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Cathedral, Florence. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Florence Cathedral: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

The construction of the Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, was started by Arnolfo di Cambio on 8th September 1296. On the death of Arnolfo in 1310, work was proceeding slowly, with delays in relation to the roadmap and on his death were interrupted. The work was again resumed in 1331, when the merchants of the Arte della Lana took the direction of the construction of the church.

In 1334 Giotto was appointed foreman of works, but he participated mainly in the construction of the bell tower (Campanile di Giotto) due to his death after three years.

Subsequently there were numerous interruptions until 1367 when it was a competition that ended with the selection of a final model for the church brought by four architects and four painters. The vault of the nave was completed in 1378 and the aisles themselves were completed in 1380.

Between 1380 and 1421 were completed the work on the stands and on the drum of the dome. The octagonal dome, which consists of two concentric shells connected together, was completed in 1436. In 1418 a competition was held for the cupola, which ended in 1420, after much discussion, with the choice of the draft submitted by Filippo Brunelleschi.

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

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

The project of Filippo Brunelleschi for the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most important success on the architecture of the Renaissance. Completed in 1436, the dome is a key step of the design and engineering, for its size of over 45 meters in diameter, more than the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, this is the largest masonry dome ever built by man.

The church, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore (fiore referring to Florence) was consecrated on the 25 of March, 1436.

The remarkable differences in the various parts of the Cathedral show the evident changes in taste during the long time passed between the foundation of the church and its completion. The external shape of the arches is a remnant of the Romanesque. Inside the cathedral, with its huge arches, doors and windows, is Gothic. The dome is a masterpiece of the Renaissance.

On the north side of the cathedral’s the Porta della Mandorla, fifteenth century, shows Gothic influences in both design and decoration. The Gothic facade was painted between 1871 and 1887 and designed by Emilio de Fabris, its decoration follows that of the gothic Campanile of Giotto and the side doors of the Cathedral.

The interior in the shape of a Latin cross is striking for its vastness of space and simplicity of the furnishings. Among the many works of art in the cathedral, the most important are the dome frescoes representing scenes of the Last Judgement, were made by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari between 1572 and 1579. The glass eye of the drum of the dome works by Paolo Uccello, Donatello, Ghiberti and Andrea del Castagno. The marble choir (1547-1572) by Baccio Bandinelli and Giovanni Bandini. The fifteenth-century stained glass windows of the chapels of the transept and the chancel, work of Lorenzo Ghiberti.

L'interno del Duomo, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

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

The Sacrestia Vecchia ( Old Sacristy) and Sacrestia delle Messe, both on the door with glazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia; above the altar of the Central chapel are other works in glazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia. The “Arca di San Zanobi” by Lorenzo Ghiberti. In the Sacrestia delle Messe are the Porta di Bronzo (Bronze Door) (1445-1469) by Luca della Robbia, Michelozzo and Maso di Bartolomeo, and wonderful wooden marquetry work of Giuliano and Benedetto da Majano drawings by Brunelleschi, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, etc. … In the left aisle are the painting “Dante and his World” by Domenico di Michelino, the equestrian monument to Sir John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto), redesigned by Paolo Uccello, and the equestrian statue of Niccolò da Tolentino by Andrea del Castagno.

Under the current cathedral are the ruins of the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata, probably dating from the fifth century A.D. The old cathedral of Santa Reparata houses the tomb of Filippo Brunelleschi – discovered in 1972 – the tombs of two popes (Stephen IX and Nicholas II), some bishops and other Florentine artist.

The church at the time of its completion, in the fifteenth century, was the largest in Europe and in the world (153 meters long, 90 meters wide and 90 meters high), today is the fourth largest church in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Cathedral in Milan.

  • Address: Piazza del Duomo Firenze Tel: 055 2302885 E-mail: opera@operaduomo.firenze.it
  • Opening Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 10.00 to 17.00. Thursday: May and October: from 10.00 to 15.30, from July to September: 10.00 to 17.00. Other months: 10.00 – 16.30. Saturday: 10.00 to 16.45. Sundays and religious holidays: 13.30 to 16.45. Ash Wednesday: 10.00 to 16.30. Holy Thursday: 12.30 to 16.30. Holy Friday: 10.30 to 16.30. Holy Saturday: 10.30 to 16.45. Closed: January 1, Epiphany, Easter, Christmas.
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