The Straits Times
Published on Sep 04, 2012

Magnificent mosaic floor in Siena Cathedral unmasked


SIENA, Italy (AFP) - Magnificent Renaissance mosaics covering the sweeping marble floor in Siena cathedral have been unveiled to give visitors a rare glimpse of scenes it took local artists 500 years to create.

The inlaid panels, usually covered to protect them from the thousands of visitors who flock to the Tuscan city each year, depict vivid stories from the Bible and classical antiquity, in black, white, green, red and blue marble.

Made up of 56 panels designed by some 40 artists, the floor was described by 16th century historian Giorgio Vasari in his Lives Of Artists as "the most beautiful, the greatest and most magnificent floor which was ever created."

Among the oldest mosaics is the She-Wolf Of Siena (executed in around 1373) which shows the wolf suckling infants Romulus and Remus: myth has it that while Romulus founded Rome, Siena was founded by Remus' son, Senius. Other panels portray the battle between David and Goliath, philosophers Socrates and Aristotle and ten Sibyls who became oracles around the world.