Giorgio Vasari called the Siena Duomo floor “the most beautiful, big and magnificent that has ever been done.” Normally this floor is covered by carpets to protect it from the footsteps of many visitors, but it is uncovered for a few months each year, allowing us to get a view of the marble intarsia works of art that tell biblical narratives and represent allegories, and took centuries to complete.

The high altar when the floors are uncovered | Photo Alexandra Korey
The high altar when the floors are uncovered | Photo Alexandra Korey

In 2013, this visit was made even more exceptional because you will be able to also see the works from above by attending the small group tours called ‘Porta del cielo’.

Siena Duomo floor
Siena Duomo floor

Siena Duomo Floor: a narrative history

There are 56 large scenes represented on the Siena Duomo floor in marble intarsia designed by major Sienese artists including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, and Domenico Beccafumi, as well as with the intervention of the rare ‘foreign’ artist like Pinturicchio.

Pinturicchio, Allegoria del Monte della Sapienza Siena Duomo floor
Pinturicchio, Allegoria del Monte della Sapienza

The techniques used progress from graffito to commesso marmoreo. Graffito is the use of the scalpel to carve out areas of white marble which were then filled with black stucco.

Front and center is the intarsia representing the she-wolf | Photo Alexandra Korey
Front and center is the intarsia representing the she-wolf | Photo Alexandra Korey

This evolved to incorporating more colours using a technique similar to wood intarsia, which is called commesso marmoreo (sometimes also pietre dure, but these are softer stones, thus not ‘dure’).

1Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Sibilla Libica. Siena, pavimento del Duomo Siena Duomo floor
Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Libyan sybil

The nave and side aisles of the Cathedral floor are decorated with stories from antiquity, such as the image of Romulus and Remus, symbol of Siena. There are ten sybills represented, and various philosophers.

4 Matteo di Giovanni, Strage degli innocenti, particolare. Siena, Siena Duomo floor
Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents

The transept and choir narrate Old Testament stories, all except the Slaughter of the Innocents by Matteo di Giovanni which is based on the recount of the Evangelist St. Matthew.

2 Domenico Beccafumi. Storie di Mosae sul Sinai, particolare Siena Duomo floor
Domenico Beccafumi, stories of Moses on Mount Sinai

By the time you get under the cupola, time has gone by and you have works by the Mannerist artist Domenico Beccafumi, with a perfection of the marble intarsia technique to use gradations of material for fine shadows and intricate representation.

Detail of the Beccafumi panel
Detail of the Beccafumi panel  | Photo Alexandra Korey

Stylistically you can see how very different these are from the earlier, more static ones. In particular, Beccafumi is brilliant in the way he creates shadow in a way that looks like a two-tone woodblock print.

Siena Duomo floor
Siena Duomo Floor from above

Visitor Information

Siena Duomo floor uncovering
General dates: the last Saturday of June until July 31, and then again from August 18 until the Sunday after October 15.

2024 dates confirmed (updated April 2024): 27 June to 31 July, 18 August to 16 October.

Open daily 10:30 – 19:30, sundays and holidays 9:30 – 18:00. Tickets cost €8 and include access to the museum as well.

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PHOTO CREDITS: press photos reproduced by permission from Opera – Civita Group. If you wish to reproduce these images, please write to

Additional photos by Alexandra Korey as indicated.

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