Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Siena Cathedral's Floor Is Uncovered.

Siena Cathedral,
Note that the Cathedral's floor, which is
normally covered by rugs, is revealed in all its glory.
Also note the complete absence of pews, benches, chairs,
advertising stands, etc, which diminish the intended wonder
of this outstanding work of art.
Illustration: ARTTRAV

Text is from ARTTRAV

Giorgio Vasari called the floor of Siena’s Duomo (Cathedral) “the most beautiful, big, and magnificent, that has ever been done.” Normally, this floor is covered by carpets to protect it from the footsteps of many visitors, but it is uncovered for a few months each year, allowing us to get a view of the Marble Intarsia works of art, that tell of Biblical narratives and represent allegories, and took Centuries to complete.

The floor of Siena Cathedral.
Illustration: ARTTRAV

There are fifty-six large scenes on the floor, represented by major Sienese artists, including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, and Domenico Beccafumi, as well as the intervention of some ‘foreign’ artists like Pinturicchio.

The floor of Siena Cathedral.
Illustration: ARTTRAV

The techniques used, to make and decorate the floor, progress from graffito to commesso marmoreo. Graffito is the use of the scalpel to carve out areas of White Marble, which were then filled with Black Stucco. This evolved to incorporating more colours, using a technique similar to Wood Intarsia, which is called commesso marmoreo (sometimes also pietre dure, but these are softer stones, thus not ‘dure’).

The Nave and Side Aisles of the Cathedral floor are decorated with stories from antiquity, such as the image of Romulus and Remus (symbol of Siena). There are ten Sybils represented, and various Philosophers.

Design by Pinturicchio,
"Allegoria del Monte della Sapienza",
on the floor of Siena Cathedral.
Illustration: ARTTRAV


  1. Hi, John. I'm sure you could knock up something similar for the Cabin on your new boat. Is Marble in plentiful supply in your part of The Principality ?


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