Once a year the Duomo di Siena uncovers a vast work of art – a masterpiece created over a span of several hundred years by no less than 40 artists and artisans, and one that lays in hiding for much of the year unbeknownst to many that visit the cathedral. The secret? The Duomo’s incredibly intricate mosaic floor. A floor that dates all the way back to the 14th century and took until the 16th century to finish – worked by both lesser known talents and eminent artists such as Matteo di Giovanni and Neroccio di Bartolomeo de’ Landi.
This wonderful collection of arts remains covered by fibreboard for 11 months of the year to conceal it from the busy feet of thousands of tourists and congregants. It’s made up of 56 panels some rectangular, others hexagons and rhombuses – representing a vivid mix of scenes from the Old Testament, allegories, the sibyls and virtues. Incredibly many of them are still in their original state – in particular the marble pieces. Lookout for the beautiful panel representing The She-Wolf of Siena which was laid in 1373 (& restored in 1864) – the vivid red marble and stark imagery are captivating to say the least.
We spent at least 2 hours inspecting the floor – all 14,000 square feet of it – and simply walking around the cathedral in complete awe, though one could easily spend an entire day, even weeks tracing the various art styles, deciphering the intricate stories and matching each panel to their respective artists.