Museo Civico

Museo Civico information

Siena , Italy
Palazzo Comunale, Piazza del Campo
More information
adult/reduced €8/4.50
Opening hours
10am-7pm summer, to 6pm winter
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Siena's most famous museum occupies rooms richly frescoed by artists of the Sienese school. These are unusual in that they were commissioned by the governing body of the city, rather than by the Church, and many depict secular subjects instead of the favoured religious themes of the time. The highlight is Simone Martini's celebrated Maestà (Virgin Mary in Majesty; 1315) in the Sala del Mappamondo (Hall of the World Map).

Purchase your ticket then head upstairs to the Sala del Risorgimento , with its impressive late 19th-century frescoes serialising key events in the Risorgimento (reunification period). Continue through to the Sala di Balia (Rooms of Authority) where frescoes recount episodes in the life of Pope Alexander III (the Sienese Rolando Bandinelli), including his clashes with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Straight ahead is the Sala del Concistoro (Hall of the Council of Clergymen), dominated by the allegorical ceiling frescoes of the Mannerist Domenico Beccafumi, and through a vestibule to the left are the Anticappella (Chapel entrance hall) and Cappella (Chapel). The Anticappella features frescoes painted in 1415 by Taddeo di Bartolo. These include figures representing the virtues needed for the proper exercise of power (Justice, Magnanimity, Strength, Prudence, Religion), as well as depictions of some of the leading Republican lights of ancient Rome. The Cappella contains a fine Holy Family and St Leonard by Il Sodoma. Next to the Anticappella is the Vestibolo (Vestibule), whose star attraction is a bronze wolf, the symbol of the city.

The best is saved for last, though. From the vestibule, you emerge into the Sala del Mappamondo, where you can admire Simone Martini's powerful and striking Maestà . It features the Madonna beneath a canopy surrounded by saints and angels, and is Martini's first known work. On the other side of the room is another work attributed to Martini, his oft-reproduced fresco (1328–30) of Guidoriccio da Fogliano, a captain of the Sienese army.

The next room, the Sala dei Nove (Hall of the Nine), is where the Council of Nine was based. It is decorated with Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco cycle known as the Allegories of Good and Bad Government (c 1338–40). The central allegory portrays scenes with personifications of Justice, Wisdom, Virtue and Peace, all unusually (at the time) depicted as women, rendered along with scenes of criminal punishment and rewards for righteousness. Set perpendicular from it are the frescoes Allegory of Good Government and Allegory of Bad Government, which feature intensely contrasting scenes set in the recognisable environs of Siena. The good depicts a sunlit, idyllic, serene city, with joyous citizens and a countryside filled with crops; the bad city is filled with vices, crime and disease. These frescoes are often described as the most important secular paintings of the Renaissance, and shouldn't be missed.