The first document in which the church of San Desiderio is mentioned dates to December 1012; legend records that it had been built earlier during the time of Emperor Charles ‘the Hammer’ (grand-father to Charlemagne) who issued a law here. One of the few remaining Romanesque churches in Siena, it was used by the Commune as an operation center for the city’s troops in 1230; the name of the first parish priest, Guido, goes back to 1199. From the end of the thirteenth century, the church became the seat of the faculty for medicine and philosophy of Siena university: celebrating the feastday of Saints Cosmas and Damian on September 26, with customary gifts of wax. From July 1654 to October 1666 San Desiderio became a seminary: but from the latter date onwards, following an order issued by Pope Alexander VII, the seminary was transferred to the church of San Giorgio. The oratory of San Desiderio, which was suppressed by a grand-ducal law in 1781, was given, in 1787, by Archbishop Borghesi to the contrada della Selva (the Forest contrada) as a meeting place for its members. The contrada did not have a specific seat and the church of San Sebastiano, where the Selva had previously gathered, had been given back to the Panther contrada. The violent earthquake of 1798 seriously damaged San Desiderio and the architect Bernardino Fantastici was appointed to create plans for its restoration. The survey dates back to 1802-1803, but the Selva did not use San Desiderio anymore: after a short period of time, spent in the oratory of San Niccolò in Sasso, in 1813 the Selva regained the church of San Sebastian and the attached crypt. Until the end of 1700 San Desiderio was furnished with three altars and three bells; important artworks, such as a painting by Rutilio Manetti, were moved elsewhere. In 1811 the church was completely cleared and transformed first into a warehouse and then into a restaurant.



AA.VV., Die Kirchen von Siena, Bruckmann 1996;

Flaminio Rossi, Le contrade della città di Siena, [rist. anast.] Bologna, Forni, 1981, vol. I, pp. 290-307:

Paolo Nardi, Inventario dell’Archivio della Contrada della Selva con note storiche introduttive, Siena, Periccioli, 1967;

P. Pertici, Le residenze del patriziato senese: il caso dei Ciani, in Archivi, Carriere, Committenze. Contributi per la storia del Patriziato senese in Età moderna, Siena, Accademia degli Intronati, 2007;

L’illustrazione è tratta da G. Macchi, Memorie.

See photo gallery
















Ristorante San Desiderio a Siena - Ristora di Stopponi Andrea e C. snc P.I 01023980525 - Piazza L. Bonelli Tel. 0577.286091 SIENA