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diocesan museum of religious art

Oratory of San Bernardino

Oratory of San Bernardino and Diocesan Museum of Religious Art.

Sienese painting from the 13th to the 18th centuries

A magical and highly atmospheric museum providing an exhaustive overview of Sienese painting from the 13th century on.
The architectural structure of the Oratory of St. Bernardino, originally erected in the later Middle Ages, was completely overhauled and renovated in the 16th century. This evocative setting, one of the most interesting museum spaces in Siena, which has housed the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art in its adjacent rooms since 1999, offers the visitor a comprehensive overview of Sienese painting from the 13th century onwards. The building, which was built to host the Confraternity of St. Mary and St. Francis, was rededicated in the 16th century to Brother Bernardino Albizzeschi, a Franciscan friar canonised in 1450 who frequently delivered fiery sermons in the square outside the building. The simple gabled brick façade is embellished with an elegant travertine portal dated 1574, above which we see St. Bernardino's symbol, a sun with twelve rays in whose centre stand the three letters IHS, an abbreviation for Iesus Homimun Salvator, Jesus the Saviour of Men. The core of the museum is still the very fine upper oratory chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels which was frescoed throughout by Domenico Beccafumi, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi known as "Il Sodoma” and Girolamo Pacchia in the early 16th century.
Lower oratory

The Diocesan Museum's outstanding collection, which is crucial to gain an understanding of the history of religious art in the region, brings together a series of priceless 13th to the 19th century masterpieces from churches in the Diocese of Siena. The lower oratory's square hall has a star-spangled blue vault in the centre of which Arcangelo Salimbeni painted a fresco depicting The Virgin Protecting Siena, St. Bernardino and St. Catherine completed by Francesco Vanni in 1580. The lunettes just below the ceiling, with Stories from the Life of St. Bernardino, were frescoed in the first half of the 17th century by a number of local artists including Ventura Salimbeni, Rutilio and Domenico Manetti, Crescenzio Gambarelli, Bernardino Mei and Deifebo Burbarini. The pictures on display in this hall include, in particular, an elegant panel painting by Sano di Pietro depicting the Madonna and Child and Ventura Salimbeni's canvas of the Madonna and God the Father.

Rutilio Manetti,
St Bernardine resurrects a girl

Upper oratory

The core of the museum is still the very fine upper oratory chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels, which consists in a single rectangular hall with a coffered ceiling where each panel blue panel contains a gold papier-mâché cherub. Maestro Ventura di Ser Giuliano, known as Turapilli, was commissioned to decorate the ceiling in 1496 and he continued to work on it until 1512. The decoration of the room is a product of the work of several prestigious artists active in Siena in the first half of the 16th century, such as Girolamo Pacchia (Siena, 1477 – after 1533), Giovanni Antonio Bazzi known as "Il Sodoma" (Vercelli, 1477 – Siena, 1549) and Domenico Beccafumi (Siena 1486 – 1551). The iconographical programme of the scenes along the oratory walls, with their Stories from the Life of the Virgin, is designed to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin body and soul.

Upper Oratory

Antonio Bazzi known as the "Sodoma", Coronation of the Virgin

Domenico Beccafumi, The Marriage of the Virgin

Collection

The tour continues in the small sacristy with its 16th century panel painting of Christ Carrying the Cross by Domenico Beccafumi, still in its original frame carved by Giovanni Barili. The room on the left of the stairs contains several masterpieces of 15th century Sienese art. These include a panel painting of Christ Crucified by Giovanni di Paolo from the church of S. Pietro a Ovile and a dazzling Annunciation by Matteo di Giovanni from the same church echoing the old altarpiece by Simone Martini formerly on the high altar of Siena Cathedral and now in the Uffizi, while an intriguing panel painting of St. George and the Dragon in which the heroic figure of the sainted knight and his white charger fill the entire painted space may be attributed to Sano di Pietro.

The next room contains numerous 13th and 14th century panel paintings by such artists as the Master of Tressa, Segna di Bonaventura, Bartolomeo Bulgarini, Andrea Vanni and Taddeo di Bartolo, in addition to Pietro Lorenzetti's fresco of the Risen Christ from the convent of S. Francesco and to a tender and extremely engaging Madonna of Milk by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, an absolute masterpiece of 14th century painting.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Madonna del Latte

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ORATORY OF SAN BERNARDINO: OPENING HOURS

1 March – 31 October: 1:30 pm - 7:00 pm (Last admission half an hour before the museum closes).
2 July and 16 August: 1.30 pm – 4.30 pm (Last admission half an hour before the museum closes).

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Information, reservations and ticket.

+39 0577 286300

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PRICES
FULL TICKET:
01/03-31/10
€ 3,00
GROUPS > 14:
01/03-31/10
€ 2,50
SCHOOLS:
01/03-31/10
€ 1,50

opa si pass all inclusive prices
01/03-31/10
26/12-06/01
€ 13,00
01/11-24/12
07/01-28/02
€ 8,00

A combined ticket that allows you to access to all the museums of the complex of the Cathedral of Siena and to save more than 50% on the total amount of the single tickets.

Valid for three days from the day of purchase Opa Si Pass.

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