Florence Cathedral

Published date: 09/07/2024
  • Location: Cathedral Of Santa Maria Del Fiore, Santa Maria, Basilicate, Italy
When the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore was built, it was the world’s largest church, able to house 30,000 worshippers and emblematic of Florence’s political and economic dominance.

Building work began on the cathedral in 1296, although it was not consecrated until 1436. Also known as the Duomo, or Florence Cathedral, it is notable for its stained-glass windows; its ornate green, red, and white marble facade; its collection of paintings and statuary by Renaissance masters; and its world-famous dome. The cathedral has also been the seat of the Council of Florence since 1439 and the place where religious reformer and instigator of the Bonfire of the Vanities, Girolamo Savonarola, preached. The cathedral has even witnessed murder. In 1478, as part of the Pazzi conspiracy, Giuliano di Piero de’ Medici, coruler of Florence, was stabbed and killed by men backed by his rivals the archbishop of Pisa and Pope Sixtus IV. His brother and coruler Lorenzo the Magnificent was also stabbed but escaped and later had the archbishop hanged.

The construction of the building—built on the site of the old cathedral of Santa Reparata—was overseen by several architects, beginning with Arnolfo di Cambio. In 1331 an institution was created to supervise the works, and in 1334 painter and architect Giotto was appointed as master builder, assisted by architect Andrea Pisano. After Giotto’s death in 1337, a number of architects took the lead, and plans were made to enlarge the original project and build a dome. In 1418 a competition was held to find a designer for the dome; it was won by sculptor and architect Filippo Brunelleschi. His innovative design was self-supporting, requiring no scaffolding. It was completed in 1436 and remains a masterpiece of ingenuity. (Carol King)

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