Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) - the world's largest stone dome
Location show on map
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Florence, Italy
Date of build
September 9, 1296 - begin of construction
1436 - construction completed
The present Cathedral was built on the site of the Santa Reparata Church standing here in the 7th century, whose remains can be seen in the crypt.
"Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Flowers" symbolizes the growing importance of Florence and is much larger than its predecessor. It was designed as the largest Catholic church in the world.
Construction began at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio and the exterior dominant dome was added in the 15th century according to a design by Filippo Brunelleschi, which was one of the most significant architectural achievements of the entire Renaissance.
After more than 100 years from the start of construction, the City of Florence ordered a competition for the dome. When Brunelleschi took part in the competition, he was the only one to come up with an idea that did not concern wood, which attracted the attention of the judges. This solution saved more than 400 trees and did not require so much manpower and time.
Brunelleschi was a goldsmith and had no previous architectural training, moreover, when he was born, the construction of the cathedral had been going on for 80 years and nobody had an idea to finish the cathedral roof. His knowledge of blacksmithing and his sense of aesthetics and practicality used Brunelleschi to find a solution and build a masterpiece that is still impressive today.
The size of the dome and its structure are impressive. Brunelleschi managed to create a huge dome without supports thanks to an ingenious design that consisted of an inner shell made of bricks with a herringbone pattern and a horizontal stone chain, which reduced stress and allowed for an even weight distribution.
Being the third highest cathedral in the world, the building is 153 meters long, 90 meters wide and 90 meters high to the base of the dome. Priority belongs to St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, second place is occupied by St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The width of the naves of the cathedral is 38 meters.
This world's largest brick dome was built with more than 4 million bricks, weighing over 40,000 tons in total. It has a diameter of 45.5 meters and is 114.5 meters high. Its construction took only 16 years (1420-1436).
The building actually consists of two domes. Currently only the tiles of the outer shell are visible from outside. Between it and the ingenious construction there are stairs. While climbing the 436 steps of the stairs, you can see the original brick layouts and see the original herringbone pattern.
The exterior of the basilica is covered with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, borders on white and has a sophisticated 19th century facade of Gothic revival by Emilio De Fabris.
The three-nave interior of the cathedral is less colorful and minimalist in detail. The exception is a fresco depicting the Last Judgement on the interior of the dome, painted between 1572 and 1579, by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari.
The basilica projection resembles the plan of the Latin cross, where the transept is replaced by an octagonal presbytery surrounded by three apsides in which five small apsides are built in from the inside.
The magnificent stained-glass windows located here were mostly made between 1434 and 1455. The designers are famous artists, including Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello.
The famous brown door on the Baptistery, known as the Gates of Paradise, was made by the winner of a national competition in 1401. Many years before the dome itself was built, a competition was held to decorate the eastern door of the Baptistery. Each contestant got the same materials and the same amount of bronze for the door. The two finalists were young 23-year-old Fillippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, who were both trained metalworkers and goldsmiths. They also liked the same biblical scene for the front door - the scene where Abraham kills his son. Ultimately, he won the classic Ghiberti style. After many years, Michelangelo commented that the door looked like the gates of paradise, thus giving it that name.
The bell tower adjacent to the cathedral, known as Campanile Giotta, is 84.7 meters high and about 15 meters wide. It is the most eloquent testimony of the fourteenth-century Florentine Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1334 with Giotto, followed by Andrea Pisano after his death, and was completed in 1359 by Francesco Talenti, who created large windows on higher levels.
In 1578 the unfinished facade was demolished and only after numerous competitions, in 1871 the Emilia de Fabris project was chosen. The cathedral was not finally completed until nearly 600 years later, when the facade was completed in 1887.
The name of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is derived from the symbol of the city of Florence, that is a lily ("fiore" in Italian means "flower").
Santa Maria del Fiore is located in the cathedral complex in Piazza del Duomo, which also includes the Baptistery and Campanile Giotta. The entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Official website: http://www.museumflorence.com
"And when I thought of Florence, it was like a miracle city embalmed and like a corolla, because it was called the city of lilies and its cathedral, St. Mary of the Flowers." - Marcel Proust, Swann's Way