Unfinished Façade

Panorama and
"Duomo Nuovo"

Panorama from "facciatone"

The masterpiece of Sienese Gothic architecture

The most awe-inspiring viewpoint in Siena. A breathtaking panorama. A walk up the interior of one of the most important monuments in Siena's history.

The "Facciatone"


The "Grand General Council of the Bell" officially approved a motion to extend Siena Cathedral (ASS, Consiglio generale 125, cc. 18r-19r), with 212 votes in favour and 132 against, on 23 August 1339. The partial construction of the extension was to drag on until 1357, but in actual fact the Council was approving a project that was already under way because, as the chronicler Andrea Dei tells us, the foundation stone of the "New Cathedral's" façade had been laid on 2 February 1330. The ceremony for the blessing of the stone was conducted by the Bishop of Siena Donusdeo Malavolti and by the Bishop of Massa Galgano Pagliaresi in the presence of the city's clerical population. The existing church was to become the transept of the New Cathedral, whose nave and aisles would have been situated in what is now Piazza Jacopo della Quercia (formerly Piazza dei Manetti): "per planum Sancte Marie versus plateam Manettorum". The Archive of the Opera della Metropolitana has two ground-plans for the Cathedral's planned extension.

Work on extending the church eastwards (towards Vallepiatta) and on erecting the Baptistry façade had actually begun on 1 May 1317, and a campaign launched in 1331 to buy up buildings on the level plot of land facing the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala and the Postierla or postern gate, in order to demolish them and thus acquire the space on which to build the new Cathedral.

Responsibility for the extension work was entrusted in December 1339 to Lando di Pietro, a skilled goldsmith who had also acquired a certain renown in the fields of engineering and bell-balancing and had masterminded the construction of the bastions at Montemassi in 1328 and the walls of Paganico in 1334. He was called back expressly from Naples, where he was in service with King Robert of Anjou, but his work in Siena was cut short by his death on 3 August 1340.

His place was taken by a highly sophisticated Sienese sculptor named Giovanni d'Agostino (through an administrative deed signed by Operaio Latino de' Rossi on 23 March 1340). Giovanni pushed speedily ahead with the construction of the "New Cathedral", which was destined to become the masterpiece of Sienese Gothic art, until his death in 1348 when he was probably carried off by the plague.

While Lando di Pietro had been a kind of "overseer" of the works paid (also) by the Siena municipal authorities, Giovanni d'Agostino was hired as the Opera's own master-builder.

Building slowed down considerably after 1348, until if finally ground to a halt both as a result of the economic recession triggered by the Black Death, which had decimated the city's population, and following the detection of a number of stability issues in parts of the building that had already been erected.

After the project had been abandoned for good, the "New Cathedral" was partly demolished, the Twelve Governors of the Republic ordered the demolition in 1357 of those parts of the building that had been declared unsound. The mammoth project's surviving portions include a huge "torso" comprising the "Unfinished Façade", the side walls and the north aisle.

The scant remains of the south aisle include the arcades, the two-light or "gemel" Gothic windows and the lower part of the wall's marble facing. The brick infill was required to permit the construction of the Royal Palace, now the seat of the Prefect and of the Provincial Administration.


The enormous façade is faced on the inside – the side facing the square – with typically Tuscan alternating bands of black and white marble. The construction achieves a graceful lightness thanks to three arcades (two of which are large windows or loggias that can be accessed via the Tapestry Room in the Museo dell'Opera) and to the "New Cathedral's" portal which was bricked up to allow the construction of the building now used as the city's Questura or police headquarters.

View of Cathedral from "Facciatone"

Piazza Jacopo della Quercia

Piazza Jacopo della Quercia, a regular rectangle in plan, comprises the nave and north aisle of the "New Cathedral" and is paved in grey pietra serena stone like Piazza del Duomo. One can still make out the marble outlines of the bases of the south aisle piers which were demolished after the project was abandoned. The north aisle piers faced with black and white marble have survived and still carry the arcades supporting the roof of the Museo dell'Opera and the loggia leading up to it.

The "Duomo Nuovo"

La struttura ospitante il museo è stata infatti ricavata dal tamponamento delle prime tre campate della navata destra del ‘Duomo nuovo’. A sinistra della porta un’iscrizione preceduta dallo stemma Piccolomini ricorda una visita del pontefice Pio II ai cantieri dell’Opera: M.CCCC.LVIIII A DI V DI FEBRARIO PPA P.II VENE I QUESTA BUTIGA


The sculptures and carved fragments adorning the "New Cathedral's" structure include bas-reliefs in the lunettes above the doors giving onto the loggia, depicting a Madonna and Child and a Redeemer Blessing between Two Cherubs, both of which reveal the "painterly" style of Giovanni d'Agostino. These reliefs precede "the finest portal in the whole of Sienese art" (Enzo Carli) opening off the north aisle of the "New Cathedral". The portal, best viewed from the bottom of the picturesque staircase leading to Piazza San Giovanni, is now used as a passage between Piazza del Duomo and Via di Monna Agnese. The original statues from the marble group depicting the Redeemer between Two Angels, now on display in the Apostles Room in the Museo dell'Opera, mark one of the high points of 14th century sculpture, perfectly in keeping with the style of the Sienese painters of the 14th century.

The side door of the "Duomo Nuovo"

Giovanni d'Agostino, Christ the Judge and two Adoring Angels

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PANORAMA AND "DUOMO NUOVO": OPENING HOURS (valid from 1st August 2020)

Until 31 March 2022: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm                                           01 April - 31 October: 09:30 am - 7:30 pm                                            1 November - 28 February : 10:30 am - 5:30 pm

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