SIENA Art and religion -
Church of San Francesco
The Arch of San Francesco opens onto the square also named after the saint, onto which faces the Basilica of San Francesco. Although the first Franciscan influences in Siena date back to the beginning of the 13th century, this church was not built until between the 14th and 15th century. The gothic design is probably by Francesco di Giorgio. Almost completely ravaged by fire in 1655, the church of San Francesco was restored by Giuseppe Partini between 1885 and 1892. The facade was rebuilt between 1894 and 1913 to designs by Vittorio Mariani and Gaetano Ceccarelli, while the elegant bell tower was erected in 1765 to a design by Paolo Posi.
The spacious interior, which was restored in its original gothic style in 1892, is Egyptian cross in layout, with a single nave and chapels in the transept. The portal framed ceiling is supported by alternating strips of black and white stone lateral walls, lit by large bifore windows and an apsidal quadrifore window typical of the simple architecture of the Franciscans in the 14th century.
The lateral walls are adorned with early Quattrocento Senese School fresco decorations of exceptional quality. At the end of the right hand transept there is a 14th century statue of St Francis. The interior facade is decorated with two frescoes, one by Sodoma and the other by Sassetta.
The second chapel to the right of the Choir contains the Tomb of Cristoforo Felici, completed by Urbano da Cortona in 1462, while the first chapel contains a Madonna and Child polyptych fresco, possibly by Andrea Vanni.
The first chapel to the left of the presbytery contains Pietro Lorenzetti’s fresco of the Crucifixion, painted in 1331. The second chapel in the left hand section of the transept contains a further two masterpieces by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, two frescoes depicting St Ludovico of Anjou Before Boniface VIII and the Six Franciscans Martyred at Ceuta.
Opposite is the Chapel of the Sacrament, decorated by Marrina in 1502. A door to the left leads to the spacious and delicately proportioned Renaissance cloister, which contains a number of sculpture fragments such as the Portale della Cappella Petroni (1336) attributed to Domenico D’Agostino. The right hand door leads to the Seminary, where the chapel on the floor above contains the well known Madonna del Latte by Ambrogio Lorenzetti as well as a polyptych fresco by Lippo Vanni.
Today the Franciscan convent to the right of the church and the Renaissance cloister are occupied by the Law Faculty and Department Library of the University of Siena.
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