Gold, relics and sacrality

Santa Maria della Scala

The Treasure of Santa Maria della Scala

The Byzantine relics

The relics were purchased in 1359 from a tradesman, Pietro di Giunta Torrigiani, who had acquired them from the Empress of Costantinople. The rector Andrea Tori organised the purchase of the relics in concert with the Sienese government. The relics were preserved in the Hospital’s chapel that was built specifically for the purpose and were shown to the public through a special window on March 25th, Annunciation Day and the Hospital’s holy day, and were used to bless the crowd of worshippers that gathered in the square.

The Gospel Book

The cover of the Gospel Book is a composite manufacture that was made in Venice between the XIth and the XIIth century reusing platelets from different areas.On the front is represented the Anastasis, the descent of Christ to the Limbo. On the back are represented the Ascension and the blessing figure of Christ flanked by the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist.

The Coffer

The Coffer is an object characterised by a composite decoration, with gemstones and platelets from different areas and times assembled together after the relics' arrival in Siena. Among them, the most interesting are the French platelets decorated with email de plique, the cloisonnés from Sicily and Costantinople and the platelets with male and female portraits originating from the Sienese area.

The "Crates Ferrea"

This iron reliquary was made by a French artist, Maitre Bertino from Rouen, who worked for the Hospital in 1361. The object is characterised by a virtuosic flowery decoration which resembles the fashionable fabrics of the XIIth century.

The Paliotto

The Paliotto is the result from the assemblies of several embroideries from different draperies. In the central band are depicted the coat-of-arms of the Hospital and the rector Lorenzo Docci's crest. The embroideries are made in the or nuè technique, popular in the 1400s.
The band with the Annunciation was realized on Paolo di Giovanni Fei's projects, while the tapestry with the Apostles was made on Sandro Botticelli's drafts.

Saint Biagio's arm reliquary

Saint Biagio's relic was purchased by Pietro da Giunta Torrigiani in 1359. The artwork belongs to the "anthropomorphic reliquary" category and was made by the goldsmith Goro di Ser Neroccio, who signed the artwork, in 1437.

The reliquary is decorated with garnishes of gothic imprint but the shape of the gloved hand is reminescent of an anatomical emphasis inspired by Della Quercia, Ghiberti and Donatello's works.

Saint Costanza's arm reliquary

The reliquary shows the revival of the medieval "anthropomorphic reliquary". However, the decorations' design and the simplified manufacture reveal the late dating, around the 1600s.

Saint Antonio Abate's reliquary

The reliquary is half-lenght and depicts Saint Antonio as an old man with a long beard, wearing a habit according to the medieval iconography. The artwork is characterised by simplified and geometrical volumes. Because of their similarities, it was suggested that Saint Antonio and Saint Stefano's reliquaries were made by the same unknown goldsmith.

Saint Stefano's reliquary

Saint Stefano is depicted as a young man with a tonsure. As a deacon, Stefano is wearing a dalmatic habit adorned with a circles and diamonds pattern on the shoulders. The goldsmith has tried to make the lightness of the cloth. Because of their similarities, it was suggested that Saint Stefano and Saint Antonio's reliquaries were made by the same unknown goldsmith.

Saint Cristina's reliquary

Saint Cristina is depicted as a young woman with a great head of wavy hair partially veiled. The veil is decorated with a band of entwined diamonds. The face of the Saint is pointing upwards with an ispiring gaze. Her dress is decorated with traslucent platelets and her name written in silver letters. Due to the artwork's more mature quality , it was suggested that the reliquary was made by a different goldsmith from that which realized the Saint Antonio and Saint Stefano's reliquaries.

Apostles's reliquaries

These pieces are a set of four pyramidal reliquaries, also known as "architectural reliquaries". Each one shows inscriptions in Greek and Latin, referring to the relics stored, and is decorated with the Hospital's coat-of-arm and the Chigi's family crest.

Virgin Mary's reliquary

This eighteen-century urn contains the most important relics purchased by the Hospital: the Virgin's veil, headset, and a fragment of her belt which is presumed to be the one collected and preserved by Saint Tommaso. The reliquary is characterised by gold and silver decorations. On the base we can see the Hospital's coat-of-arm.

Credits: Story

Santa Maria della Scala, servizio programmazione culturale musei
Redazione di Chiara Nencini
Fotografie realizzate dagli alunni della 3D-AM, A.S 2017-2018, del Liceo Artistico "Duccio di Buoninsegna" di Siena.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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