A romanesque treasure in the middle of Tuscany
The Cathedral of Volterra, religious heart of the city and the area,
a stunning example of medieval architecture
Piazza San Giovanni, the artistic and religious centerpiece of the city of Volterra, is where the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral and the Baptistery are located, both invaluable examples of romanesque art.
For the visitors travelling to Volterra, the Dome is a must-see. It has been the episcopal see for centuries, as well as the religious center of the community. It also works as a counterweight and mirror to the nearby Piazza dei Priori, political center of the old municipality.
Amongst the various artistic masterpieces kept inside the Cathedral, the five polychrome sculptures carved out of wood portraying the “Deposition of Christ from the Cross” certainly stand out. This group of sculptures dates back to the 1200s and is amongst the most important and best-preserved.
The visit circuit includes the Santa Maria Maddalena Exhibition Center where, during the summer, tickets to access the Cathedral and the Baptistery are sold.
FIND OUT MORE
Historical documents reveal that the Cathedral was consecrated in 1120. The amplification of the Cathedral in the 13th century and the Romanesque-Pisan facade are attributed to Nicola Pisano while the transept and choir date to the 14th century. The interior was completely modified in the 16th century by Bishop Guido Serguidi. There are three naves divided by stuccoed columns with capitals by Leonardo Ricciarelli. The Cathedral was completely restored and heavily redecorated in 1842-43.
Noteworthy Works of Art
➊ Madonna dei Chierici attributed to Francesco Valdambrino.
➋ Marble ciborium by Mino da Fiesole, signed and dated 1471.
➋ In the apse, wooden Gothic choir with Bishop’s throne, end of the 14th century.
➌ 13th century wood polychrome figures of the Deposition.
➍ The pulpit was reassembled at the end of the 16th century with 13th century reliefs.
➎➏. In the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, a 15th century Nativity and Adoration in painted terra cotta, attributed to the Della Robbia workshop. Behind the Nativity a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli dated 1479.
➐ In the second altar on the left nave, Annunciation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1497).
There is also:
There is also: the funeral monuments of Volterran Saints Ugo and Ottaviano, the paintings of Saint Paul in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the funeral monument of Mario Maffei and two marble angel candle holders. The painted wooden ceiling depicts paradise with the patron saints of Volterra and the Assumption to which the Cathedral is dedicated.
THE WOODEN DEPOSITION
A group of five sculptures depicting the Deposition of Christ from the cross (Christ, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the Madonna and Saint John the Evangelist, a cross and ladder) in poplar wood, painted and gilded with silver and gold leaf. This group of sculptures preserved “ab antiquo” is one of the most important and best preserved of the wooden sculptures of the 13th century. The group in Volterra not only retains the figures but also its original ladder and cross.
OPENING HOURS AND TICKETS
Opening times Cathedral and Baptistry
From 1st to 31st March:
Cathedral, Baptistry and Exhibition Center
open Saturday and Sunday, with the Anima di Volterra ticket, 10:00 a.m.- 06:00 p.m. (last admission 05:30 p.m.)
From 1st April to 1st November:
Cathedral, Baptistry and Exhibition Center
open daily 10:00 a.m.- 06:00 p.m. (last admission 05:30 p.m.)
N.B.: Easter and Easter Monday (09/04 and 10/04), Sundays and holidays the Cathedral opens from 12:30 a.m. to 06:00 a.m. (last admission at 05:30 p.m.).
From 26 December to 6th January:
open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (last admission at 05:30 p.m.)
2nd November, 25th December, 7th January and 31th March
N.B.: during the opening period of the Santa Maria Maddalena Exhibition Center,
tickets will be sold at the Reception of the Center
Reservation fee: € 1,00 per pax
Full price: € 7,00 (including audio-guide)
Concessions: € 5,00 (including audio-guide)
Visitors aged 6 to 18, and over 65; Coop, FAI
Youth up to 6 years of age, Volterra municipality residents, Disabled visitors (+ one carer per visitor), Clerics of both genders, Teachers accompanying classes or groups, Authorised tour guides, Journalists
The Baptistry of Volterra
From ancient pagan temple to symbol of Christianism: the Baptistery, ancient witness of faith
The Baptistery is part of the religious compound of the Cathedral of Volterra. It dates back to before 1000 a.D. and presents itself with an evocative black and white polychrome outside.
The inside is simple and solemn, it calls for recollection and reflection and it allows visitors to take in the beauty of the artworks kept there, with the altar and the baptismal always catching one’s attention.
FIND OUT MORE
Tradition has it that the Baptistry erected in front of the Cathedral was built on what was once a pagan temple. No reference to this fact is to be found in the first document which speaks of the baptismal church of Saint John built in 989.
The façade in black and white marble and the portal date to the 13th century. Above the architrave are the sculpted heads of Christ, the Virgin, the Apostles and an inscription with the date 1283. Traces can still be seen of where the walls were raised, possibly to sustain the dome. Archive documents refer to the interest Brunelleschi took in the construction of the dome.
The interior still maintains its simple, solemn, harmonious form. The marble frieze which frames the altar was begun by Mino da Fiesole at the end of the 15th century. In 1505 Sansovino sculptured the white marble baptismal font, now placed in the corner, depicting the Baptism of Christ and the virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity and Justice. The present baptismal font by the Carrara sculptor, Giovanni Vaccà, was commissioned by the Volterran Archbishop of Pisa, Francesco Salvatico Guidi, in 1757. Another Volterran, Francesco Gaetano Incontri, Archbishop of Florence, commissioned the marble altar in 1760. Four years later, the wood panel of the Ascension painted by Niccolò Cercignani in 1591, originally from the church of S.Marco nei Borghi, was placed above the altar.