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The facade of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, Siena. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Santa Maria della Scala: an ancient hospital of Siena which has become a museum

The current museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala, was one of the first European hospitals expressly built to accommodate pilgrims traveling along the Via Francigena, and support the poor and abandoned children.

The complex is located opposite the facade of the Duomo in Siena, and its creation is due to the canons of the cathedral, who probably founded it between the 9th and 10th century, during the Middle Ages the hospital grew considerably thanks to donations and bequests from the most importat families in the city, the hospital soon became very important in the Republic of Siena economy, and its management in the first instance under the canons of the Cathedral, was later entrusted to the hospital brothers, and finally, in the fifteenth century, came under the direct control of the Commune of Siena.

The hospital thanks to bequests and donations received at that time had many agricultural properties, called grancie, who were in every corner of the state of Siena as in Val d’Orcia, in Val d’Arbia (Grancia of Cuna), in the Masse, in Crete Senesi and Maremma. For almost five centuries these possessions were the source of support of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, until, in the second half of the eighteenth century, was ordered the sale.

Pellegrinaio di Santa Maria della Scala, Siena. Author Combusken. Licence Creative Commons-Share Alike

Pellegrinaio di Santa Maria della Scala, Siena. Author Combusken

During the period of great splendor, the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala became very important in the cultural sphere, such that today is considered the third artistic pole of the town, after the Public Palace and the cathedral. It remained in use as a hospital for citizen until a few years ago, today provides an interesting museum path, and houses among others the new archaeological museum. Many great Sienese artists worked on the arrangement of the hospital, how today testify places like Pellegrinaio (15th and 16th century frescoes by Domenico di Bartolo, Lorenzo Vecchietta, Giovanni Raffaele Navesi and Priamo della Quercia), the Old Sacristy (fifteenth century frescoes by Lorenzo Vecchietta), the Church of the Santissima Annunziata (eighteenth century painting apse by Sebastiano Conca), the Chapel of Manto (sixteenth century fresco by Domenico Beccafumi), the Chapel of Our Lady (paintings by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini).

The museum itinerary starts from the current museum tickets entrance in front of the facade of the cathedral, allows a visit to the monumental area of Santa Maria della Scala, overlooking the cathedral square with the church of Santissima Annunziata, the Pellegrinaio with the famous fifteenth-century fresco cycle, the Old Sacristy, Palazzo Squarcialupi, the chapel and the Chapel of Our Lady of Mantle. Then descend to a lower level (basement 1) where you can visit the Corticella, which is overlooked by the medieval Barn, which houses the Fonte Gaia of Jacopo della Quercia and locations of two lay confraternities rich in art and still active today: the “Compagnia dei disciplinati sotto le volte dell’ospedale” and the “Compagnia di Santa Caterina della Notte”.

Santissima Annunziata, Santa Maria della Scala, Siena. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The interior of the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Santa Maria della Scala, Siena. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Through the warehouses of Corticella leads then to the so-called labyrinth (basement 2), a vast medieval sections connected by tunnels dug in tufa rocks, where are exposed the archaeological collections. The Archaeological Museum is divided into two main sections: the Antiquarian, with collections from private collections and a section devoted to the excavations and topographical discoveries occurred in Chianti, Murlo and Upper Val d’Elsa.

Hours: Daily from 10,30-18,30 (ticket office closes at 18.00)

Ticket: Full price without booking € 6.00; Full price with reservation is € 5.50; reduced without booking € 4.50 for groups over 15 people; Reduced with reservation is € 4.00 for groups over 15 people; reduced without booking € 3.50 students of all and grade, ultra sixty-five, disabled and military; Reduced with reservation € 3.00 students of all types and levels, ultra sixty-five, disabled and military. Admission free for children under the age of 11 years, residents in the City of Siena and visitors with disabilities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • AA. VV. “Toscana” Guide Rosse Touring Club Italiano, 2007
  • cur. Gabbrielli F. “Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala: ricerche storiche, archeologiche e storico-artistiche” 2011, Protagon Editori Toscani
  • AA. VV. “Siena” 2014, KMZero
  • Barbagli Debora “Siena. Santa Maria della Scala. Guida al museo archeologico” 2008, Silvana
  • cur. Gabbrielli F., Piccini G. “Il pellegrinaio dell’ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala” 2014, C&P Adver Effigi
  • Serino Vinicio “Siena segreta” 2012, Betti
  • AA. VV. “Siena. La nuova guida completa. La città, i monumenti, i musei, il palio, la cucina” 2008, Sillabe
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