has a beautiful sculpture of Madonna and the Child by Girolamo del Pacchia. There is a sculpture group in the high altar by Bartolomeo Mazzuoli dating from 1693 including a statue of Beato Bernardo Tolomei. A recent addition is a wooden statue of the twentieth century Italian saint, Pio (Pius) of Pietrelcina. The posture of the statue is of Padre Pio, as he was popularly called, hearing confessions.
Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano

10) Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano

A mysterious apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in the house called Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano and it became a church soon after. It is one of the oldest residences in Siena. The Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano is a mannerist building constructed after the conquest of the city by the Medici family. It belonged to a Sienese military captain called Provenzano Salvani who played a major role in the victory of the city during the Battle of Montaperti.

St. Catherine of Siena placed a terracotta statue of the Pieta, or Madonna, with the dying Christ in her arms on the façade after the apparition of Virgin Mary was witnessed in the house. In 1552, a Spanish soldier tried to destroy the statue by firing at it. His weapon misfired and killed him instead and only the arms of the statue were damaged. The event was regarded by the locals as a miracle. The basilica was consecrated in 1611 and the damaged statue was placed on the high altar.

The interior of the church has the plan of a Latin cross. It has a single nave and an octagonal dome. The altar that houses the terracotta Pieta was made between 1617 and 1631. Notable works of art inside the church are “The Mass of Saint Cerbone” by Rutilio Manetti and Dionysio Montorselli’s “The Vision of Saint Catherine of the Martyrdom of San Lorenzo.”
Basilica of San Francesco

11) Basilica of San Francesco (must see)

The Basilica of San Francesco is a 13th century church that was once attached to a Franciscan convent and renaissance cloister. The convent and the cloister today house the law faculty of the University of Siena and its library. The Basilica of San Francesco was built by Francesco di Giorgio Martini between 1228 and 1255. At first the building had a Romanesque facade. It was gutted by a fire in 1655 and the original interior artwork was destroyed. The structure was expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries and its present large facade has a Gothic design. The basilica is on the Egyptian Cross plan, with a nave covered by spans and a transept, according to type favoured by the Mendicant Orders, which needed spaces capable to house large crowds of faithful. It has a single nave and chapels in the transept. The frescoes on the walls are by artists from the Quattrocento Sienese School.

The counter-facade houses the remains of two 14th century sepulchers, as well as two large fragmentary frescoes from the former city gates of Porta Romana and Porta Pispini: an Incoronation of the Virgin by Sassetta and Sano di Pietro (1447–1450) and a Nativity by Il Sodoma (1531). Also visible is the ancient 15th century portal by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Two notable works are St. Ludwig D’Angio at the Feet of Boniface VIII by Pietro Lorenzetti and The Martyrdom of the Franciscan Brothers in Ceuta by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. In the right transept is a 14th-century marble of St. Francis, from the ancient façade. The tomb of Cristoforo Felici, a magistrate of the Council of the Republic of Siena is located in the second chapel on the right of the choir.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Siena, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Siena

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Museum Tour of Siena

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