The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (or Museo dell’Opera della Metropolitana) founded in 1869 is an essential part of the Siena Cathedral, literally built into the very fabric of the Duomo. The building housing the museum is what should’ve been the south aisle of the “New Cathedral”, on which construction began in 1339 but was broken off after the Black Death of 1348 and never finished. Though unfinished, the remains are a testament to Sienese power, ambition, and artistic achievement and thanks to the museum you can see it all up-close.
The museum hosts works of art created for the Cathedral, illustrating the history and artistic culture of Siena. The Duomo was built in two stages, combining elements of French Gothic, Tuscan Romanesque architecture, and Classical architecture, parts of its interior and exterior were transferred to the museum, making way to new artworks by artists such as Donatello, Bernini and the young Michelangelo making the Duomo an extraordinary museum of Italian sculpture.
The Duomo was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. The origins of the first structure are wrapped in mystery and there are no artefacts concerning it, but everything that has to do with the Duomo is presented in the museum – the original superb Rose Window, 14th century statuary from the Cathedral façade, the sculptures, sophisticated examples of the goldsmith's art, extremely rare illuminated manuscripts and codices, a rich collection of paintings 13th to 19th centuries… But most importantly – a breath-taking view of Siena!
We always say that museums have the best views and Museo dell’Opera confirms that point. In the Cathedral you can join “The Gate of Heaven” tour to the top of the Duomo and see it inside and outside. In peak months you would have to book the tour a few weeks in advance and if you are late, don’t worry, just visit the Museo dell’Opera to get a great view of Siena and the countryside. Maybe you will have to wait in line, but if the weather is good, it is worth it!
Tip: Buy a combined ticket (Opa Si Pass) to the entire Duomo complex to save more than 50% off single tickets. The pass is valid for three days from the day of purchase.
Fact: Museo dell’Opera is one of the oldest private museums in Italy. Don’t miss the museum’s and the entire Duomo complex’s bookshop, situated on the other side of the square (left corner if you are coming out of the Cathedral).
Throughout the museum and the Duomo interior you will be stricken by is the pictorial effect of the black and white marble stripes on the walls and columns. These colours were chosen because black and white are the colours of the civic coat of arms of Siena.