In the Middle Ages Santa Maria della Scala was one of the largest hospitals in Europe. The hospital is located in Piazza del Duomo, near the front side of the Siena Cathedral. Now it houses the most interesting museum complex of Siena occupying three floors of the medieval building.
Santa Maria della Scala was not only the biggest but also the oldest hospital in the medieval Europe. According to legend, the hospital was founded by a cobbler named Sorore in 9 century. The purpose of the hospital was to accommodate pilgrims and travelers, and to care about the poor. Since 14 century the hospital belonged to the commune of Siena and was constantly extended thanks to generous donations.
The famous painters of that time were invited to to decorate the interior of the hospital. They were Simone Martini who painted a large series of frescoes depicting the events from the life of the Blessed Virgin, Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti, and Sebastiano Conca. The series of frescoes devoted to the Virgin is on the central facade of the hospital. Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti created them in 1335.
At the museum you must visit the Hall of the Pilgrims on the third floor of the building. It is a vast room decorated by the frescoes depicting the events from the history of the hospital. The frescoes were created by Domenico di Bartolo, Lorenzo Vecchietta and Priamo della Quercia.
The Church of the Santissima Annunziata dating back to 13 century is on the third floor of the building. The bronze statuette of the resurrected Christ by Lorenzo Vecchietta is stored there. The Old Sacristy, known as the Chapel of the Holy Nail, the Palazzo Squarcialupi, the Chapel of the Madonna and the Chapel of Mantle are also on the third floor.
The ground floor of the building is occupied by the archaeological museum. The museum collections are on display in tufa tunnels.