The superb Palazzo Piccolomini rises at the northeast corner of Piazza del Campo. Its main façade is located in Via Banchi di Sotto, 53, one of the central and much frequented streets in Siena.
The palace is the only principal building located in the historical centre Siena built in Florentine Renaissance style. Since 1858 Palazzo Piccolomini hosts the Museo dell’ Archivio di Stato di Siena, which preserves treasured documents and artworks displayed in four of its enormous rooms.
The construction of the massive palace composed of three floors, started in 1469, according to the desire of Giacomo and Andrea Piccolomini Todeschini, nephews of Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini, and was concluded in 1510.
The design had been accomplished several years before by the brilliant architect and sculptor Bernardo Rosellino (Settignano, 1409 - Florence, 1464) while its construction was later commissioned from the well-known Sienese architect Pietro Paolo del Porrina.
Rossellino was the favourite architect of Pope Pius II, who had also built for him the splendid palace, with similar external features to Palazzo Piccolomini in Siena, located in Pienza a wonderful small town unanimously considered a Renaissance architectonical jewel, situated in the incredible Orcia Valley, around 55 km south of Siena.
The Palazzo Piccolomini has been the residence of that noble dynasty, related to several principal Italian families of the age, for almost two centuries.
The Piccolomini were one of the most important Tuscan families as, since the 12th century, they had had a powerful influence not only in Siena, but also in other states of the epoch in Italy, as they were bankers to the Papal Court in Rome.
It is believed that the Piccolomini not only obtained around 8,300 ducats from the papal funds to purchase in 1460 ca. the terrain required to build the palace, but the Sienese authorities conceded them tax exemptions for its construction.
The outdoors of Palazzo Piccolomini looks to some extent like the celebrated Palazzo Ruccellai in Florence, constructed by the brilliant multitalented Italian artist Leone Battista Alberti, between 1450 and 1460 ca.
Nevertheless, the Sienese noble edifice could be considered more elegant and equilibrated than the Florentine one.
Its refined and fair façade is in Tuscan stone and is ornamented by two coats of arms of the family, Guelph traversed windows and mullioned windows crowned by a splendid high cornice decorated with the Piccolomini emblems.
Between 1509 and 1511, the eminent Sienese sculptor Lorenzo di Mariano, better known as “Il Marrina”, carved the wonderful capitols of the columns covering the interior courtyard.
Around the ending of the 17th century, due to the extinction of the Piccolomini dynasty, the palace was hired to the Collegio Tolomei, a private college managed by the Company of Jesus, which had been instituted around 1620 by the erudite nobleman CelsoTolomei and was dedicated to instruct the scions of the aristocratic families.
In 1773, after the suppression of the Jesuits in Italy by Pope Clemente XIV, the college passed to the hands of the Escola Pia Institution, created by St. Josep de Calassanç in 1597 and elevated to a religious order in 1621 by Pope Gregorio XV.
In 1824, Palazzo Piccolomini was conceded to the Municipal of Siena, which converted it into the Scrittoio delle Regie Fabbriche (royal factories offices).
In 1858 it finally became the Museo dell’ Archivio di Stato di Siena (Siena Record Office Museum).
The Museum preserves an outstanding collection of historical, artistic and literary documents, as well as illuminated manuscripts. But the absolute treasure hosted in the Museum is the exclusive collection of the Tavolette di Bicherna e Gabella. They form a compilation of 103 splendid wooden panels painted by the most prestigious artists active in Siena from the second half of the 13th century to the ending of the 17th century, which were used as coverings for the official large books of the Sienese State. Among the artists who were commissioned for painting the Tavolette make stand out: Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 ca.-1348), Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1285-1345?), Sano di Pietro (1406-1481), Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1502) and Domenico Beccafumi (1486-1551).
The Palazzo Piccolomini opens from Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 1pm.
It closes the first two weeks in August.
What to See
The Cathedrals : Duomo di Siena
Main Monuments : Piazza del Campo , Palazzo Piccolomini
Main Museums : Museo dell' Opera di Siena , Museo dei Fisiocritici
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