Pienza Duomo was one of the Monuments that make up Pius II’s Renaissance City:
On one side of the Piazza Pio II, the main square in Pienza, sits the Pienza Duomo (or Cattedrale dell’Assunta), one of the Renaissance monuments that make up Pope Pius II’s ideal Renaissance city. Architect Bernardo Rossellino who was charged with building Pope Pius II’s dream town was responsible for the building of this Pienza cathedral.
The Pienza Duomo stands on a site where the ancient parish church of Santa Maria used to be in Pope Pius II’s home village of Corsignano. The Duomo is conveniently located just next to the Palazzo Piccolomini, the residence of the Piccolomini family. Pienza was the first Tuscan town planned along Renaissance town planning concept and as such buildings like the duomo are important Italian Renaissance monuments. Some of the architectural elements were groundbreaking designs for its time.
The facade is travertine and in the centre of the gable is the papal regalia and the Piccolomini coat of arms – the cinque lune (a cross with five crescents). The tall belltower was seriously damaged during the 1545 earthquake and was repaired in 1570.
Pius II Inside the Duomo
We stepped into the Duomo to find a very empty church and so this was a good place to start our sightseeing of Pienza, as well as to have some quiet enjoyment of this church. Although the duomo has a Renaissance exterior, inside the church the architecture is Gothic, with the central nave flanked by an isle on each side. The Duomo is very well-lit by natural light due to the windows on the walls and the tall Gothic window on the apse, a design idea that Pius II had picked up from his overseas travels. Before he became Pope, Pius II had served for many years in Germany and he liked the light effect of German hall churches.To the left of the entrance sits a thoughtful-looking figure of Pius II. His green papal cape is embroidered with interesting images on the front and back and near the trim is the cinque lune, the Piccolomini coat of arms. I like his matching green shoes.
And to remind visitors that he is from the house of Piccolimini, the cinque lune is engraved all over the cathedral. Apparently there are some 400 locations where you can see the Piccolomini coat of arms, such as on the left and right base of the altarpieces and in the choir stalls.
The church has many paintings by the most famous artists of the period commissioned by Pope Pio II. The five altarpieces with religious themes were painted by Sienese masters specifically for the Duomo. It is interesting to see that four of the five altarpieces were of various interpretations of Madonna and child.