Just like the Baptistery of Saint John and the austere Basilica of San Domenico, the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi embodies the same contrast between the taciturn outside look and the artistic patrimony inside. You should not miss it out once in Terzo di San Martino. In fact, you can’t: it is simply too big to overlook, and the promise of the inner artistic highlights is all the more reason to plan a stop at this massive historical landmark of Siena, which makes room to a stunning combination of Romanesque lines, Renaissance tenets and dashing Gothic elements.
History of the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi
On the site now filled by the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi there used to be a former place of worship, a church dedicated to San Clemente, once the property of the Servite order (hence, the name of the present basilica). Built during the 13th century, the basilica did not preserve its original look, being repeatedly rebuilt and restored. The 16th century saw the church still undergoing restoration works.
The plain brick facade is marked by two notable elements: a simple entrance and the rose window overtopping it (most likely, built after a former one, the traces of which are still visible). The adjoining bell tower, built in a Romanesque style, enhances the massiveness of the structure: unlike the church, it is fairly decorated with four orders of windows and a pointy rooftop with a cross. The nowadays campanile is not the original one: the latter, built in the 13th century, was completely restored in the 20th century, but fortunately the fidelity of the remake is not debatable.
The cavernous interior is divided in two chief expressions: the Romanesque style seizes the three aisles (as the plan of Baldassare Peruzzi intended), whereas the transept and the apse give vent to a powerful Gothic style.
The current patrimony of the church consists of several masterpieces by the likes of Pietro Lorenzetti, Francesco Vanni and Matteo di Giovanni. Highlights refer to the 1261 Byzantine Madonna del Bordone by Coppo di Marcovaldo, amounting to some 28 square feet (located in the second chapel in the right aisle); Matteo di Giovanni’s 1491 Massacre of the Innocents (fifth chapel) and Madonna and Saints; Pietro Lorenzetti’s Slaughter of the Innocents (second chapel in the right transept, probably a collaboration with Francesco di Segna and Niccolo di Segna), Herod’s Feast and The Death of Saint John the Evangelist (again a collaboration with Francesco and Niccolo di Segna, in the second chapel from the high altar); Taddeo di Bartolo’s 1404 Adoration of the Shepherds (the altarpiece) and 1363 Madonna of Belvedere (a collaboration with Jacopo Mino del Pellicciano).
The patrimony is complemented by Duccio di Bonaventura’s Madonna with Child and by Lippo Memmi’s Madonna del Popolo. Francesco Vanni’s Annunciation is also worth mentioning.
What remains now to be seen by the visiting public is but a part of what once was the artistic patrimony of the basilica. Valuable works of art have been moved in view of safekeeping and enhanced visibility to the public in sundry national and foreign museums.
For instance, we can cite Bernardo Fungai’s
The table below lists all information on address of the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi.
One of the oldest places of worship in Siena, the Basilica of San Domenico is an imposing structure which strikes through its austere look.
The Civic Museum of Siena is the attraction you should visit in order to make an idea about the secular art created over centuries by the Sienese artists.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of Siena showcases historical masterpieces gathered from the city’s cathedral, as well as from other sources.