Santa Maria della Scala in Siena: FROM HOSPITAL to MUSEUM
Santa Maria della Scala in Siena. People think to visit Siena in a day. In fact, many of the tourists, especially foreigners, see it as a daily excursion from Florence. On the contrary, it would take days to fully discover the city. In addition to the masterpieces of Palazzo Pubblico, the Cathedral and the other museums (Museo dell’Opera, Battistero and the so-called Crypt), there is another museum that fully represents the spirit of community, service and culture that Siena offers.
the history of santa maria della scala
Santa Maria della Scala is located in front of the Cathedral of Siena and apparently took its name from the Duomo’s stairs. The first document that mentions it dates back to 1090 but certainly the foundation is more ancient. It was built to be a hospital along the Via Francigena and at that time, the hospital functions were mainly to help the sick, shelter the poor and feed the hungry.
In addition, the Hospital was also an important center for the acceptance of orphans, the “gittatelli”. The hospital used to provide them with assistance and education. Also, they would give women a dowry and help them find a good husband. In return, the orphans themselves, once grown and educated, returned the aid received through their voluntary work.
Thanks to donations and bequests, the hospital was able to acquire enormous landed properties for the cultivation of wheat. It also built several fortified farms (the Grance) that are still scattered throughout the province of Siena.
what to see cattedrale siena visita guidata
The structure of the building is huge and developed on 7 levels. It was used as a city hospital until 1995 when it was decided to turn it into a museum. Inside, you will find, among others, the Archaeological Museum, the Old Sacristy, the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, the Oratory of Santa Caterina della Notte which takes its name from the most famous Sienese Saint, Santa Caterina da Siena. Additionally, the Pellegrinaio.
This is a large room frescoed in the fifteenth century by the greatest Sienese painters of the time (Domenico di Bartolo and Vecchietta). It represents the stories of the foundation of the hospital on one side and the medical practices and activities of the hospital on the other side. These are paintings that give us an insight into the life of the time and the power of the hospital.
So include a guided tour of this very important museum on your next trip to Siena!
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Cattedrale di Siena visita guidata