Maria del Fiore was constructed on the site of the old cathedral of Santa
Reparata, which had been built in the time of Bishop Zanobius in the early
decades of the 5th century. The initial project was to enlarge the original
cathedral, but in 1294 the Council of the Hundred opted for a completely
In 1296 the foundation stone for the new cathedral was laid and dedicated
to the Virgin with the name of Santa Maria del Fiore. The architect was
Arnolfo di Cambio. The old cathedral continued to be used while the new
one was being constructed, but finally, in 1375, it was definitively buried.
Arnolfo died in 1331 or 1332, which slowed down work, until the Arte della
Lana, the most powerful guild in Firenze, nominated Giotto as master
of works, and he began work on the construction of the nearby bell tower.
Giotto died in 1337 and others, including Francesco Talenti, took charge
of the Duomo project.
The cathedral was completed in 1415, with the exception of the dome, which
was designed by Brunelleschi, who produced an engineering masterpiece.
It was erected in just 15 years; first of all a bronze ball created by
Verrocchio was put on top of it, and then a cross, also in bronze. Pope
Eugenio IV consecrated the cathedral in 1436 on the occasion of the Council
of Firenze which was then underway.
The facade (the one we see today) was redone in the 19th century according
to a design by Emilio de Fabris.
The interior has many monuments and other works of art, including the
monument to Giotto by Benedetto da Maiano, the portrait of Dante by Domenico
di Michelino (based on a drawing by Baldovinetti), and a tondo with a
bust of Brunelleschi by Andrea Cavalcanti. The clock dial is by Paolo
Uccello and the round glass windows were based on a cartoon by Ghiberti.
The holy water stoup (now a copy) is dated circa 1380.
Behind the main altar by Baccio Bandinelli, to the left, there is the
sacristy, where Lorenzo the Magnificent took refuge during the Pazzi Conspiracy
In the subterranean area below Santa Maria del Fiore, it is possible
to visit the old cathedral of Santa Reparata.
The duomo of Firenze, 153 metres long and 38 wide, is the fourth-largest
Like the cathedrals of Firenze's rival cities, Santa Maria del Fiore
was built with a Latin cross plan, with a basilica nave, three vast arms,
and a dome; the latter starts 50 metres from the ground.
The cathedral looks out onto a large piazza called Piazza del Duomo,
where the traditional rite of the Scoppio del Carro is conducted every
year at Easter..
Picture by Sandro Santioli
Translated by Jeremy Carden