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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Basilica di Sanata Maria Del Fiore (the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower), more famously known as ‘the Duomo’ or Florence Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic Church in the center of Florence, Italy.
HistoryThe church was made on the grounds of a 5th-century cathedral that had fallen into ruin. Florence Cathedral was planned to house the population of flourishing Florence, which was overwhelming the other churches in the city in the late 13th century. Its construction began in 1296 and not completed until 1436. Construction would have been completed in a much more timely manner, had not the head architects and engineers passed away during their work and, perhaps more importantly, the enigma that came with constructing the ambitious, massive octagonal dome been solved. With a leap of faith, the city began to build the massive church with no plans on how the dome would be built. The Florentines were inspired by the concrete domes of ancient Rome, but did not have experience or examples of brick octagonal domes, especially of this scale. The dome of this church would be the first of its kind and would tower above the rest of the city.
In addition to incomplete building plans and inconsistent architects, the generations building the Duomo also faced financial troubles and the Black Death of 1348. Despite these setbacks, progress was still made to the cathedral’s complex. Traditional Italian cathedrals are a complex of three parts; the basilica for mass, the Baptistery, and a bell tower. The Baptistery of Florence had long since been constructed across from the Duomo’s construction site (completed in 1128), but was being decorated with bronze doors during the building stage of the cathedral. In the mid-14th century, Andrew Pisano added the south doors which depict biblical scenes, and in 1401, a series of competitions were held to complete the remaining doors. The competitions drew renowned artists to compete for the honor of decorating the building, and drew much excitement from the city. The bell tower, or Campanile, was designed by Giotto di Bondone, a celebrated painter, in 1334. Giotto died in 1337, but his plans for the Campanile were followed and completed by 1359.
Finally, in 1418, the dome was ready to be built. As there was still no structural plans, the city held another competition for artists and architects. Lorenzo Ghilberti and Filippo Brunelleschi were the two main competitors and had an intense rivalry. Brunelleschi won the commission, but for brief periods of time, Ghiberti also took control of the project. Construction began in 1420 and ended in 1436.
The interior of the cathedral is designed in the Gothic style, and by far the most impressive part of the interior is the frescoes on the inner surface of the dome. A fresco painting is a form of art popular in the Renaissance which required the artist to quickly paint in wet plaster (like Leonardo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel 's ceiling). The fresco was done in the course of 9 years, started by Giorgio Vasari in 1568 and finished by Federico Zuccari in 1579. The painted dome depicts the Last Judgement.
The Duomo is still the largest brick dome in existence and is an iconic landmark of Florence.
Visiting the Florence CathedralEntrance to the cathedral is free, although there may be a line (it moves quickly). If you are in a large group, you may be requested to rent audio tour guides; this is an effort to keep the noise level in the cathedral down. Besides Christian holidays, the cathedral opens at 10 AM and closes between 4 PM and 5 PM. The line to enter the cathedral is on the right side of the façade (the opposite side of the dome!).
There is also another line on the north side for visitors who wish to climb to the top of the dome! A €10 ($12) OPA Pass (which is good for all the monuments in the Piazza Duomo) will allow you access, but the last admission is 40 minutes prior to the closing of the rest of the cathedral. This part of the cathedral has different operating hours depending on the day of the week and when there is a holiday. The stairs up to the top of the dome are narrow, stuffy, warm (especially in the Italian summer) and extensive—there are over 400 steps and no elevator! But the views of the frescoes and of the city are well worth the effort!
If it is after hours, a walk around the Duomo, bell tower, and baptistery is still breathtaking.
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Author: workwoman. Last updated: Jun 30, 2015