The Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore

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Creator:  Filippo Brunelleschi
Title:  The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore
Date:  1436
Photo:  Elizabeth Feldbauer

One of the most iconic images of Florence, the dome of its cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore hovers over the city as a cultural, geographic and historical reference point.  The dome sits atop a majestic cathedral clad in pink, green and white marble.

The cathedral was designed in the late 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio on the site of the former church of Santa Reparata.  However, as of 1417 the new cathedral was still without a dome.  As Ross King states “the unbuilt dome of Santa Maria del Fiore had become the greatest architectural puzzle of the age”.  (King, 5)

The building of the cathedral was done under the auspices of the Opera de Santa Maria del Fiore and the guild of the Calimala.  There were resolutions in place in 1368 dictating that the builders of the dome must adhere to a model designed and approved in 1367. (Fanelli and Fanelli, 12)

Thus, when another competition to complete the dome was held in 1418 the candidates had to adhere to a groundwork already in place.  Brunelleschi and Ghiberti jointly won the contest after each submitted separate models for their designs for the new dome. (Macadam, 52)  However, over the course of the building of the dome, Ghiberti took a secondary role, and was soon replaced by Brunelleschi as the sole architect of the dome and lantern of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Works Cited:

Fanelli, G and Fanelli, M. Brunelleschi’s Cupola, Past and Present of an Architectural Masterpiece.  Mandragora s.r.l. 2004
King, R.  Brunelleschi’s Dome. Penguin.  2000
Macadam, A. Blue Guide Florence. Somerset Books. 2011

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