Part of the magnificent library of the Duomo of Siena in Tuscany.
The Libreria Piccolomini, with its elaborate marble façade, opens off the left-hand nave. It was built in 1495 by Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, of Sienna, in order to house the library of his uncle, Pope Pius II, who was born Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini. The cardinal, who had inherited the books and wished to donate them to the Cathedral of Sienna, was to become Pope Pius III in 1503 but his reign lasted only 26 days. The chapel contains some much admired frescoes by Bernardino Pinturicchio.
Bernardino di Betto, who was nicknamed il Pinturicchio on account of his small stature was, along with the more famous Pietro Perugino, the head of the Umbrian school of Renaissance painting. Pinturicchio’s frescoes beautifully decorate the Libreria and they narrate the principal events in the earthly life of Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini who was not only pope but a humanist and diplomat. Accordingly, the refinement of the room underlines its profoundly humanistic, almost classical spirit which is confirmed by the marble group in the center of the room, the three Graces. This is a Roman copy of a Greek original, possibly a picture, which dates back to the 3rd century AD.This truly wonderful room impresses us with the power of the Piccolomini family, their abiding interest in culture and love for their native city of Sienna.
As you leave, you see the elegant but solemn Piccolomini altar which was made on the orders of Pope Pius III when he was still a cardinal. It is truly imposing with its numerous orders and statues, four of which were sculpted by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504; these are, on the left, St Gregory and St Paul and, on the right, St Peter and St Pius.
Photos taken on a visit to Tuscany in 2008