SIENA Santa Maria della Scala A visit to the huge and fascinating hospital of the middle ages
One of the most ancient hospitals in Europe, a real city included in the historical centre of Siena, is now under restoration and is accessible to visitors; the structures are loosing the superpositions of the XXIst century and are regaining their ancient look.
The Santa Maria della Scala in Siena was an important hostel for piligrims in the middle ages, then became an hospital and also a charitable institution where poor and ill people could be helped.
It was an institution of great importance in the life of Siena, for centuries and centuries, until 1995, when it still was the main hospital in the city and was closed, because it was non more functional.
Now Siena has a new and modern hospital, and scholars and restorers can study the complex structure and the different functions of this huge building, which is surely one of the most fascinating in the city, but unfortunately not so well known by tourists.
Just imagine a little church and sacristy in front of the cathedral becoming, century by century, a huge complex made of rooms, chapels, stables, lofts, courts, little cemeteries, gardens, little streets and corridors. New structures have been added from the XIth century until the XXIst century, and really few parts have been destroyed. What we can see now is this incredible stratification of structures, of different architectural and artistic styles: one thousand years is under the visitors’eyes.
Moreover the main room, the piligrims hall, is decorated with astonishing frescoes of the XVth century, representing everyday life in the hospital: this is a very important historical document and not only an interesting work of art.
The visit in this building is really fascinating, and if you go and ask for explications, you can discover a lot about the different functions of the rooms and you can understand a lot about life in the middle ages in central Italy. Of course, it is not an easy and comfortable visit: many rooms are still under restoration, many different spaces and the lack of a precise way to follow from one room to another can create confusion; but I still think that it is well worth visiting this marvellous building, if you are curious and you like art and history.
You can ask for explication sheets in English in every room (and I suggest you to do it), and you can choose to see the different expositions hosted inside the ancient hospital. Not every exposition is linked to the activity of the hospital, and to the city of Siena, but some are: particularly important is to see the beautiful Duccio’s stained glass window, probably the most ancient in Italy, and the Fonte Gaia under restoration.
article related: The restoration of the Fonte Gaia
Museum of Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Piazza Duomo 2, Tel. 0577-224811, Fax 0577-224829
Open Monday-Sunday 10,30 / 16,30
entrance tickets: (From the 1st of november 2000 to the 15th of march 2001)
Tickets price without booking Lit 10.000; Tickets price with booking Lit 9.000; Reduced-rate without booking Lit 8.000; Reduced-rate with booking Lit 7.000; free tickets for children younger
than 11 years old
Tourist information about Siena