TUSCANY - Florence
File : Cathedral 0

Interno Cattedrale S. Maria del FioreFIRENZE Cathedral 0

Within the imposing Florence city planning started in 1285 under Arnolfo di Cambio’s direction, the fifth 8 kilometres long circle of walls was built. Then, the area of the ancient St. Reparata cathedral, once against the fourth circle, became central, as the new walls incorporated a very large zone in the northern part of the city. Thus, a vast religious pole was created, linked to the political pole of Piazza della Signoria, and dominated by a new impressive cathedral that in its plan included the old St. Reparata building, almost pulled down.

Arnolfo began the works of the new cathedral dedicated to S. Maria del Fiore in 1285. Interesting is the iconographic solution adopted in the apsidal area. Both the apse and the transept heads consist each of five radial chapels forming a clover motif. Arnolfo’s project was not modified neither by Giotto, named master builder in 1334, nor by his successor Andrea Pisano. Giotto realized some registers of the contiguous bell tower projected by Arnolfo, then finished by Pisano.

The works at the cathedral started again only later, in 1356 by Francesco Talenti. He made considerable changes to the original project in order to obtain a more imposing building. The naves were divided into only four larger and higher bays; the apsidal zone was reorganized to the new grandiose structure. The building was continued by Talenti and his successor Lapo Ghini up to 1421, with the realization of the roof, the tribunes and the tambour.

There was a competition in 1418 to see who would solve the problem of turning the large dome without supporting it with a centre. The debate was between the two outstanding artists, Ghiberti and Brunelleschi that had already faced themselves in the competition for the second gate of the Baptistery. Brunelleschi’s solution then adopted based on the creation of two self-supporting domes for the herring-bone bricked structure and hinged each other by arches. The first project of a full centred dome was modified and the new height was of a 2 to 1 ratio. Such dimensions made it symbolically "erta sopra e cieli, ampia da coprire con sua ombra tutti e popoli toscani"(‘raised upon the sky, so large to cover all the Tuscan people with its shade’) .

The dome was completed after Brunelleschi’s death with the magnificent lantern he had projected. Arnolfi’s façade was left unfinished, just half raised up and pulled down in 1587 to be replaced with a new late Renaissance one. But it remained unfinished until the years 1871-87, when E. De Fabris, a member of the "historic restoration", drew a façade ‘a salienti’ that takes up the motif of the outer walls with a black and white ‘tarsia’ decoration.

The considerable height, scanned inside both by the pillars and by the pointed-arch vaults is slew down by the balcony, running along the corbels all through the side walls. At the bottom, the magnificent tribune opens up, dominated by the Brunelleschi’s dome.

The rare high mullioned windows opened in the naves are counterbalanced by the double register of thirty-two mullioned windows opened in the radial chapels of the tribune and by the imposing lights of the round windows in the tambour. With the fervent restarting of the works in the building coincided the demanding project of glazing supervised by Ghiberti with the presence of the most famous glaziers in Florence, from Niccolò di Piero Tedesco to Bernardo di Francesco, from Agnolo Gaddi to Guido di Niccolò. As far as the cartoons are concerned apart from the same Ghiberti, , there was also the collaboration of Paolo Uccello and Donatello, Andrea del Castagno.

The cathedral, together with its Baptistery and Bell Tower, has always been one of the main and most attractive poles for the outstanding artists: Paolo Uccello, A. del Castagno, Luca della Robbia, Donatello. The same Northern Sacristy, named Sacrestia delle Messe, was furnished following Baldovinetti and Pollaiolo’s drawings, and realized by artists such as Benedetto da Maiano and Mino da Fiesole.

The works collected in the adjacent Museo dell’Opera show the long artistic history of the cathedral. From Arnolfo di Cambio’s sculptures for the façade, to the hexagonal panels by A. Pisano for the Bell Tower, to the models in wood of Brunelleschi’s Dome and the two choirs by Luca della Robbia and Donatello already above the front doors of the Sacristies.


Plan of the windows in the apsidal area