San Domenico, Siena

San Domenico (St. Dominic's Basilica) is a vast brick church in Siena. Founded by the Dominicans in 1125 as part of their friary, San Domenico is closely associated with St. Catherine of Siena and contains her head in a reliquary.


History of San Domenico

The current church of San Domenico dates from 1226. It is an enormous, severe structure jutting above a modern section of town and provides good views of the Duomo and Siena's rooftops.

What to See at San Domenico

The raised chapel off the west end (to the right as you enter) preserves the only genuine Portrait of St. Catherine, painted by her friend and contemporary Andrea Vanni.

The Cappella di Santa Caterina(Chapel of St. Catherine) halfway down the right wall was frescoed with scenes from the saint's life. All except the right wall (where in 1593 Francesco Vanni painted Catherine performing an exorcism) were frescoed by Sodoma in 1526.

The large work on the left wall of her interceding on behalf of a condemned man as well as the other scenes of her in ecstasy and swooning are some of Sodoma's best work. This chapel enshrines St. Catherine's incorrupt head and finger in a gilt reliquary case on the altar.

St. Catherine's main shrine is down the hill in her family home, and the rest of her body is in a tomb in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome.

At the end of the nave, on the right, is a Nativity by Francesco di Giorgio Martini dominated by a crumbling Roman triumphal arch in the background and a Pietà above.

The first chapel to the right of the altar is home to a Madonna and Child with Saints by Matteo di Giovanni, one of whose masterpieces, St. Barbara Enthroned with Angels and Sts. Mary Magdalen and Catherine, is in the second chapel of the left transept.

An altar on the right as you leave has a 14th-century Madonna and Child Surrounded by Four Saints and God by Sodoma, with a 16th-century Siena skyline above the tiny-paneled predella.

Quick Facts on San Domenico

Site Information
Names:Basilica San Domenico · Church of San Domenico · Church of St. Dominic · San Domenico · St. Dominic's Basilica
Categories:churches; pilgrimage sites
Faiths:Dominican order
Dedication: St. Dominic
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:43.319854° N, 11.326711° E
Address:Piazza San Domenico
Siena, Italy
Hours:Apr-Oct 7am-12:55pm and 3-6:30pm
Nov-Mar 9am-12:55pm and 3-6pm
Lodging:View hotels near San Domenico
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

More Information

© Alberto Mucignat
© Claus Moser
© Martin Hapl
© Kirk Laws-Chapman
© Poor Widows

Map of San Domenico, Siena

Below is a location map and aerial view of San Domenico. 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.