One of the most historically important churches in Siena, the Basilica of San Domenico is famous for another saint: the city’s own Saint Catherine. It was here that Catherine took her vows in 1363 at the age of 15, and the church holds a number of her relics, including her head, thumb, and whip used for self-flagellation.
Join a guided tour that takes in the Basilica of San Domenico and other city highlights, including Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Pubblico, and Torre del Mangia. Many Siena walking and Segway tours also include skip-the-line entrance tickets to Siena’s cathedral (Duomo), along with the adjacent Piccolomini Library—frescoed by Pinturicchio—and the Museo dell'Opera. Siena is a popular day trip from Florence, and tours often include stops in Pisa and San Gimignano, as well.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Modest attire is required to enter the church, so be sure to cover your shoulders and knees.
- Walking tours of the Basilica of San Domenico and the city of Siena cover quite a bit of ground; comfortable shoes are recommended.
- The church is accessible to wheelchair users, but the downstairs crypt is not.
- Photography without flash is allowed inside the basilica.
How to Get There
The Basilica di San Domenico is on Piazza Domenico on the very edge of Siena’s pedestrian historic center, an easy walk from most other top attractions and the train station.
When to Get There
The Basilica di San Domenico is usually less crowded than Siena’s cathedral, and can be a quiet and cool respite during the peak hours of midday.
Highlights of Siena’s Basilica di San Domenico
The Gothic church was built in 1226 on the Camporegio hill and contains a number of important works of art by the Sienese school in addition to St. Catherine’s relics. Of note are a magnificent Majesty (Maestà) by Guido da Siena, frescoes by Francesco Vanni and Pietro Lorenzetti, and the sumptuously decorated chapel dedicated to St. Catherine, where her head and thumb are displayed. The Chapel of the Vaults (Cappella delle Volte) holds a pretty portrait of the saint.