mercoledì 16 aprile 2014

Confessions of a Non-Art Lover in Siena

Piazza del Campo
With two days to fill in my spring Italian tour, I was tempted to Siena by a mixture of my desire to discover more of Tuscany and the descriptions of the town in my Lonely Planet as being a quiet place where nothing much goes on after the evening passeggiata. Travelling on your own, one of the most depressing things can be watching everyone else enjoy busy restaurants and lively discussions over a drink with friends while you go home for an early night because you have nobody to go out with.
And the Lonely Planet guide was right. There were some crowds of tourists (mainly schoolchildren) around the main sights during the day, but as soon as I wandered away from the Piazza del Campo and the Duomo, much of it was almost eerily quiet. Siena flourished during medieval times, both as a centre of culture and the home of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world's oldest bank, which was founded in 1472. After that, however, it lost much of its political power and importance, and as a result, there has been very little development in the centre since, leaving it well preserved and harmoniously medieval.

The Campo from the tower. Each section of the paving represents one of the contrade.
More famous than the bank, though, is the Palio. Siena is divided up into 14 districts (contrade) , and its citizens belong firmly and proudly to the district where they are born. For the Palio, a representative from each contrada competes in a crazy horse race that starts with 13 of the horses being charged from behind by the fourteenth and ends with the horses pouring out of the campo and into the streets beyond, with or without their riders. The race takes place in the summer, so I didn't see it (Siena becomes a lot less sleepy then!), but the Piazza del Campo is beautiful in itself, and even more interesting when you imagine the Palio taking place inside it.

Thirdly, like so many Italian towns, Siena is famous for its works of art. Being more or less completely ignorant about art history, I knew this was likely to give rise to a familiar feeling of guilt as I contemplating visiting various churches and museums but secretly just wanted to find the best gelateria and a nice view of the city. So this is the strategy I adopted:

The tower staircase.
Not for the claustrophobic!
First, I walked around the city to get my bearings and ascertain that there was nowhere I would rather be than at the Piazza del Campo looking at frescos. Then I fortified myself with an ice cream. By this point it was after five o'clock, so I knew that any museum-visiting time would, of necessity, be limited. When the lady at the ticket desk of the Museo Civico assured me that an hour and a half was plenty of time to climb the tower and look at the art, I happily bought a combined ticket and headed for the stairs.  In fact, the end of the afternoon turned out to be the perfect time to visit both the tower and the museum. The staircase in the tower is so narrow that they won't even let you take your handbag up it, so I was glad that as I was going up, there was hardly anyone else around, and I was able to enjoy the views from the top in perfect peace.

Siena from the tower.
After that, it was time to tackle the artwork, and having decided that I wasn't going to look at very much of it, I made an effort to appreciate what I did see. Armed with a few travel guides (on my Kindle - the travelling bookworm's best friend), I read about, observed and enjoyed as much as I could. I skipped the first three rooms, because even the art-aholic who wrote the Lonely Planet guide didn't seem to think they were that exciting and went straight to the beautifully coloured celebration of the Risorgimento (Italian unification). Next up was Pope Alexander III's conflict with Barbarossa, which, with the guidebook to explain the history behind the pictures, was also interesting and accessible to ignoramuses like me - a bit like reading a 15th century cartoon strip.*

The other two rooms that I liked were the Sala Mappamondo and the Sala dei Nove, where the great works of art contain messages to the councillors of Siena who made important decisions there. One, Martini's Maesta. reminds them to treat the poor fairly if they want to depend on assistance from the virgin Mary, while the other depicts the consequences of good and bad government.

So that was how I survived my encounter with Art in Siena. There were so many other things I could have seen, and I do regret not going inside the Duomo, which sounds magnificent (I went to the lovely San Gimignano instead), but I am convinced that often when you go to famous museums and churches, they are horribly croweded because of all the people who feel they have to go there but aren't actually appreciating what they see at all, and I'm happy that at least I wasn't one of those people.

*Being ignorant, I had to check if there was a connection with the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, but it turns out that that Alex was a 19th century Emperor of Russia. Oh well.

1 commento:

Steve Finnell ha detto...


Are all Christians priests? Is it possible for all believers in Christ to approach God the father with only Jesus Christ as a mediator? Yes. Jesus is our high priest. There is the priesthood of all believers. There is Jesus the high priest. There is no mention of the office of priest in the New Testament church, that is a man-made tradition. There is no office of "priest" that is the authority in the local church or the mediator between man and God.


1 Peter 2:5-9 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ..........9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

All Christians are part of the priesthood.

Revelation 1:5-6 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood---6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

All who have been washed by the blood of Jesus have been made priests to God the Father by Jesus. THERE IS NOT AN OFFICE OF PRIEST; all Christians are priests.


Hebrews 4:14-15 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus is our one and only high priest. He is the only priest we need.


1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only mediator between God and men. The Virgin Mary is not a mediator. There are not man-made priests that are mediators between God and men.