Fourteenth-century Tuscany was among the most receptive regions for the expansion of the Carthusian order. Siena represented a unique case as it was the only city with three charterhouses within its territory, the only instance in the entire history of the order: Maggiano, Belriguardo, and Pontignano. This chapter sheds light on the impact that the Carthusians had on Siena’s literary and religious culture. In particular, it reconsiders a lesser known religious figure Pietro Petroni (1311–1361), a Sienese Carthusian monk from Maggiano. Petroni’s unorthodox visionary and prophetic activity leads to new insights on late-medieval Carthusian engagement in the world, on the one hand, and, on the other, to relevant aspects in the life and work of some of the most prominent religious and cultural figures of the time, including Boccaccio, Petrarch, Giovanni Colombini, and Catherine of Siena.
The movement of the Observance led by Bernardino of Siena found approval among the citizens of L’Aquila in 1438 with the arrival of this Franciscan saint. Alessandro De Riicis, a Franciscan friar, chronicles in his Cronica Aquilanorum the success of Bernardino in L’Aquila. Found in his chronicle is a poem which states that L’Aquila began to be known as a city with the Sienese’s arrival in it. This study analyzes the role that the saint played in making the city of L’Aquila known in what De Riciis calls “the world”. I will first argue the importance of the saint among the citizens of L’Aquila in 15th-century Italy; subsequently I will explore how Bernardino’s preaching, especially on the role of Mary in the Passion, influences the preaching of his followers in L’Aquila, which in turn shapes the political and religious evolution at a decisive moment in the city’s history. It also shows how widely Siena influenced other regions beyond her own borders.
Drawing on a combination of primary and secondary sources, this chapter will examine the nature and reach of reformed religious ideas in 16th-century Siena. Surveying the current state of the field in regard to the Reformation in Italy, it will then take a more focused look at the various media and communities in which these ideas were discussed and through which they spread. Specific points of interest will include the role of salons, confraternities, preaching, and learned societies such as the Accademia degli Intronati. Broadly, this chapter aims to shed light on the diversity and scope of religious beliefs that circulated in the ostensibly Catholic world of early-modern Siena.
Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Siena was the subject of a renewed interest on the part of nationalist intellectuals who were influenced by the Florentine journals circulating at the time. Beginning with Corradini, Siena began to mythologize their civic virtues as an example on which to forge their national equivalents, first by the nationalist movement and later, in expanded form, in the Fascist era. However, in the background remained the challenges posed by modernization and the proper response to them, including even its repudiation. As a “daughter of the road”, so termed by E. Sestan because of the city’s location on the Via Francigena, Siena was at the time one of the stops on the Grand Tour of Italy and styled herself a sort of time capsule, zealously enclosed in her glorious past. It was in this period, following the late 16th-century refeudalization indicated by the myth of R. Romeo’s Italia mille anni, that the city took on the task of rewriting the history of the “Gothic Queen” in order to convey her from the Renaissance to the Risorgimento in an unaltered form. To accomplish this, they even enlisted the House of Savoy who, donating their heraldic banners to those of the contrade of the Palio (the heritage of the medieval guilds), sought to connect a non-existent national past with a still unwritten present. Moreover, the attention being given to Sienese history was not unknown to Sismondi who was seeking an explanation of the system of tenant farming.
My contribution intends to analyze the “making” of a cultural operation that functioned as the glue for a political, economic, and social project lasting more than a century, in which the history of medieval Siena was pivotal not only for how it was defined but for how it was intended to justify the choices made in the present. In certain ways, this procedure is similar to what the Fascist regime would later do to glorify and justify itself, according to G. Volpe. Through an analysis of the history of Siena, my essay will seek to highlight the disparity between reality and myth. In addition, it will analyze the coming to fruition of various initiatives, such as: the birth of the Art Institute, the Defense of Monuments, the school of Falsi d’Autore, the myth of the contrade and the Palio, and the International Exhibition of Sienese Art held in London. All succeeded in giving stability to a rural Siena confronted with the challenges of modernity, while legitimizing the historical past, revisited and altered according to the requirements of the “here and now”.
The brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti (active c.1306–45 and c.1317–48, respectively), working in Siena in the first half of the Trecento, emerged from the circle of Duccio di Buoninsegna (active 1278–1318) to become true innovators in the history of Sienese painting. They dominated the city artistically and received the most important local commissions after the departure of their contemporary Simone Martini (active 1315–44) for Avignon, France in the mid-1330s. This essay will focus on the Marian altarpieces that the Lorenzetti painted for ecclesiastical and civic patrons in their native Siena. As Mary was considered the protector saint of the Sienese Republic, known as the Vetusta Civitas Virginis, “the Ancient city of the Virgin”, there were a large number of altarpieces produced by leading artists dedicated specifically to her. While the grandest and most famous among these is certainly Duccio’s Maestà, the Lorenzetti also created inventive single and multi-paneled works in various formats, both for the cathedral and for the urban religious orders, as well as for the Commune. An analysis of these pictures will provide a greater understanding of Siena’s artistic heritage, patterns of art patronage, and particular devotion to the Virgin, while broadening our knowledge of the city’s unique visual culture, focusing on the 14th century.