Now dwarfed, at least architecturally, by the imposing Cathedral and the handful of Medieval basilicas of Siena, the Church of San Martino remains, however, one of the sights which command great respect and admiration. What the edifice lacks in architectural merits it makes up in historical background. So, a stop at the small Terzo di San Martino church – indeed, the name of the district comes from the church, which is of no little importance for its background – will not be a waste of time.
The first written, however scarce, references to the Church of San Martino are from the 8th century, making the edifice one of the oldest places of worship in Siena. Constant mentions are made in 12th century documents. Most likely, since its Medieval foundation, the church has undergone plenty of transformations, extensions (in the 16th century, massive extension works were executed under the supervision of Giovan Battista Pelori) and artistic enhancements included (for instance, its campanile was completed no sooner than 1738).
The facade is not exceptionally appealing, but it does express the architectural vision of the friar architect Giovanni Fontana, embodying Mannerist elements typical of the early 17th century trends (the facade was executed in 1613, one year before the death of the architect).
Scattered throughout the edifice there are several late Renaissance works.
The left nave’s highlight is Domenico Beccafumi’s 1524 canvas which depicts the Nativity, framed by a marble work executed in the school of the Siena-born Lorenzo di Mariano. Newer even than this work is Reffaello Vanni’s Ecstasy of Saint Ivone (executed in the early 18th century), in the first altar near the counter-facade. A restored 15th century polychrome wooden Crucifix with John the Evangelist and Mary is also showcased (its authorship remains unknown) in the left nave.
The oldest work in the right nave dates back to the late 14th century. It is Naddo Ceccarelli’s Virgin and Child, adorning the first altar from the counter-facade. This one is also home to Crescenzio Gambarelli’s Glory of God and Saints (executed in the first half of the 1600’s). The 1636 Circumcision of Jesus, a work by Guido Reni (second altar) and Guercino’s 1637 Martyrdom of San Bartolomeo (third altar) are two of the church’s most prized works of art.
Giovanni di Lorenzo Cini’s Immaculate Conception Protecting Siena during the Battle of Camullia (work executed in 1528, on a commission by the city’s authorities) adorns the counter-facade. The Marian scene aside, the counter-facade is flattered by Ilario Casolani’s Four Martyrs (executed in the first half of the 17th century).
The 17th century transformations of the church (in particular, of the transept and of the presbytery) are very well preserved. The restoration works, ordered by the Vecchi family, also envisaged the addition of decorative details: they were commissioned to the two Mazzuoli artists (Giuseppe and brother Giovanni). Some of their most notable works count the statue of San Tommaso da Villanova (by Giuseppe), a Madonna with Child (Giovanni), and the main altar’s statuary (collaboration).
The table below lists all information on the address of the Church of San Martino and ticket prices.
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