Toscana II – Siena – Church of San Domenico
Piazza del Duomo – Siena
As luck would have it, we arrive in Siena (yes, the paint color, Burnt Siena originated in the earth surrounding the city) just before the latest James Bond movie was due to be filmed in the city. There was scaffolding everywhere to film the action, but not a movie star in sight. We were lucky to have a local tour guide for an hour and we learned a few things about this part of Italy from an insider’s perspective. First of all, Siena and Florence were arch rivals in the Renaissance and the time of city states, apparently giving even the OSU – Michigan competition a run for the money. Secondly, renaissance art is revered and modern art is found to be an abomination by the locals.
Although the guide book described this church as “architecturally uninspiring,” I found it to be charming for several reasons. Very modern wrought iron sculpture encircled the entrance, and there was a fabulous modern art glass window that was so stunning it commanded your immediate attention. The guide stated that the residents were up in arms about the travesty of these installations and had repeatedly complained to the church to have them removed. Secondly, St. Catherine, patron saint of Italy, grew up right around the corner. One of a gaggle of children born to a family of weavers, I already appreciated the textile connection. Then I learned why she was beatified. As a teen she went to Avignon and brought the Pope back to Italy. Now my wicked imagination takes hold and I am wondering why a teen aged girl had to bring a grown man back to town? Was he unable to read a map? Was he frightened of horses? Did he take courage from hiding behind a young girls skirts? Who knows? But I say, “You go girl!” She was so revered that after her death everyone wanted a piece of her, literally. Her bones were divided among the churches of Christendom, supposedly via a lottery system. I think it was rigged because the Church of Dan Domenico got both her skull and a finger, which were prominently displayed for all to see. Eeyeew!!!
Toscana IV – Siena – After Lorenzetti (detail)
Not far from the Duomo is the remains of a medieval hospital called Santa Maria della Scala. After all the religious iconography, I was interested to see some secular work and this is the place to go. It featured some absolutely intrigueing frescoes of medieval hospital life, but that’s not all. Visitors virtually have the run of the place. We travelled into the bowels of the hospital, originally used for storage. We made our way in the near dark, on faintly lighted board walks. Every once in a while there would be an Etruscan funerary urn to remind you of your own mortality, and wouldn’t you know it, there was another human skull in a glass case on the wall. This place was seriously creepy! We only saw a few other people, and I was beginnig to wonder if we were about to star in one of those slasher movies. But not to worry, another glass of wine and little sunshine and we were ready for the next adventure.
Toscana IV – Siena- After Lorenzetti
I promised I would reveal how I used the fabric purchased in Florence. Take a look at Toscana IV. The red and blue in the women’s gowns, and the tobacco colored fabric in the outer border are my treasures from Florence. The black gown is a man’s sports jacket I purchased at Goodwill, and the batik fleur de lys fabric came from Michael and Debra Lunn’s annual fabric sale.