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SIENA Art and religion - The Oratory of San Bernardino

The Oratory of San Bernardino, built in the 15th century on the spot where St Bernardino of Siena normally preached during his lifetime, stands on the right hand side of Piazza San Francesco, next to the church dedicated to the same saint.

Today the Oratory functions as a museum and is divided into two oratories one above the other. The Oratorio Superiore has wood panelling on walls and ceiling installed by Ventura Turapilli in 1496 and is decorated with frescoes by Sodoma: St Ludovico, The Presentation of Mary at the Temple, St Francis of Assisi, Visitation and Coronation of Mary. There are also works by Girolamo del Pacchia: Nativity of Mary, St Bernardino, The Archangel Gabriel, and Beccafumi’s Wedding, Madonna in Glory With Saints, Transit of Mary.

The Oratorio Inferiore contains two 16th century terracotta statues, one of St Bernardino and the other of St Catherine, as well as Andrea del Bresciano’s Madonna and Child With Saints.

Born in Massa Marittima on September 8th 1380, St Bernardino (Bernardino degli Albizzeschi) dedicated himself to helping the needy from a young age, nursing the sick at the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala.

In 1402 he joined the Franciscan Order and founded the Convento dell’Osservanza. In 1417 he began his activities as a preacher. After dying in l’Aquila on May 20th 1444, Bernardino was canonised in 1450.

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