Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in Sienna

The past three days have been wonderfully relaxing. Apart from the exhausting van trip from Viterbo to Sienna, our routine of touring, eating, and sleeping has been uninterupted. On our way from viterbo, we stopped at a town called Monteriggioni. Monteriggioni was a fortified town that defended the border between Sienna and Florence. Her high walls now look over Chianti vineyards. We enjoyed more of the wild boar and porcini mushrooms that we had earlier in northern Lazio and Umbria, but now in southern Tuscany we are greeted by fresh pecorino cheese, served warm with shreded truffles- it was amazing.
I believe that the Duomo of Sienna is the most beautiful cathedral in all of Italy. The structure is incredibly beautiful and the attention to detail is astounding. So many are attracted to the giant pumpkin of a dome in Florence, but if you go inside, what do you see? Shadows. Bare walls. the whole place is murky. It feels unwelcoming. The Siennese Duomo is very well it. The entire floor is made of inlaid marble, depicting scenes from Christ's life and important events in Sienese history. The pulpit is very beautiful with deep, high gothic style carvings.
The crypt became a crypt when the first 12th century church was built over to create another that was, in turn built over to create the current Duomo. The frescos were being retouched when I first visited 3 years ago. The paintings are very simple, using only red, yellow, and blue, and very few lines. The amount of underground space was astonishing. There was one point where we looked down two stories to a deeper level.
Unlike most baptistries that are located in the front of the church, this was placed bellow it. On a level bellow the crypt, the baptistry sits bellow the entire complex. They provided mirrors to view the ceiling which I had never seen before. When I tried to take pictures, my sister Syd used a mirror to reflect light into my lens. it took a little negotiating to finally get a good picture of it.

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