The throbbing heart of the city
The Collegiate Church, or Cathedral, adjacent to the town hall in grand online casino the heart of the town, is certainly the most important religious building in San Gimignano.
Built on the site of a previous building, a primitive oratorio dedicated to San Gimignano, built perhaps in the ninth or tenth century. This must have been very small and lay in the opposite direction to the current cathedral.
During the first half of the eleventh century, it was rebuilt for the first time and then, promoted to a parish church, rebuilt again shortly afterwards, according to a commemorative tablet on the façade. The parish church was consecrated by Pope Eugenio III in 1148. According to some documents, the façade was built in 1239 by Matteo Brunisemd, a master from the north, Lombardy perhaps, while the steps, the work of maestro Ranieri da Colle, date back to 1264. During the fourteenth century, the central nave was elevated and the vaults were built; the small round windows on the sides of the façade were opened during the second half of the fifteenth century when Giuliano da Maiano directed the project to enlarge the transept, to which were added six chapels, to build a new sacristy and create a chapel containing the mortal remains of Santa Fina; the Conception Chapel was built in 1477. The façade was further transformed in the early nineteenth century and was then restored as faithfully as possible to its original condition.
The inner walls are totally frescoed; the one on the right is by Berna da Siena and depicts New Testament scenes, from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion; other frescoes, destroyed during the sixteenth century, depicted the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. The left-hand wall, frescoed by Bartolo Di Fredi, illustrates Old Testament episodes, from the Creation to the life of Job. The internal part of the façade, frescoed by Taddeo di Bartolo, depicts the universal judgement and, underneath, a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli depicts the martyrdom of St Sebastian. There are also two statues, Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, works by Iacopo della Quercia and dating back to the 1420’s.
A real and proper jewel is the chapel of Santa Fina. It was begun in 1468 and consecrated in 1488 by Niccolò, Bishop of Pistoia.
The decorated marble altar is by Benedetto da Maiano, dates back to 1475 and is adorned by frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio; on the right hand wall there is S. Gregorio announcing the forthcoming death of the saint and on the left-hand wall there is the funeral of Santa Fina; above, two angels take the saint up to Heaven. The other frescoes in the chapel were painted by Sebastiano Mainardi.
Adjoining the Sacristy is the Cloister, comprising 28 arches supported by columns, once the site of a public cemetery; marble tablets commemorate the citizens of San Gimignano who were buried here.