Symbols, signs and relics
Madonna del Voto, Siena

The chapel of the Madonna del Voto in Siena, whose entrance is at the beginning of the right transept of the Cathedral, is the most important sanctuary dedicated to Mary in the city. It holds the effigy of Our Lady of Graces Advocata Senesium, the work of the painter Dietisalvi di Speme, known as the “Madonna del Voto”. For centuries in fact, the people of Siena have turned to her in moments of personal or collective difficulty, a fact made clear through the many votive offerings hanging on the walls of the chapel, donated to the Virgin by the faithful as a sign of gratitude. According to tradition, in front of this painting the people promised to devote themselves to Mary before the battle of Montaperti (1260), in which the Sienese people triumphed over the superior Florentine troops, bringing the city to its peak. In reality, the promise was actually made in front of another figure, depicting the Virgin enthroned with the Child, known as “The Madonna of the Wide Eyes”, one of the most ancient works of the School of Siena, created in the second quarter of the 13th century by the Maestro di Tressa and currently preserved in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The Madonna del Voto was instead commissioned to Dietisalvi di Speme following the victory of the Sienese at Montaperti and is generally dated to around 1270. Originally positioned on an altar in the right-hand nave of the cathedral, the image very soon became the object of great veneration, so much so that around the middle of the 15th century, at the initiative of the municipality and with public financing, they decided to build a chapel, known as the Chapel delle Grazie, to provide a more fitting location for the painting. In the second half of the 17th century, that space was demolished and the Sienese Pope Alessandro VII, born Fabio Chigi, decided to build the chapel that currently stands there, entrusting the works to the great Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The continuing desire to ensure a more noble context for the image of the Madonna is a tangible sign of the profound and constant devotion of the people of Siena towards the Virgin. Bernini designed a sumptuous space on a circular floor, characterised by a great abundance of marble. The crux of it is the altar: at the centre is the Madonna del Voto, supported by golden angels crafted from bronze who stand out on a background of blue lapis lazuli, the colour which represents divinity.


Piazza del Duomo, 8, 53100 Siena SI, Italia
GPS coordinates
0577 42020
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