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Siena Crypt

Exterior of the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral, built and frescoed in the 13th century. It was abandoned in the early 14th century and not rediscovered until 1999. View all images in our Siena Crypt Photo Gallery.
Visitors gather for a guided tour of the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral, built and frescoed in the 13th century. It was abandoned in the early 14th century and not rediscovered until 1999. The frescoes…
Fresco of the Annunciation, Visitation and part of the Nativity (c.1280) in the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral. The large room was built and frescoed in the 13th century, abandoned in the early 14th…
Fresco of the Kiss of Judas (c.1280) in the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral. The large room was built and frescoed in the 13th century, abandoned in the early 14th century, and not rediscovered until 1999.
Fragmentary fresco (c.1280) in the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral. The large room was built and frescoed in the 13th century, abandoned in the early 14th century, and not rediscovered until 1999.
Fresco of a saint with two doves (c.1280) in the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral. The large room was built and frescoed in the 13th century, abandoned in the early 14th century, and not rediscovered until…
Fresco of the Nativity of Christ and his first washing (c.1280) in the "crypt" of Siena Cathedral. The large room was built and frescoed in the 13th century, abandoned in the early 14th century, and…

The Crypt (Cripta in Italian) beneath the Duomo in Siena is a newly discovered gem with a wonderful series of 13th-century frescoes adorning its walls.

History

Despite its name and location, the Cripta is not exactly a crypt - it was never used for burials. It is thought to have functioned as a sort of porch, with stairways leading directly up into the nave of the cathedral.

It was constructed at the same time as the Duomo - in the 13th century - but Siena's citizens barely got a chance to enjoy its frescoes before it was filled with debris and abandoned.

Expansion work on the choir beginning in 1317 required dismantling the crypt's vault, while the construction of the baptistery soon destroyed the facade. The crypt was subsequently used as a storeroom for construction materials and closed up for good.

It lay unseen for nearly 700 years until its re-discovery during routine excavations in the Duomo in 1999. The room opened to the public in the fall of 2003.

What to See

The crypt is rectangular, bare and of little architectural interest, but that is all the better to appreciate what remains of a magnificent fresco cycle painted c.1270-80.

Originally, there was a full cycle of Old Testament stories along the top of the wall and a parallel cycle of New Testament stories below. Sadly, the former have been lost due to the destruction of the vault.

Among the scenes that remain are the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Kiss of Judas, Crucifixion, Deposition, and Entombment of Christ. The frescoes are in vibrant colors (primarily red, blue and gold) and full of feeling.

The artists are not known for certain, but probably included Dietisalvi di Speme, Guido di Graziano and Rinaldo da Siena. They were most likely assisted by a young Duccio di Buoninsegna.

Quick Facts on Siena Crypt

Site Information
Names:Cripta; Siena Crypt
City:Siena
State:Tuscany
Country:Italy
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic
Styles:Gothic
Dates:1270-80
Status:museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Siena, Italy
Coordinates:43.317825° N, 11.329313° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Siena Crypt

Below is a location map and aerial view of Siena Crypt. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (April 30, 2008).
  2. Siena: Cathedral - Baptistery Guide (Sillabe, March 2008), 97.
  3. Cripta - Fodors.com
  4. Duomo - Frommers.com

More Information

Article Info

Title:Siena Crypt
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:08/02/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/siena-crypt/italy/siena-crypt
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