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Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italie



Florence Cathedral, formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral of Florence, Italy. It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, bordered by white, and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The cathedral complex, in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major tourist attraction of Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy's largest churches, and until the development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence, whose archbishop is Giuseppe Betori.
Santa Maria del Fiore was built on the site of Florence's second cathedral dedicated to Saint Reparata; the first was the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze whose first building was consecrated as a church in 393 by St. Ambrose of Milan. The ancient structure, founded in the early 5th century and having undergone many repairs, was crumbling with age, according to the 14th-century Nuova Cronica of Giovanni Villani, and was no longer large enough to serve the growing population of the city. Other major Tuscan cities had undertaken ambitious reconstructions of their cathedrals during the Late Medieval period, such as Pisa and particularly Siena where the enormous proposed extensions were never completed.

The new church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and approved by city council in 1294. Di Cambio was also architect of the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio. He designed three wide naves ending under the octagonal dome, with the middle nave covering the area of Santa Reparata. The first stone was laid on 9 September 1296, by Cardinal Valeriana, the first papal legate ever sent to Florence. The building of this vast project was to last 140 years; Arnolfo's plan for the eastern end, although maintained in concept, was greatly expanded in size.
Work on the building site slowed down when Arnolfo died in around 1310, only resuming for good in 1331 when the magistrates of the Arte della Lana, or Guild of Wool Manufacturers and Merchants, took over responsibility for the building. Giotto was appointed master of the works in 1334, devoting most of his time to the erection of the bell tower but he died three years later. His post was filled by Andrea Pisano until 1348, the year of the Black Death which slashed the city's population from 90,000 to 45,000.

Work continued, despite constant interruptions, until a competition was finally run in 1367. The competition was won by four architects and four painters, including Andrea di Bonaiuto, Benci and Andrea di Cione, Taddeo Gaddi and Neri di Fioravante.

Francesco Talenti held the post of master of the works from 1349 to 1359, completing the bell tower and preparing a new design with the assistance of Giovanni di Lapo Ghini (from 1360 to 1369). The nave was fully vaulted by 1378 and the side aisles by 1380. The tribunes, and possibly also the drum for the dome, were built between 1380 and 1421.

The marble cladding and the decoration of the side entrances continued apace in the meantime, leading to the erection of the Porta dei Canonici to the south and the Porta della Mandorla to the north, the latter being crowned by a relief of the Assumption of the Virgin (1414–21), a graceful work by Nanni di Banco.

The other two doors are no less elegant: the door of the bell tower to the south, in the second bay, has relief work by the school of Andrea Pisano, while the Porta della Balla to the north was named after an old gate in the city walls leading out to the Borgo di Balla (now Via dei Servi) where the Arte della Lana had its drying sheds.
The cathedral's dignified east end consists of three large tribunes lit by Gothic two-light windows. Four exedrae, or blind tribunes, adorn the base of the drum.

19th century intervention – consisting primarily of new choir lofts and the simplification of Bandinelli's choir, from which the entire columned superstructure and the statues on the altar were removed – completed the decoration of the cathedral. But the most important operation of all was the construction of a new façade by Emilio De Fabris and his assistants between 1871 and 1884 in imitation of the decorative Florentine style of the 14th century that we find on the bell tower and the side doors of the cathedral.
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  • The Duomo of Florence - Mystery of the Renaissance
    Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, in the heart of Florence, is one of the city's most famous buildings and a Renaissance jewel. The building was built between 1296 and 1436. The most remarkable part of the cathedral is its dome, the largest in the world with a diameter of nearly 45 meters. Its construction by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, from 1420 onwards, was a real feat for the time: the octagonal base was too wide to model the vault on a wooden hanger. But for fear of being robbed of his process, the architect took his secret to the grave.


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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.