Florence Cathedral

Also known as Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore but more commonly referred to as the Duomo. It was built over an already existing Church of Santa Reparata which had existed since the beginning of the Middle Ages. The new church was a symbol for Florence’s progress and status and was going to be bigger than the first church.


1. The Florence Cathedral

1296 was the starting year when Arnolfo di Cambio planned and got permission to build the Cathedral, but those plans were put on hold until 1357 because of political instability during the 1330s. The building plans of the Cathedral were changed several different times and the building construction took place from 1357-1378. In 1351 Francesco Talenti helped to enlarge the size of the church by lengthening the apses and the nave (church center).

One of the challenges of building the cathedral came with the dome itself. Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi competed against each other in 1418 but Brunelleschi won with his octagonal plan for the building. Both were given jobs as architects but only Brunelleschi accepted and became the lead architect. The dome was built between 1420-1436. It was known as the first ‘octagonal’ dome that had been constructed without the aid of a wooden support structure. It is often compared with the Pantheon which was similarly built without a wooden support structure. Brunelleschi had studied the Pantheon on his visits to Rome, but unlike the Pantheon which was circular, Brunelleschi’s design was octagonal.

Image  Image

2. Dome of Florence                                                            3. The Pantheon 

Brunelleschi died before the completion of the dome’s peak, and Michelozzi Michelozzo added the lantern at the peak of the dome in 1461, which was based on Brunelleschi’s designs. 


4. The Lantern

The interior of the dome is undecorated except the ceiling fresco illustrating the Last Judgment, painted by Frederico Zuccari and Giorgio Vasari.



5.The Last Judgement, Ceiling Fresco of The Duomo

In 1587 the cathedral’s façade was destroyed, and it was not until 1864 that another challenge was held to develop a new design. Emilio De Fabris was the winner and his project lasted from 1876 to 1887. The enormous bronze doors were added from 1899 to 1903.


6. Facade of Florence Cathedral

Some other unique features of the Florence Cathedral include the other architectural buildings nearby it. The Campanile, or bell tower, was created by Giotto di Bondone in 1334. In 1337 it was continued by Andre Pisano after Giotto’s death and was finally finished by Francesco Talenti.  It was finished in 1359 and is made out of Tuscan marble. There are reliefs that are made by Andrea Pisano in terra cotta. It has 414 steps that visitors can still climb today.



7. The Campanile (Bell Tower)

Another building known as the Baptistry is considered one of the oldest buildings, and was built before the Cathedral. It was built upon the base of a Roman building that could be dated back to the 6th century. In the 13th century the ceiling mosaics  of Bible scenes were created. During the 13th century the exterior of the Baptistry was adorned with green and white marble.


8. The Baptistry


9. The Baptistry Ceiling Mosaic

In 1336 the wooden south doors were changed to bronze doors crafted by Andrea Pisano who illustrated ecclesiastical scenes in a Gothic style.


10. South Doors of Baptistry

The other doors were not created until 1403 because of the disruption of a plague. Another competition for the design of the remaining doors resulted in Ghiberti’s design being chosen out of seven artists. Ghiberti’s competitor Brunelleschi has also become well known for the panels he created in the competition and today his work is noted as being the first Renaissance art because of his realistic perspective and proportions in figures and landscapes. 



11. The Sacrifice of Isaac (This was the panel for the competition, Brunelleschi on left, Ghiberti on right).

These doors of the Baptistry now have replicas of them and the real panels today are shown at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (a museum devoted to the history of the Florence Cathedral and its construction).

Some concluding Comments and Interesting Facts

-The Cathedral’s design overall is Romanesque, the Interior Vaulting is Gothic, the Dome is in the Renaissance style and the Façade is 19th Century.

-It took around 140 years to build it.

-Many of the designers of the building weren’t even masons, they were painters, sculptors and architects.

-Michelangelo once commented on Ghiberti’s doors as being the “Gates of Paradise”.


My pencil sketch of the Florence Cathedral

(I added color contrast to the paper in photoshop to give it an aged look)

Information Sources

1. http://www.aviewoncities.com/florence/duomo.htm

2. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/florence-duomo

3. Stokstad, Marilyn. A View of the West: Volume 1, Art History 3rd Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.

4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bWMpG5d-s8

5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwZrdWia8N0

Photo References

1.  http://schools.nashua.edu/myclass/lavalleev/Art%20History%20Pictures/ch19/19-17.jpg 

2. http://azothgallery.com/artcritiques/Early-Renaissance-lecture.htm

3. http://azothgallery.com/artcritiques/Early-Renaissance-lecture.htm

4. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_pO7c98Zx98c/TObMsl-1ulI/AAAAAAAAAlE/xGCccC4ONl8/s1600/309.JPG

5. http://community.dur.ac.uk/paul.hodgkinson/wordpress/wp-content/photos/DuomoCeiling2.jpg

6. http://drfumblefinger.com/wrdprs/wp-content/gallery/florence-2011/florence-2011-004.jpg

7. http://bagnidilucca.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/img_0382.jpg

8. http://www.officeoftourism.org/img/europe/ita/tos-fi-battistero.JPG

9. http://www.museumsinflorence.com/foto/Battistero/image/stribig.jpg

10. http://www.museumsinflorence.com/foto/Battistero/image/porta1.jpg     




One thought on “Florence Cathedral

  1. I really like your presentation, you have lots of good information here. It is really cool to learn that the structure of Florence Cathedral, and also the details of it are my favorite part to know. Good job on your sketch, I like that you edited it to fit the topic you are presenting.

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