Ceramiche Sbarluzzi Pienza
  • ss.146 km 35,500
    53026 Pienza (Siena) Italia
PIENZA (Tuscany - Italy)

History, art and culture

The city of Pienza owes its name and much of its beauty to its most famous son, Enea Silvio Piccolomini. . From when he was elected Pope In 1458 and took the name of Pope Pius II, he wanted to return to his birthplace and, with the good counsel of a cadre Humanist artists, decided to rebuild most of the city. The plans drawn up in 1459 by Bernardo Gambarelli known as "il Rossellino" (a student of Leon Battista Alberti) transformed this small mediaeval village into a Renaissance style Papal residence. The work took about three years and in 1462 Pius II consecrated the cathedral and inaugurated the new city.
Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born in Corsignano (near Sienna) to a noble family in 1405. He was a Humanist and a prolific writer who subscribed to the Great Schism movement opposed by Pope Eugene IV. He became counsellor and secretary to Amadeus VIII of Savoy who was also to become the anti-pope Felix V. In 1442 he was sent to the court of Frederick III who was charmed by him and asked Piccolomini to become his advisor and secretary. To re-establish a good rapport with the Pope, Frederick sent Piccolomini to Rome where he became Apostolic Secretary. At one stage he was secretary to the Pope, the anti-pope and Frederick III all at the same time. He thus decided to follow a career within the church and in 1458 was elected Pope.
Pienza sits amidst the soft rolling hills of Val d'Orcia. The valley is interrupted only by the River Orcia flowing through it. Pienza is an integral part of a territorial system called the "Parco Artistico, Naturale e Culturale della Val d'Orcia" (Artistic Natural and Cultural Park of Val d'Orcia), that aims to preserve the extraordinary artistic heritage of the five districts that make up the valley. Castiglione d'Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani and San Quirico d'Orcia.

The Historic Centre of Pienza

It was Pope Pius II who turned the village into a city and was behind the design of Pienza. The small Renaissance piazza was carefully studied during the designing stage of future buildings and in fact, most of the new buildings face onto it. Well worth noting are the square slabs that form the paving and the travertine well bearing the Piccolomini family crest.
The Cathedral is the biggest and most imposing of the buildings. It was the Pope himself who wanted this building to be the most prominent as a symbolic reminder of his faith. The solid Renaissance facade has three portals on columns and the Piccolomini family crest is in evidence on the centres of the arches encircled by a delicate crown of leaves and fruit made by skilled Siennese craftsmen. The octagonal pointed bell tower soars skywards on the left and strongly resembles the towers on Austrian and German churches. The rather eclectic style was inspired by the Northern European Hallenkirchen (hall churches) that Enea had seen before being elected Pope.

The (inner) altar panels that are well worth noting were painted between 1462 and 1463 by masters of the Sienna school at that time. Relics from the Romanesque church of Santa Maria are preserved in the crypt. This church had to be demolished to make way for the new cathedral.
Palazzo Piccolomini is the masterpiece of Rossellino, and is the second most important building facing onto the piazza. It was home to Pius II and his family. Its construction was inspired by the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence. The Southern aspect houses a magnificent three-floored loggia with a view over the terraced gardens and the Val d'Orcia and Monte Amiata. The courtyard is surrounded by travertine columns.
The first floor has been transformed into a museum and the living quarters and furnishings make it worth visiting.
Palazzo Borgia was presented to Cardinale Rodrigo Borgia by Pius II and, unlike other buildings, signs of a pre-existent building can be seen. The Cardinal had an additional floor added and replaced the Gothic windows with cruciform windows, he also had a travertine portal added and an internal courtyard made. The building is home to the Diocesan Museum that together with the Museo della Cattedrale collects works belonging to the cathedral as well as numerous religious pieces that were the property of the Pope and subsequent bishops over the course of time. There are eleven rooms that make up the present-day museum and they are set out in chronological order from the 11th to the 16th centuries. They house valuable paintings, sculptures, religious articles and hand-made textiles from the Diocesan area of Pienza. Particularly worth noting are: "La Croce" painted in the 7th century depicting Christ triumphant over death. The "Madonna col Bambino" painted in the 1300's by Pietr Lorenzetti. The great panel of the "Madonna della Misericordia" by Bartolo di Fredi in 1364. The exhibition continues with works by Siennese artists from the 15th century including the panel by Lorenzo di Pietro known as the Vecchietta depicting the "Madonna col Bambino tra i Santi Biagio, Giovanni Battista, Nicola e Floriano". The "Madonna della Misericordia" of 1490 is attributed to Luca Signorelli. There is also a very rich collection of jewellery: from the ancient mediaeval pisside made in the French studios at Limoges to the 15th century crosses and the relic cask of Saint Andrew made from silver and precious stones.
Among the most prized works is the beautiful "Piviale di Pio II" (Cape of Pius II) dating back to the early 1400's.
Palazzo Comunale is the most recent addition building overlooking the piazza with its spacious balcony and plasterwork decorated fa├žade and the later addition of a brick tower. This tower is not as high as the bell tower to emphasise the strength of the church over civilian power.
La Chiesa di S. Francesco (The Church of St. Francis) is the only building that remains of the ancient district of Corsignano, as well as being one of the oldest Franciscan buildings in Italy. It dates back to the mid 8th century and has a gable facade with a Gothic portal. Inside the church are frescoes detailing the life of Saint Francis. The "tre virtù francescane" (The Three Franciscan Virtues) are depicted on the vault and the walls recount twelve tales from the life of Saint Francis painted by Cristofano di Bindoccio and Meo di Pero, artists from the Sienna school in the mid 14th century.

The Ammannati, Gonzaga and del Cardinale Atrebatense Palaces, go to complete the picture of this fascinating city.

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