Siena Memoryscape Project

January 1 - May 15, 2013

Churches of Siena

Kayla Garret February 25, 2013 Churches Siena, Tuscany, Italy view in flickr

Introducing the Churches of Siena:


Caitlin and the two Kaylas are focusing on the churches throughout the city of Siena. Religion has always been a huge part of the Italian culture. This religious collective identity continues today throughout Italy and within the Sienese culture. Within this section of LC’s Visual Memoryscapes Project, each post places emphasis on a certain church in Siena, gives a brief historical background of the church, and then addresses its contemporary importance to the Sienese people.  Since there are numerous churches within this deceivingly big city, Kayla Ernewein focuses on Saint Catherine and her importance within Siena; Kayla Garret explores the churches of Siena’s Contrade; while Caitlin helps both Kaylas and looks at the bigger and more popular churches in Siena. Here is a brief introduction to Kayla Ernewein’s focus: St. Catherine of Siena.


St. Catherine of Siena:


Siena is the home city of one of the most important female Saints in the Catholic Church, St. Catherine, and as such contains a series of holy sites pertaining to her memory. St. Catherine (1347-1380) was the daughter of a local cloth-dyer and had her first vision at age 6. She eventually joined the Dominican Third Order and played an influential role in religious and political history, and she is the one responsible for returning the Pope from his “Babylonian Exile” back to Rome. She was proclaimed a Saint in 1461 by the Sienese Pope Pius II, a Patron Saint of Italy by Pius XII, a Doctor of the Universal church (she was the first woman, along with Teresa of Avila, to receive this highest honor of the Church) by Paul VI, and the Patron Saint of Europe by John Paul II. The city of Siena has a holy itinerary for St. Catherine made up of six sites throughout the city. These are: The Basilica of San Domenico, The Shrine of the House of Saint Catherine, Fontebranda, Via del Costone, Oratory of the Company of S. Catherine of the Night and the Baptistery.


Churches of the Contrade:


Like the above Kayla’s topic, Kayla Garrett’s main focus is also on a connected group of churches: the churches of Siena’s 17 Contrade. Contrade, or Contrada singular, are neighborhoods or district within an Italian city. The most well-known Contrade are the 17 Contrade of Siena. Each Contrada is named after an animal or symbol, and each hold their own set of semi-mythological and heraldic associations. The bond the Sienese people feel towards their Contrade is immense, and it is a bond that is taken very seriously. Because of this strong association within the families of the various Contrade, each Contrade has its own church, usually represented by its own saint or patron, and symbolized by their own fountain. The churches and fountains of the Contrade can be found within the Contrada’s neighborhood and are depicted by various statues or paintings of the animal or symbol that gives it its name.  


Official Churches of Siena:

The bigger and more popular churches of Siena include the Duomo, San Francesco, San Domenico, and the Synagogue. Within this broader category of  “Official Churches” the posts focus on the churches themselves, along with their details. For example, in addition to the general post about the Duomo, you will also find posts that place emphasis on different parts of the Duomo such as its different chapels, the crypt, baptistery, and the Santa Maria della Scala. By focusing on the official churches within Siena, you will learn its historical significance along with its importance to Siena’s religious culture today.