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The Amazing Marble Floor of the Siena Duomo

Published on , by Olivier Tosseri

Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral boasts a stunning historiated pavement whose earliest parts date back to the 14th century. It is particularly fragile and visible only briefly on rare occasions.

© Opera del duomo di Siena The Amazing Marble Floor of the Siena Duomo

© Opera del duomo di Siena

Imagine a 3,000 m 2 marble book that can be read only twice a year, in midsummer and early autumn. Its pages are not turned with hands but during a slow walk beneath the vaults of Siena’s 12 th and 13 th -century cathedral. Written from the 14 th to 19 th century, the volume comprises 56 panels that are usually covered with parquet flooring to protect it from the footsteps of tourists and the faithful. Otherwise, they would be treading on a veritable marble marquetry that took 600 years to make. All the marble, and most of the 40 or so artists who worked on the masterpiece, including some of the Sienese school’s foremost representatives, such as Matteo di Giovanni, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Guidoccio Cozzarelli, and Luca Signorelli, came from Tuscany. While tradition attributes the precious polychrome marble tapestry’s origin to the school’s leader, Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1260-c. 1318-1319), the earliest reliable records date back no further than 1370 and the project probably began at the dawn of the 15 th century.…
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