The Siena Cathedral is a defining landmark in Italy. Gothic and Romanesque architecture and a beautifully ornate interior make it one of the most important treasures in the city.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 23 Dec 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, generally referred to as the Cathedral of Siena is a remarkable Gothic building.

It’s one of the most fascinating cathedrals in Italy.

Completed in 1348, the green and white stripes that adorn the facade and the interior are the symbol of Siena.

The striking interior has several important works of art. The stained-glass windows are stunning, the dome is an engineering feat. The intricately sculptured pulpit is beautiful.

Here is all you need to know about visiting the Siena Cathedral including the main highlights and information on buying tickets.

roof of the cathedral of siena

THE SIENA CATHEDRAL COMPLEX

The Cathedral of Siena complex is made up of several sites. Here are all the main attractions to see at the cathedral.

  • The Cathedral Interior – The beautiful interior of the cathedral contains works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.
  • The Museo dell’Opera (The Museum) – The museum is housed in the unfinished nave of a new cathedral and contains important artifacts from the cathedral.
  • New Facade Panorama – A viewpoint over the unfinished facade of the new cathedral.
  • Piccolomini Library – The stunning library contains books and manuscripts belonging to Pope Pius II.
  • Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista – The 14th-century baptistery contains a wealth of frescoes surrounding a grand marble font.
  • The Crypt – The Crypt was only excavated in 1999 and contains some of the most important archaeological finds from the city.
  • Oratory of San Bernardino – The Oratory of San Bernardino houses Sienese paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

SIENA CATHEDRAL OPENING HOURS

Here are the current opening times of the cathedral. As times can change, you can check the official website for any last-minute changes to the schedule.

1 APRIL TO 31 OCTOBER

SITEMON-SATSUN
Cathedral10 am – 7 pm1:30 pm – 6 pm
Library, Panorama, Baptistery, Crypt10 am – 7 pm10 am – 7 pm
Museum9:30 am – 7:30 pm9:30 am – 7:30 pm
Oratory of San Bernardino1:30 pm – 7 pm1:30 pm – 7 pm

1 NOVEMBER TO 31 MARCH

SITEMON-SATSUN
Cathedral10:30 am – 5:30 pm1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Library, Panorama, Baptistery, Crypt, Museum10:30 am – 5:30 pm10:30 am – 5:30 pm
Oratory of San Bernardino1:30 pm – 7 pm1:30 pm – 7 pm

26 DECEMBER TO 6 JAN

SITEMON-FRISATSUN
Cathedral10:30 am – 6 pm10:30 am – 5:30 pm1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Library, Panorama, Baptistery, Crypt, Museum10:30 am – 6 pm10:30 am – 6 pm10:30 am – 6 pm
Oratory of San Bernardino1:30 pm – 7 pm1:30 pm – 7 pm1:30 pm – 7 pm
siena cathedral interior 6

HOW TO BUY SIENA CATHEDRAL TICKETS

We strongly advise you to book tickets for the Siena Cathedral online, several days before getting to Siena. There are 3 types of tickets you can purchase to see the sites.

SKIP-THE-LINE

CATHEDRAL & LIBRARY

Entry-only ticket for the Cathedral and the Piccolomini Library. No other sites are included with this ticket.


ALL SITES

OPA SI PASS

The Opa Si Pass includes access to all the museums at the Siena Cathedral complex, but not the 25-minute Gate of Heaven Tour. (Valid for 3 days)


OUR PICK

ALL SITES + TOUR

PORTA DEL CIELO

This ticket includes everything at the cathedral complex plus the 25-minute guided tour of the cathedral roof where you can see the best of the whole site.


GATE OF HEAVEN (PORTA DEL CIELO)

The Gate of Heaven (Porta del Cielo) ticket includes everything at the cathedral, plus the 25-minute Gate of Heaven tour. It’s a highlight at the cathedral and something we highly recommend.

To buy this ticket, you need to select an entrance time which will be the beginning of the Gate of Heaven tour.

The tour starts from inside the main entrance to the Duomo. Arrive just before your selected timeslot and they will usher you into a little holding pen inside the cathedral.

At the end of the tour, you are left inside the duomo to explore the interior of the cathedral.

Once you are finished inside, you can continue on to the museum, crypt, baptistery, and the remaining sites at your leisure.

