In 2020 Florence Commemorated 600 Years of its Landmark Dome.
Construction of the record-breaking dome of Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, began in August 1420 after years of irresolution. At the time of its construction, the Cathedral of Florence was the largest church in the world. It was built at a time of great prosperity and represented the city’s great economic growth and artistic achievements. The only problem was that its completion seemed to be an impossible task. The ambitious project to rebuild the Cathedral begun in the late 13th century, and later amplified, called for a structure crowned by a massive, octagonal dome of unprecedented proportions soaring over 300 feet in the air with a diameter of over 497 yards (nearly 1,493 feet). A dome of this size had never been built since antiquity.
Before the construction of the Florence Cathedral dome, domes were usually built in the Middle Ages with centering, a wooden framework upon which the building material was laid down during construction. But this system could not be used here since the construction of the wooden framework itself was impossible. The dome of Florence Cathedral had to be built at a great height above ground level and was to cover an incredibly wide span. The wooden centering would not be able to stand on its own, let alone support the weight of the construction materials. Another issue was the actual weight of the dome. A dome of this great size and weight would exert too much pressure on the church structure below, and external buttresses were not an option.
It was a goldsmith with no prior experience in building structures on such a grand scale who came up with the solution. Filippo Brunelleschi, the first Renaissance architect, built the dome without the use of the support of centering during construction. The dome was completed in 1434. The marble lantern at the top, also designed by Brunelleschi, was built after his death in 1446.
Join me on a tour to discover the history and the secrets behind the construction of this incredible structure and other landmark sites in Florence.