SIENA Art and monuments -
Of all the fine buildings that face onto Piazza del Campo, the red facade of Palazzo Sansedoni stands out distinctly. As well as being of major historical and artistic value, this building enjoys the added prestige of housing the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation.
The palazzo takes its name from the Sansedoni family, one of Siena’s leading aristocratic dynasties during the Middle Ages. Probably the most eminent member of this family was Beato Ambrogio Sansedoni (Siena, April 16th 1220 – March 20th 1286), who was a major player on the political and social scene of 13th century Siena. After entering the Dominican order at just 17, Sansedoni studied alongside some of the most celebrated figures of his age, including St Thomas Aquinas and Pietro di Tarantasia, the future Pope Innocent V. His exceptional talents as a speaker and crowd-mover were admired across Italy and abroad as far as Germany and France. In what can only be termed an ironical twist of fate, Sansedoni died suddenly as he was writing one of his sermons. The city of Siena commemorated him with a bust inserted into the facade of the cathedral and until the mid-16th century there was a Palio specially dedicated to him. On July 2nd 1986 the vignettist Carlo Cerasoli featured Sansedoni on the Palio banner he designed for the occasion.
The unusual rhomboid tower, as well as the elegance with which the building curves to follow the square, marks Palazzo Sansedoni out from the other buildings that surround Piazza del Campo. The building has undergone a number of changes through the ages. Around the mid-13th century records indicate that a building stood here, probably a kind of tower residence. A document dated 1340 reads like a contract listing the design of a second building, while
the palazzo took on the appearance it has today after refurbishments carried out in the 18th century.
The interiors of the palazzo are the fruit of its 18th century refurbishments and particularly fine, from the fresco decorations by Melani and Ferretti to the fantastical architectural trompe l’oeils by Anderlini, sculptures by Mazzuoli and bronzes by Soldani and Foggini. The chapel of the Beato Ambrogio, also within the palazzo, is one of the finest examples of baroque style decoration in Siena. On the anniversary of the holy man’s death a mass is held here in the presence of all the city’s authorities.
A number of restoration works have been carried out on the palazzo in recent years, thanks to the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation, with the aim of preserving and promoting what remains one of the city’s greatest Medieval buildings.
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