HIGHLIGHTS AT THE SIENA CATHEDRAL

1 – THE FACADE

The façade of the cathedral dominates the medieval city of Siena. Alternating layers of black and white marble are interrupted with intricate statues and grand bronze doors.

The upper façades are covered in brilliant golden mosaics.

The exterior is free to admire from the Piazza del Duomo where you’ll find the best vantage points to photograph this gothic masterpiece.

2 – SIENA CATHEDRAL INTERIOR

The interior of the cathedral of Siena is a masterpiece.

Even after 3 visits, we are still blown away by the scale and exquisite decoration of this beautiful building. It’s a magnificent combination of light and dark, with black and white pillars rising to star-studded ceilings.

You’ll see works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo, as well as an intricately carved pulpit by Nicola Pisano.

Mosaic Inlay Floor – For just three months of the year (July and mid-Aug to mid-Oct), the marble mosaic inlay floors of the Duomo are uncovered. The 45-floor panels were laid from the 14th to 16th centuries and recount tales of the Old Testament.

3 – GATES OF HEAVEN (PORTA DEL CIELO)

While the cathedral looks amazing from the ground, the views are even better from above. The 25-minute Gate of Heaven tour (Porta del Cielo) takes you up to the roof for stunning views over the city.

On the way up, the tour explores the backbone of the church, passing through rooms that were inaccessible to the public for centuries.

The highlight is the two walkways suspended high above the nave of the church.

The view through the ornate windows provide a magical view of the ornate interior below, capturing one of the unmissable things to do in Siena.

4 – MUSEO DELL’OPERA

The Cathedral’s Museum (Museo dell-opera del Duomo) is today housed in the unfinished nave of a new cathedral which was never completed.

The museum contains a range of works of art including the cathedral’s original statues. It’s all delicately lit by a large circular stained glass window made in 1287.

The highlight is the Maestá of Duccio; an altarpiece of forty-three small scenes which tell the stories of the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ.

siena cathedral museum

5 – FACCIATONE VIEWPOINT & UNFINISHED FACADE

In 1339 a motion was approved to extend Siena Cathedral. However, building works halted in 1348 due to the economic recession triggered by the Black Death.

Most of the new cathedral was demolished except for the facade which still stands to this day.

From the second floor of the museum, a staircase winds up to the top of the unfinished nave. A narrow ledge (Panorama dal Facciatone) running along the top of the facade offers wonderful views over the city and the rest of the duomo.

The staircase consists of 131 tight spiral stairs and there’s not a lot of space at the top, but it’s still one of the best things to do in Siena.

6 – PICCOLOMINI LIBRARY

The Piccolomini Library was commissioned around 1492 to honour the memory of Pope Pius II. It contains a rich collection of books and manuscripts that the pope collected over his lifetime.

Beautiful frescos line the walls of the library as a celebration of the life and works of the pope.

They include a combination of landscapes, mystical imagery, and religious ceremonies.

The Picolomini Library is an example of Renaissance symbolism that combined scholarship with artistic expression.

piccolomini library siena cathedral italy

7 – BAPTISTERY OF SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA

The Baptistery was built in the 14th century and contains a wealth of frescoes. The central focus is the marble, bronze, and enamel baptismal font.

The ceiling vaults represent the 12 articles of Christian faith and are considered some of the best examples of Sienese art anywhere.

The magnificent marble baptismal font was created by the one of best Sienese sculptures of the time. It was funded through personal contributions between 1417 and 1431.

Don’t miss the six gilded bronze panels on the font telling the story of John the Baptist.

baptistery siena cathedral italy

8 – THE CRYPT

The Crypt was only excavated in 1999 and contains some of the most important archaeological finds from the city.

Frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries are preserved in vibrant colour. There are also decorated pillars and geometric stone features.

The highly decorated structural elements of the cathedral as well as the foundations are on display.

In some areas, the stonewalling which would have made up the original 12th-century building is still visible.

9 – ORATORY OF SAN BERNARDINO

The Oratory of San Bernardino houses Sienese paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Set across several adjacent rooms, the collection contains the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art. It also has the best collections of Siena artworks in the city.

The simple brick facade includes a travertine portal dating back to 1574 and the symbol of St Bernardino – a sun with 12 rays.

Inside, the most important pieces in the collection are in the upper oratory chapel.

The Oratory of San Bernardino is a 10-minute walk from the Siena Cathedral.

siena cathedral san bernardino

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