The history of July Palio. In 1611 the Collegiata of Provenzano was consecrated to receive the Madonna of miracles

1611 is a very important year for the history of Siena and for the birth of Palio. On the 16th of October the Collegiata of Provenzano was inaugurated and consecrated. Anybody in Siena know the legend of the Spanish soldier who shot the statue of Virgin Mary and anybody know all the miracles performed by the surviving statue, worshipped by every citizen.
The family of Medici supported the building of a new center of veneration- the Collegiata of Provenzano itself. Medici, indeed, wanted to eradicate the worship of Madonna del Voto, placed in the Cathedral of Siena, because it was too linked with the Republican history of Siena. So, the Collegiata was built thanks to the family of Medici who wanted Florence to be the only powerful Republic in Tuscany. But who were the artisans who really built and designed the church?

On the 8th of April in 1595, all the main artists of Siena were reunited to discuss the project of the new building by the Gran Duke Ferdinando I who chose the best ones. The winning project was that of Damiano Schifardini, a Sienese mathematician and surveyor who was a monk of Certosa of Florence and preceptor of Ferdinando I’s children. The project of Schifardini was accomplished by the sculpture and architect Flaminio del Turco, the master building and real “father” of the church. It was him who placed the first stone, inside which there were 20 silver coins with the Grand Duke’s fingerprint and some medals representing the Madonna of Provenzano. The works started in 1595 and already in 1602, the artisans and laborers reached the roof of this majestic church. Once there, a problem came out: the shape of the dome. Schifardini meanwhile had died and even if in his project the dome was rounded and sunken, just like Santo Spirito church and Santa Maria degli Angeli’s ones, the other workers believed that this solution wasn’t the right one because it would ruin the whole building. The Gran Duke was the person who finally tackled the problem: he asked for his brother, Giovanni de’ Medici’ help, since he was an expert in architecture. He suggested that the dome was raised and that it would be built just one spherical cap; he also proposed to crate a piazza in front of the façade. His recommendation was immediately approved and in the month of October in 1604, after having erected the dome, the statue of the Madonna of Provenzano was eventually placed in the Collegiata.

Maura Martellucci
Roberto Cresti

translated by Giulia Staggini