Il Chiostro del Carmine
A fascination that has lasted 400 years
The building that houses “Il Chiostro del Carmine” is an old monastery built in the late thirteenth century, close to the oldest and highest part of the city of Siena, also known as the district of Castelsenio. The building, from the beginning, was used as a convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a mendicant order founded a few years earlier in the Holy Land. For over seven centuries the building was still inhabited by the Discalced Carmelite friars except for some historical parenthesis, when, before the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, then Napoleon Bonaparte and later the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1860 took away the property to the Friars. Whenever, as a result of such state suppressions, the Fathers have regained the convent to continue to pursue their religious activity.
Next to the convent is the church of St. Nicholas of the twelfth century. Inside, there are important works of art including paintings by Alessandro Casolani, Francesco Vanni and the image of Nostra Signora dei Mantellini, an object of veneration, followed by a thirteenth-century painter named Master of Saints Cosmas and Damian. The large table of Domenico Beccafumi depicting St. Michael casts the rebellious angels is considered one of the masterpieces of the painter and impresses the complex setting with the vigorous figure of the angel at the center that connects the upper to the lower floor and the expressive use of strong contrasts between light and shadow. Under this altar, placed sideways, there is also the grave and the body of Blessed Franco Lippi, a Carmelite saint died at the end of the thirteenth century and still well-known in the city also known for the originality of his personal life story and conversion. The saint has long lived and died in one of the convent cells currently recovered as a guest room. On the side of the church are traces of a porch, now buffered, leading to the monastery. The building, as a whole, has maintained the same original architectural setting and even within it, there is direct evidence of this approach. In particular on the first floor there is the choir where the Friars came together to pray. It is a wooden choir of the late 500, the original, with a marble altar and an altarpiece representing the Blessed Franco Lippi in contemplation.
As soon as you enter the “Chiusarelli” you have access in the cloister that for over 400 years maintains the same architectural feature. In the open space placed in the back of the convent, currently used as a parking lot for guests, it was found the entrance to the famous “Diana” pit. It is a very deep well and very old, whose excavation has already started in the twelfth century by the then inhabitants of the area to groped to find the water of the mythical Diana River. The frantic search for water was one of the main fixations of Siena in medieval times. In fact, the scarcity of this resource has also strongly influenced the historical destiny of the city and that’s why the City of Siena and its citizens have sought this precious resource over the centuries. No longer any doubt historians have identified in this excavation pit that was to lead to draw water from the well known underground river of Diana. In this episode also mentions Dante’s Divine Comedy, and, not surprisingly, the street where opens its doors “the Chiostro del Carmine” is called Via della Diana.