Duomo di Firenze
The Cathedral of Florence, officially known as Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore but better known as the Duomo, was originally planned in 1296 as a Gothic cathedral by Arnolfo di Cambio. It replaced the church of Santa Reparata, a cathedral church with a history going back to the early Middle Ages. The new cathedral symbolized Florence’s growing importance and was to be significantly larger than its predecessor.
Francesco Talenti, who lead the construction of the cathedral from 1351 on increased its size even more by expanding the apses and extending the nave. Filippo Brunelleschi – the most important architect of the early Renaissance – designed the Duomo’s most striking feature, the enormous dome.
Construction of the church would last until 1436 when it was consecrated by pope Eugene IV. The originally planned Gothic front facade however was unrealized. The magnificent marble cladding that we see today was only added much later, between 1871 and 1887, in a neo-Gothic style with colorful patterns. As a result the facade nicely complements the design of the cathedral’s fourteenth-century bell tower. Some statues that were created for the originally planned facade are now on display at the Museo dell’Opera dell Duomo, a nearby museum dedicated to works of art from the cathedral.
The cathedral’s interior is less colorful and decorations were kept to a minimum. The exception is the fresco on the dome’s interior, painted between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari. The fresco depicts the Last Judgment. Also of note is the marble floor with intricate patterns.
The dome of the Duomo was the world’s largest when it was completed in 1436 and still towers over the city. The lantern on top of the dome was added later, in 1461, by Michelozzi Michelozzo. The dome, a marvel of engineering, was designed by Brunelleschi, who submitted his plans after he went to Rome to study the Pantheon, which long had the world’s largest dome.
Brunelleschi managed to create the enormous dome without supports thanks to an ingenious design which consisted of an inner shell made of bricks with a herringbone pattern and a horizontal stone chain, which reduced stress and allowed the weight to be evenly distributed. The outer, much smaller shell supports the roof and protects the inner shell from the elements. Between the two shells is a staircase, which leads visitors to the base of the lantern.