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The dome of the Cathedral, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini.

Brunelleschi’s Dome: the largest masonry dome ever built by man

The famous Brunelleschi’s dome is the coverage of the crossing of Florence Cathedral and is the largest masonry dome ever built by man, with its 45.5 meter diameter, while the exterior is 54 meters. The impost, which stands 35.50 meters above the tambour is approximately 54 meters from the ground, the weight of the dome is estimated at 37,000 tonnes, it is estimated that for the building have been used more than four million bricks. The construction of the dome of Florence from an architectural point of view is the event that marked the beginning of the Renaissance.

Composed of two ogival caps shaped connected with each other, the octagonal dome was begun in the summer of 1420, and was completed (excluding lantern) in 1436, the lantern was placed in 1461, while the golden ball of copper with the cross work of Andrea del Verrocchio, was placed there in 1471.

Gli affreschi della Cupola del Duomo, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The frescoes in the dome of the Cathedral, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The dome was built without the use of centre (wooden structure or iron) to support the masonry. To lead it to completion, Brunelleschi excogitated some extraordinary solutions to lighten the imposing structure, for the realization of it Brunelleschi used innovative machines that he designed himself. The innovation of Brunelleschi was to turn the dome without a wooden supporting frame, thank to the use of a double vault with hollow space, the space inside (over two meters thick) was built with concrete herring-bone, and had a structural function as self-sustaining, while the external feature had only function of coverage.

The lower part of the dome by Brunelleschi is covered with frescoes painted by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari between 1572 and 1579, it is the largest fresco painted surface of the world (3600 square meters), the frescoes depict scenes of the Last Judgement.

La cupola del Duomo, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The dome of the Cathedral, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini.

The dome of the cathedral of Florence is a monument open to the public, it is possible to climb the dome, see up close the architectural structures of Brunelleschi, the frescoes of the interior and at the end of 463 steps enjoy a spectacular view from the top of the city of Florence.

  • Address: Piazza del Duomo Firenze Tel: 055 2302885 E-mail: opera@operaduomo.firenze.it
  • Opening Hours: Weekdays, 8.30-19; Saturday, 8.30-17; first Saturday of the month, 8.30-15.20. Closed Sundays and holidays.
  • Price: 6,00 €
  • Handicap access: NO
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