The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in English “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers”
It is typical Italian Gothic building.
The cathedral was built on the site of the seventh century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
The new cathedral symbolized Florence’s growing importance and was to be significantly larger than its predecessor.
It was designed to be the world’s largest Catholic church.
The cathedral was begun at the end of the thirteenth century by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the fifteenth century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi.
One of the most significant architectural achievements of the entire Renaissance was undoubtedly the construction of the dome over the Florence Cathedral.
Brunelleschi managed to create the enormous dome without supports thanks to an ingenious design which consisted of an inner shell made of bricks with a herringbone pattern and a horizontal stone chain, which reduced stress and allowed the weight to be evenly distributed.
The structure of the dome is truly imposing. The impost, rising to a height of 35.5 meters (116.4 feet) above the tambour, is about 54 meters (177 feet) above ground level. The distance between the two opposite edges of the octagonal base is around 35 meters (115 feet). The height of the lantern that tops it, including the copper sphere, is a little over 22 meters (72 feet).
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 nineteenth century Gothic Revival facade by Emilio De Fabris.
One of the most remarkable features of the outside of the building is the so called “Porta della Mandorla“(north) (della mandorla = almond) that was given this name because of the large aureole around the figure of the Virgin sculptured also by Nanni di Banco among others.
The cathedral’s interior is less colorful and decorations were kept to a minimum. The exception is the fresco depicts the Last Judgment on the dome’s interior, painted between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari.
The Gothic interior is vast and gives an empty impression. The relative bareness of the church corresponds with the austerity of religious life, as preached by Girolamo Savonarola.
Most of the splendid stained glass windows were made between 1434 and 1455 to the designs of famous artists like Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello. The wooden inlays on the Sacristy’s cupboards were designed by Brunelleschi and by other artists, including Antonio del Pollaiolo.
The bell tower of Santa Maria del Fiore also known as Giotto’s Campanile is 84.7 meters (277.8 feet) in height and about 15 meters (49 feet) wide, it is the most eloquent testimony of fourteenth-century Florentine Gothic architecture which, though with a vertical momentum, does not abandon the principle of solidity. It was begun by Giotto in 1334, carried on after his death by Andrea Pisano, and finished in 1359 by Francesco Talenti, who created the large windows at the upper levels.
The many sculptures made specifically for the cathedral (many of which have now been moved to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) comprise also the Lunettes by Luca della Robbia above the doors of the Mass Sacristies. The large Pieta by Michelangelo has instead been removed and transferred to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.