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Santa Maria della Scala - `city within a city’

  • Santa Maria della Scala - `city within a city’

    Facing the cathedral is the most extraordinary building in Siena. It began as a hospital a thousand years ago and continued as one until it was reborn as a magnificent museum and exhibition centre. In medieval times, it was always more than a hospital. The art-studded complex embraced a pilgrims’ hostel, a poor-house, an orphanage, frescoed churches and granaries. Often described as a city within a city, it can all be visited on a tunnel-like trail. Symbolically, the hospital door never had a key, proof of its role as a sanctuary to all-comers. The Pilgrims Hall, depicting care for the sick, is frescoed by Siena’s finest 15th-century artists. The frescoes of wet-nurses, almsgiving and abandoned children reveal a human side of the city absent from the luminous sacred art. New video installations illuminate key elements but don’t distract from Santa Maria’s grandeur.

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