The Rector’s Palace is the heart of the University of Siena. Inside is the museum that brings together works of art, objects and documents representing the historical memory of the University. From the Middle Ages to 1808, the University’s activities took place, essentially without interruption, in the ancient Casa della Sapienza (House of Knowledge) and in the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. In 1808, by order of the French government, study was surpressed in Siena, and it would not be fully restored again until the Restoration. It was on this occasion in 1816 that the University moved to its current location, which had formerly been the Jesuit College of San Vigilio.
Originally the palazzo only had a single entrance, on the side next to the Church of San Vigilio; in 1892 the architect Giuseppe Partini created a new entrance on Via Banchi di Sotto, giving the courtyard its current appearance. Crossing the threshold today, visitors have the opportunity to embark on a journey through the history of the University from the Middle Ages to the present day, thanks to a series of items exhibited in special display cases or kept in the Historical Archives, which offer a chronologically organized exhibition spread out over six rooms.
The Historical Archive contains the documentation produced and acquired by the University from 1560 to 1955, enabling visitors to understand the development of the University over the centuries and to reconstruct the biographies of the leading figures who taught or studied there. The archive is part of a “historical path” consisting of a series of objects and documents that mark the main episodes in the life of the University.
The Museum System of the University of Siena (Sistema Museale dell’Università di Siena—SIMUS) is the tangible result of centuries of study and research carried out in and around Siena. The System constitutes a summa on the evolution of thought, scientific or otherwise, through collections of tools, finds, educational models, memorabilia and archival documents. Thanks to the passionate commitment of researchers and university staff, museum resources of this sort continue in the present day to provide an effective educational tool to be used in teaching and disseminating knowledge.
Bronze seal with the likeness of St. Catherine of Alexandria: it is the oldest find in the collection, depicting the woman who has been the patron saint of the University of Siena since the Middle Ages; use of the seal has been documented as far back as the 14th century.
The Mace of the Bedel of Study in Siena: created in 1440 by a Sienese silversmith, this precious scepter is still used today for solemn academic ceremonies, such as doctorates, the appointment of rectors and the inaugurations of academic years.
Rector’s Palace and Historical Archives (Museum System of the University of Siena)
Palazzo del Rettorato dell’Università di Siena
Banchi di Sotto, 55
For furter information:
tel. 0577 232382
open by reservation, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.