Florence Cathedral

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church ( Duomo ) of Florence, Italy, begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered 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 facade by Emilio De Fabris. The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting the region of Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy's largest churches, and until the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

The decoration of the exterior of the cathedral, begun in the 14th century, was not completed until 1887 when the polychrome marble facade was completed to the design of Emilio De Fabris. The floor of the church was laid in marble tiles in the 16th century. The exterior walls are faced in alternate vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble from Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena (red), Lavenza and a few other places. These marble bands had to repeat the already existing bands on the walls of the earlier adjacent baptistery the Battistero di San Giovanni and Giotto's Bell Tower. There are two lateral doors, the Doors of the Canonici (south side) and the Door of the Mandorla (north side) with works of art of Nanni di Banco, Donatello, and Jacopo della Quercia. The six lateral windows, notable for their delicate tracery and ornaments, are separated by pilasters. Only the four windows closest to the transept admit light; the other two are merely ornamental. The clerestory windows are round, a common feature in Italian Gothic. 

The whole plan forms a Latin cross. The nave and aisles are separated by wide pointed Gothic arches resting on composite piers. The dimensions of the building are enormous: length 153 metres (502 ft), width 38 metres (124 ft), width at the crossing 90 metres (295 ft). The height of the arches in the aisles is 23 metres (75 ft). The height from pavement to the opening of the lantern in the dome is also 90 metres (295 ft). Dome Section of the dome of Florence Cathedral The dome Dome seen from the Bell Tower By the beginning of the fifteenth century, after a hundred years of construction, the structure was still missing its dome. The basic features of the dome had been designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1367. His brick model, 4.6 metres (15 ft) high 9.2 metres (30 ft) long, was standing in a side isle of the unfinished building, and had long ago become sacrosanct. It called for an octagonal dome higher and wider than any that had ever been built, with no external buttresses to keep it from spreading and falling under its own weight. The commitment to reject traditional Gothic buttresses had been made when Neri di Fioravante's model was chosen over a competing one by Giovanni di Lapo Ghini.


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Building Activity

  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated a digital reference and updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com