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Virigin Mary at the window

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posted by Peter Kittsteiner alias Silanov on Wednesday 6th of February 2019 05:34:05 AM

A window in the historic city of Siena, decorated by a Sienese artist, with a typical Sienese street light on the left, representing the urban district of Aquila (in English: "eagle"), Tuscany, Italy Some background information: With its about 54,000 residents, the city of Siena is the capital of the province of Siena in Tuscany. Siena is located about 70 km (44 miles) south of the city of Florence and about 180 km (112 miles) north of the Italian capital Rome. The town is situated in the central part of Tuscany, in the middle of a vast hilly landscape between the Arbia river valley (south), the Elsa valley (north), the Chianti hills (north-east), the Montagnola Senese (west) and the Crete Senesi (south-east). The city lies at 322 m above sea level. Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (from 900 to 400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina. The Etruscans were an ethnic group of advanced people who changed the face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim previously unfarmable land, and their custom of building their settlements in well-defended hill forts. In the time of the Emperor Augustus a Roman town called Saena Julia was founded at the site. According to local legend, Siena was founded by Senius and Aschius, two sons of Remus and thus nephews of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Supposedly after their father's murder by Romulus, they fled Rome, taking with them the statue of the she-wolf suckling the infants, thus appropriating that symbol for the town. Additionally they rode white and black horses, giving rise to the Balzana, or coat of arms of Siena with a white band atop a dark band. Some claim the name Siena derives from Senius. Other etymologies derive the name from the Etruscan tribe name Saina. Under Roman rule Siena did not prosper. It was not sited near any major roads and lacked opportunities for trade. Its insular status meant that Christianity did not penetrate until the 4th century AD, and it was not until the Lombards invaded Siena and the surrounding territory that the town experienced prosperity. After the Lombard occupation, the old Roman roads of Via Aurelia and the Via Cassia passed through areas exposed to Byzantine raids, so the Lombards rerouted much of their trade between the Lombards' northern possessions and Rome along a more secure road through Siena. Siena prospered as a trading post, and the constant streams of pilgrims passing to and from Rome provided a valuable source of income in the centuries to come. The oldest aristocratic families in Siena date their line to the Lombards' surrender in 774 to Charlemagne. At this point, the city was inundated with a swarm of Frankish overseers who married into the existing Sienese nobility and left a legacy that can be seen in the abbeys they founded throughout Sienese territory. Feudal power waned, however, and by the death of Countess Matilda in 1115 the border territory of the March of Tuscany which had been under the control of her family, the Canossa, broke up into several autonomous regions. This ultimately resulted in the foundation of the Republic of Siena. The Republic existed for over four hundred years, from the 12th century until the year 1555. During the golden age of Siena before the Black Death in 1348, the city was home to 50,000 people. In the Italian War that lasted from 1551 to 1559, the republic was defeated by the rival Duchy of Florence in alliance with the Spanish crown. After 18 months of resistance, Siena surrendered to Spain on 17th April 1555, marking the end of the republic. However, a republican government of 700 Sienese families in the nearby town of Montalcino resisted until 1559. The new Spanish King Felipe II, owing huge sums to the Medici, ceded it to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, to which it belonged until the unification of Italy in the 19th century. In 1798, Siena was shaken by an 8.5 magnitude earthquake and several private as well as public buildings (such as churches) were damaged heavily. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces occupied the town. Not before 1814, the French troops left. However, in World War II, Siena suffered only minor damage. Only the Basilika dell’Osservanza was almost completely destroyed during a US bomb attack on 23rd January 1944. In 1995, its historic city centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Siena is also one of the Italy’s most visited tourist attractions as it is considered to be one of Tuscany’s and also Italy’s most beautiful towns. Unlike Florence that is regarded as a prime example of Renaissance architecture, Siena has preserved its medieval appearance and hence, is considered a treasure of Italien Gothic architecture. Siena is also well-known for its Palio di Siena, a horse race, that is hold on the city’s central plaza Piazza del Campo twice a year. At this race that has a centrality for the town since the Middle Ages, Siena’s 17 urban districts compete with each other. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy’s third biggest bank and also the oldest still existing bank around the world, has still its headquarters in Siena. Siena’s 17 urban districts, the so-called contrade, are named after animals and do each have an animal symbol. The streets of the particular districts have unique street lamps with the amulets of that particular animal on the street crossings — indicating the boundaries of a contrada. These districts were historically set up to supply troops when Siena fought to defend itself from Florence between the 13th and 15th century. Today, the urban districts are still kept alive by sentiments and a great mutual rivalry that finds its expression in the horse race Palio di Siena. By the way, the street lamp on my picture represents the contrade Aquila (in English: "eagle") in Siena's historic city centre.



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  • Published 12.02.21
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