Before I left for our semester in Florence, I had thought I would like to research the textiles and fabrics that played such a large part in the wealth and power of Florence during the Renaissance, as my background is in costume supervision. However, I quickly became more interested in and fascinated by the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and its wondrous dome.
One of the most iconic images of Florence is the polychrome marble facade of the main cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and its immense brick red cupola. I had been to Florence twice before, and was always fascinated by the Duomo. From the moment I arrived back in Florence for our late spring semester I was irresistably drawn to it again.
The Duomo is at the physical and cultural heart of Florence, and it soon became a talisman to me. I would make a point of walking past and photographing it almost daily, and never failed to be mesmerized by its beauty and power. It seemed like wherever I looked, there it was – glowing in the golden light of late afternoon, or shimmering after a day of rain. It seemed to hover over the city, casting its long shadow over the centuries.
It was from this sense of wonder that I started researching how this awe-inspiring dome came to be built, and became fascinated by the man who designed it, as well as the feats of engineering and architectural innovation that were involved in its construction. One day while climbing to the top of the cupola, I came across a graffito that said “Brunelleschi is Magic” and that statement really resonated with me. The more I learned about the building of the dome, the more it seemed like some act of magic had been involved.
With the dome as my starting point, I began to see references to it in paintings, sculptures, altarpieces, as well as other architectural elements designed by Brunelleschi throughout Florence. What follows is an exploration of the dome as it casts its shadow over history, culture, art and architecture, and a look at the far-reaching legacy of its creator, Filippo Brunelleschi.
It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to study in Florence, walking in the footsteps of countless scholars who have gone before me. Seeing the awe-inspiring art and architecture with our amazing professor Maria Antonia Rinaldi and experiencing the profound cultural heritage of Renaissance Italy with her as our guide was truly a once in a lifetime event. I was grateful to relive and remember many of those experiences while researching this project.