• Siena

    Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art and the Oratory of San Bernardino

The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, with the Oratory of San Bernardino next door, is a place with a magical timeless atmosphere that reveals in a single breath the spirituality of the territory and gives insight into Sienese painting from the 13th to the 18th century. 

            The architectural structure of the Oratorio chapel, originally from the late Middle Ages, was modified over the course of the 1500s.  Built to serve as the home of the Confraternity of St. Mary and St. Francis, the oratory was named after Fra Bernardino Albizzeschi.  Venerated even during his life and canonized in 1450 only six years after his death, he was famous for the impassioned sermons he preached in the public squares of Siena.  Particularly striking on the sober brick façade are the elegant portal in travertine and the symbol of San Bernardino, which also appears on the Palazzo Pubblico and on the Cathedral: a radiant sun the centre of which is dominated by the letters JHS, an abbreviation for “Jesus hominum salvator” (Jesus, Humankind’s Saviour).

            The ceiling of the entryway, with its La Madonna che protegge Siena, San Bernardino e Santa Caterina (Madonna who protects Siena, with St. Bernardino and St. Catherine) by Arcangelo Salimbeni and Francesco Vanni, is surrounded by lunettes dedicated to the life of San Bernardino painted by Ventura Salimbeni, Rutilio Manetti and many other artists from the first half of the 1600s.  Inside the museum, visitors may admire paintings and sculptures from the 1200s to the 1600s, along with numerous articles in goldwork. 

The heart of the museum is and shall always be the magnificent chapel of the upper oratory, named after Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels), with its coffered ceiling showing the heads of cherubs against a sky-blue background.  The walls, entirely frescoed with the Storie della Vergine (Stories of the Virgin), provide a unique example of Sienese painting from the early 1500s, represented here by the renowned artists Domenico Beccafumi, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known as “il Sodoma”, and Girolamo del Pacchia.

La Madonna del Latte di Ambrogio Lorenzetti: un capolavoro della pittura italiana ed europea del Trecento, esempio di tenera maternità considerato da alcuni studiosi un esempio unico di “sacralità umanizzata”.

La Pietà: fu realizzata in legno dipinto da Lorenzo di Pietro detto il Vecchietta, poliedrico maestro del Rinascimento senese, tra il 1448 e il 1450; a lui si deve anche l’affresco col medesimo soggetto esposto all’interno del museo.

La Madonna di Tressa: una delle ‘icone’ più antiche dell’arte senese, risalente al 1235. Si trovava nella chiesa di Santa Maria in Tressa nell’immediata periferia della città, fuori Porta San Marco: attorno ad essa gli studiosi hanno ricostruito la personalità artistica di un maestro anonimo attivo a Siena nella prima metà del Duecento. La tavola proviene probabilmente dal Duomo ed era in origine più estesa, ritagliata e adattata nei secoli a nuove collocazioni.

Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, with the Oratory of San Bernardino
Piazza San Francesco, 9
53100 Siena
Tel. 0577 283048
email: operaduomo@operaduomo.siena.it


From March 23rd to November 3rd 2024

Every day: 1.30pm – 6.30pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing time



To access the Diocesan Museum, you must currently purchase the Opa Si Pass ticket which allows access to all the locations of the Siena Metropolitan Opera Complex and provides for the following rates:

from 1st March to 13th August; from 28th ti 31st October; Christmas holidays (from 26th December to 6th January):   13,00
from 18th August to 27th October (including the Cathedral Floor):   15,00
from 1st November to 24th December; from 7th January to 28th February:  € 8,00

reduced: € 2,00

children under 6 years 

For further information on fares, reduced prices and booking, please contact +39 0577 286300 o opasiena@operalaboratori.com

“In the fiery and concentrated beauty of Siena there is an artificial note that recalls a city perched atop a hill in an old painting. From the fortifications one views the entire city, the white and brown houses, with brown-hued roofs and smooth façades pierced by multiple windows. […] All around reigns the peace of a green world, now sloping down into valleys strewn with red earth and veiled by the gray mist of the olive trees, with cypresses reaching darkly into the sky, now rising into hills”.  (A. Symons, 1907)

In Siena, the flavor, the taste, the view of the city are still the same as those evoked by the words of the English poet who visited and certainly fell in love with the place more than a century ago. Siena sits composedly, perched on its hills.  Move away just a little, and you can take it in all at once, the unmistakable skyline of its elongated silhouette, its walls, the Torre del Mangia and the dome of the Cathedral. And it is not even so different, in certain glimpses, from the way its most beloved painters depicted it in the 1300s and 1400s, from Lorenzetti to Simone Martini, from Sano di Pietro to Vecchietta.

The city’s sensual and harmonious relationship with the landscape that surrounds and protects it is also fundamentally unchanged. The hills, cypresses, red earth and olive trees can be reached on foot by walking out through the ancient gates, or else still inside the city, in the protected and precious green valleys that have remained within the walls.

With its slow, almost dreamlike way of life, Siena should be visited calmly, for it needs to be savoured unhurriedly. Stroll through Siena and let yourself be guided by curiosity.  Slip into the alleys, look for quiet hidden places, explore a museum, a church or a beautiful palazzo.