Dominican Basilica of San Domenico

A brief description and overview.

The church was begun in 1226-1265 as part of the priory of the Dominicans, but was enlarged in the 14th century to the Gothic appearance it has now. It is an enormous edifice built, like many contemporary edifices of the mendicant orders, in bricks, with a lofty bell tower on the left (this was reduced in height after an earthquake in 1798).
The interior is on the Egyptian cross plan with a huge nave covered by trusses and with a transept featuring high chapels.

This church was the home church of Saint Catherine of Siena (ca 1347-29.04.1348); therefore there are her reliquary, many frescoes and paintings.

The raised chapel off the west end (to the right as you enter) preserves the only genuine portrait of Saint Catherine, painted by her friend and contemporary Andrea Vanni.

The ‘Capella di Santa Caterina’.

The Chapel of Saint Catherine halfway down the right wall was frescoed with scenes from the saint's life. All except the right wall (where in 1593 Francesco Vanni painted Catherine performing an exorcism) were frescoed by Sodoma in 1526.

The large work on the left wall of her interceding on behalf of a condemned man as well as the other scenes of her in ecstasy and swooning are some of Sodoma's best work. This chapel enshrines St. Catherine's incorrupt head and finger in a gilt reliquary case on the altar.
Saint Catherine's main shrine is down the hill in her family home and the rest of her body is in a tomb in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome.

Cappella delle Volte.

This is an old praying place of Dominican nuns, connected to numerous episode of sanctity of Catherine of Siena's life. It houses the Canonization of Saint Catherine by Mattia Preti, flanked by two 1602 paintings by Crescenzio Gambarelli. Other works by the latter are also present. The main wall has a portrait of Saint Catherine.

Other paintings.

At the end of the nave, on the right, is a Nativity by Francesco di Giorgio Martini dominated by a crumbling Roman triumphal arch in the background and a Pieta above.
The first chapel to the right of the altar is home to a Madonna and Child with Saints by Matteo di Giovanni, one of whose masterpieces, Saint Barbara Enthroned with Angels and Saints Mary Magdalen and Catherine, is in the second chapel of the left transept.
An altar on the right as you leave has a 14th-century Madonna and Child Surrounded by Four Saints and God by Sodoma, with a 16th -century Siena skyline above the tiny-panelled predella.

The walls of the nave.

The left wall of the nave has a Madonna with Child by Francesco di Vannuccio, framed by an Eternal with Saint by Sodoma and by a predella with fifteen Stories of the New Testament by Antonio Magagna. Rutilio Manetti painted a Saint Anthony Abbot's Exorcism, Sebastiano Folli a Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Francesco Vanni a Saint Hyacinth Saving a Statue of the Madonna from a Fire.

The right wall has a fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti and the Adoration of the Shepherds by Francesco di Giorgio, completed by a lunette by Matteo di Giovanni and a predella by Bernardino Fungai.


On the right transept is an altar dedicated to Blessed Ambrogio Sansedoni, also portrayed in a canvas by Francesco Rustici (1611-612). Notable amongst the chapels are the second, entitled to the martyrs of the German Nation, and the third, which includes a Madonna with Child and the Saint Jerome and John the Baptist by Matteo di Giovanni.

The fourth chapel has a Baroque canvas by Raffaello Vanni (1649) and a Saint Anthony the Abbot from 1426. The Majesty by Guido da Siena (dated to 1221, but probably from 1265-1270 and with additions by a Duccio's follower) is in the centre of the fifth chapel, where are also works by Matteo di Giovanni, Benvenuto di Giovanni and two frescoes by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini. The left transept ends with the altar of Saint Dominic.


 The altar has a ciborium with two angels by Benedetto da Maiano (1475-1480), while in the apse are a Death of Saint Peter Martyr by Archangelo Salimbeni (1579) and Saint Thomas and the Pope by Galgano Perpignani.
The crypt, in Gothic style, can also be visited. It houses a crucifix by Sano di Pietro and a Crucifixion signed by Ventura Salimbeni (1600).

Sources: Wikipedia and others.

On the right side of the Basilica the cloister (14th century).
Behind the Basilica the former home of Saint Catherine, now a museum.



Catherine of Siena.
Fresco by the Italian Andrea Vanni (ca 1322-c 1413), 1396-1400. The figure on the stamp likes to be inspired by the oldest iconographical portrait, fresco, (ca 1390) on the mural by Andrea Vanni (c 1322-c 1413) in the Basilica of Saint Dominic in Siena.

 Italy 1962, Mi 1122, Sc 853.



Reliquary of Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena died in Roma, Sunday afternoon 29 April 1380, and is buried in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva of the Dominican priory in Roma. The people of Siena wanted to have a relic of Catherine and so her head was taken to the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena on 5 Mai 1284. Her mother Lappa, 94 years old, living in Siena, was present! 

Reliquary in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena.

  Italy 1980, Mi 1688, Scott 1397.


Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348) painted a series of frescoes (‘Good Government’) for the Palacio Publico (Town Hall), built in Siena (1310),
in 1338/39. One shows a 'View of Siena' with the Basilica of Saint Dominic.

San Marino 1969, Mi 924, Sc 698.


Catherine of Siena in adoration of the Virgin with Child and John the Baptist. Fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti, 16th century, in the basilica of
Saint Dominic in Siena.

Sovereign Military Order of Malta (S.M.O.M.) 26.02.1984,
nr.250. Sheet Christmas 1984.




Portrait of Saint Catherine on the fresco by Antonio Bazzi (il Sodoma, 1477-1549) in the side chapel in the Dominican Basilica of Saint Dominic, 1526.

Vatican City 1962, Mi 404, Sc 337. Maximum Card.



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