Monday, August 18, 2014

Siena, Il Duomo.... a Thin Place

Lately I have been thinking and writing about 'thin places' and
 have come to recognize these more and more in life.

A thin place is  said to be  a place where heaven and earth meet, there are no boundaries.
Although a thin place does not have to be a sacred place yet when in Siena, James and I always
visit Il Duomo ( Santa Maria Assunta) and for for each of us it is a place where heaven and earth come together.

The Cathedral (1245) is built on the highest point in Siena over what was an early church dedicated to  the goddess Minerva. The facade of the Duomo is dazzling, but it is when I enter through the doors, in from the sunlight and suddenly find myself standing in  the low lit interior that I am captivated by the scale and space of it all.

The 13th Century Pulpit by Nicola Pisano is a masterpiece . Walking into the side chapels and alters there are words of art by the later Renaissance artists, Michelangelo, Donatello, Bernini, Pisano and Pinturiccio that should be taken note of as they add to the complexity of the Cathedral.

The alternating black and white horizontal  pattern of the interior has such magnificence and ones eyes are carried  far upward to the golden stars on the blue ceiling. Light passes softly through the
window, the radiance pulls our eyes and  feet forward while the Duomo wraps around you, time collapses and you become absorbed in the power of the place.
It is humbling.

A Gian Lorenzo Bernini gold gilded lantern tops the star filled dome .
James wondered how many children must have looked up and thought that God was really up there. Right there.
But,  they must have wondered,"how can you swim in air, how can you get there?"
It seems so frustratingly impossible....I guess that was "the churches point", they will provide the "ladders".

Vasari, in referring to the mind boggling Duomo floor said, " the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent that was ever made."
The marble intarsia and graffito that covers the floor was created from the 24th-16th Centuries by the hands of 40 artists.
I  get absorbed in looking I often forget to take photos, so you will just have to go see this for yourself, it is a remarkable piece of artwork that you will find yourself walking upon.

A visit here requires time. Time just to walk through the rising black and white columns, time to walk into  the side chapels and to light a candle as you thin about someone you love. Sit back where it is quiet and feel the calm and the place.

The Cathedral was meant to be larger, as a matter of fact the plan was for it to be the largest Cathedral ever built.  However, in 1348 The Black Death's toll on the population of Siena was devastating, it is thought that 75% of the population died from the plague. How did they ever recover to become once again a vibrant city?
Work on the Cathedral stopped when the plaque swept the city and was never restarted although what was started still stands, almost as a memorial.

Siena is Medieval, you see it in the architecture and you feel it to the bone as you walk through its narrow streets.

Siena has endured the misery of battles, financial troubles and plague.
The Duomo rises high up from Siena looking illustrious and strong.


For information  click on :  Siena Duomo

The magnificent floor of the Duomo often has sections roped off of covered
But from August 18 -October 27 2014
the entire floor will be uncovered.

More on Siena's Duomo in future blog posts.

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