The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
- The Doumo
. The Cathedral with its mighty dome defines the city's skyline.
Building the Cathedral
Its construction was a kind of late triumph, since Pisa, Lucca, Pistoia, Prato and Siena all had their own splendid cathedrals already when the city government finally decided in 1296 to build a new
cathedral in Florence, commissioning Arnolfo di Cambio with the job. The mighty structure was completed in 1368, but still lacked its dome. This was built by Filippo Brunelleschi from 1420-34. The
foreseen dome diameter of over 45 m threw up hitherto unseen construction problems. Brunelleschi's concept was largely based on the principle that bodies leaning towards each other would also support
each other, and so he built one closed dome ring on top of the other. If you feel up to it (and be warned: it's a one-way street so there's no turning back!) and climb the 463 steps as far as the
lantern, through the nave and the double wall of the dome, not only are you taking the same route as the builders themselves, but you will also get an interesting insight into the "inner life" of the
dome - and, of course, a marvellous view of the city
Florence Cathedral art work
Florence Cathedral is the fourth-largest church in Christendom. Its floor area is 8300 m2, its length 160 m. The nave is 43 m wide, the transept 90 m. It is only when you're inside that you really
feel awestruck by these dimensions. Many illustrious Florentine artists have contributed to its decoration. The large, painted equestrian statue (the second on the left) is of the mercenary leader
John Hawkwood, who once won a battle for Florence. It was painted by Paolo Uccello in 1436 and served as a model for all later equestrian statues. The equestrian statue of Niccolò da Tolentino beside
it was made by Andrea del Castagno (1456). The round, stained glass windows at the base of the dome, designed by some of the most famous artists of the 14th century, are very beautiful, and the
impressive frescos of the Last Judgment, with which the dome built by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari from 1572-79 is painted. The coloured and glazed teracotta reliefs above the entrances to the
two sacristies, like the bronze door to the New Sacristy on the left of the main altar, were made by Luca della Robbia (1444-69). It was in this sacristy on Easter Sunday 1478 that Lorenzo II The
Magnificent hid from the assassins of the rival Pazzi family. Giuliano de'Medici, his brother, was killed in front of the main altar. The famous choir lofts made by Donatello and Luca della Robbia
were originally situated above the sacristy doors. Now, like Michelangelo's marble Pietà which once stood in the left side chapel, they are in the Cathedral Museum which is definitely worth a visit.
A staircase to the right of the main entrance leads up to the remains of the early Christian predecessor church of Santa Reparata, excavated in 1966, where Brunelleschi is also buried. In 2000, a
skeleton discovered there was definitively identified as the remains of Giotto (1267-1337), which was laid to rest beside Brunelleschi.
Beautiful to behold
From outside, the Cathedral, like the baptistery, is clad with white Carrara and green Prato marble. The previously unadorned front side was given its Neo-Gothic façade only in 1887. Alongside the
Cathedral is the campanile (bell tower) designed by Giotto and built from 1334-59. Because of its harmonious proportions and colours, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Italy. It too
is clad with white, red and green marble in Incrustation style. The lower part is decorated with 54 "flattened" reliefs from Andra Pisano's studio, while in the niches above there are saints,
prophets and sybils designed by Donatello, amongst others (copies only, originals are in the Cathedral Museum).
It is not too difficult to climb the bell tower: 414 easy steps lead up to the balustrade of the flat roof, and the view is fascinating.
Piazza del Duomo
Mon-Wed, fr: 10:00 - 17:00
Thurs, Sat: 10:00 - 16:30
Sun: 13:30 - 16:45
- Almost all roads lead to the Cathedral, the dome of which dominates the skyline and also offers a breathtaking view of the city. Interesting insights of the 'inner structure' of the