The very nucleus of Florence where its history and art beats can be found between Piazza del Duomo
and Piazza della Signoria
Among Florence's landmarks is the Duomo of Florence
, sometimes known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
, and which is listed as one of the three icons of Italy, together with the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower (tel. 055 21 53 80; www.duomofirenze.it
open 10am-5pm Mon, Wed and Fri, 10am-3.30pm Thu, 10am-4.45pm Sat,
10am-3.30pm 1st Sat each month, 1.30-4.45pm Sun). There is a mass in
English at 5pm on Saturdays.
Its façade is exquisite in pink, white and green marble. The construction was started by Arnolfo di Cambio
at the end of the 13th century. The work was finished in a century and a half. In the 19th century its neo-Gothic
façade was added as the original had had been destroyed in the 1500s.
A clear example of Gothic architecture is the southern side where there is the 14th century High Gothic Canons’door leading to the dome.
posed a great challenge, but Brunelleschi’s work was successful. The
dome is reached by 460 steps. Started in 1420,
it was finished 16 years later. This masterpiece of engineering made of four
million bricks is 91m in height by almost 50m in width.
ascend the spiral staircase from a balustrade you get a bird’s eye
view of the choir stalls and the stained glass windows Donatello, Andrea del
Castagno, Paolo Uccello and Lorenzo Ghiberti
created. Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari ‘s 16th century frescos representing the Last Judgment
can also be viewed form here.
The whole cathedral´s interior stretching 155m by 90m is not heavily
decorated and many pieces have been moved to the Museo dell‘Opera
del Duomo in the same square. A point worth making is that its decoration is principally secular as not
all funds were provided by the church. Secular works include frescoes
of mercenaries, Niccolò da Tolentino
and Sir John Hawkwood
made by Andrea del Castagno and Uccello in the 15th century.
The Mass Sacristy
features stunning panels of inlaid wood which Benedetto and Giuliano da
Maiano created. Luca della Robbia’s bronze doors open
onto it and are enthroned by a glazed terracotta Resurrection
Beneath the cathedral lie vestiges of the 5th century Chiesa di Santa Reparata
which are visible in the crypt accessible via a staircase off the
main entrance (open 10am, to 5pm Mon, Wed and Fri, to 4.45pm Sat).Giotto’s bell tower
(open 8.30am-6.50pm) provides stunning views of Florence once you´ve scaled its 414
steps. At the bell tower´s base are a row of reproduced bass
reliefs which copied Pisano’s original pieces. They represent the
creation of man and arts and different activities. The planets, the
cardinal virtues, the arts and the seven sacraments are on the second
tier. The superior levels are embellished with reproductions of
sculptures of prophets and sibyls
by Donatello and other artists. The originals can be admired at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
original pieces that once embellished the The Duomo, Baptistry
and the Bell Tower are housed in the outstanding Museo dell’Opera del Duomo,
a real must on your itinerary. (www.operaduomo.firenze.it
; Piazza del Duomo 9; open 9am, to 6.50pm Mon-Sat, to 1pm Sun). Its courtyard exhibits 7 original panels of the Baptistry ‘s Door of Paradise
the courtyard is a room housing Arnoldo di Cambio’s statues that would
decorate the Gothic façade had it been finished. Among the works by di
Cambio are Pope Bonifacio VIII, the Virgin and Child
and Santa Reparata
. Also here is the large scale statue of Saint John by Donatello made at
the beginning of the 15th century. There are Baccio
Bandinelli and Giovanni Bandini’s carved marble panels (1547) that
adorned the choir, truly exquisite and very interesting to compare in terms of style.
by Michelangelo, a landmark of the museum, is on the landing. According
to Vasari’s words, Michelangelo, unhappy with the result he was getting in the sculpture, detached one of Jesus’ arms and legs. It was one of his
students who reassembled the parts and finished the sculpture.
On the first floor are two organ lofts artistically decorated by Donatello and Luca della Robbia each. The Prophet Habakkuk
carved by Donatello which once embellished the bell tower is here as well as Donatellos ‘s grief-stricken Mary Magdalen
e made in wood. Donatello’s work was finished in different periods.
dates back to the 11th century. The bas reliefs on
the gilded bronze entrance doors are creations by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The
competition he had entered at the beginning of the 15th century was won
by both him and Filippo Brunelleschi, who, disappointed with the
result, finally left the project. Both artists’ pieces are located in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, where one can see
Brunelleschi’s decision could not have come at at a better time as Ghiberti’s
piece certainly the more stunning.
The 10 panels by Ghiberti are themed around biblical subjects and took him more than 20 years to complete. They were called Gate of the Paradise
after Michelangelo’s words defining them as such. The original gates are in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
three groups of doors into the baptistry were commissioned to tell the
story of human beings and Redemption. The beginning is depicted by Andrea Pisano
south door telling the life of Saint John the Baptist. It took him 28
panels. Among the 28 panels Ghiberti made for the north door, 20 are
devoted to the New Testament, and the lower 8 to the Apostles and
fathers of the church.
The baptistry sits on the vestiges of a
Roman temple and is covered in white and green marble stripes, in keeping with the adjacent cathedral. Its
existence was first recorded at the end of the 9th century yet it is
believed to be even older. Roman columns with Corinthian
capitals are also part of its structure. There are extraordinary
mosaics in different parts of the interior. Antipope John XXIII
lies in his tomb near the apse. This antipope called Baldassare Cossa
had given the Medici family a hand in order to be involved in papacy bank accounts.
This fact turned the Medici into an influential and rich family. His
last wish was to lie in the baptistery and the Medici could not but
fulfil this request. Donatello made the perfectly sculpted tomb for him.