“I propose to build for eternity.” – Filippo Brunelleschi
The Santa Maria Del Fiore, or as it is popularly known worldwide, the Duomo Florence is an incredible feature of the skyline of Florence city. Along with being famous for its massive size and beauty, it is also known for its epic and long history spanning hundreds of years. It is a dome which is way ahead of its time. An architectural wonder indeed!
Now let us dig into some intriguing facts about this grandeur of a structure..
- The completion took about 140 years
The entire grand Duomo Florence was conceived in the year 1293. This was due to the amalgamated plans and ideas of a committee. The reason why it took so long to build it was because the dome’s roof was left exposed for years before the construction on it began.
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- Absence of technology
You’d be shocked to know that there was no technology present at that ancient period of time, and even then such an architectural masterpiece came to stand up due to mere knowledge of physics and the sheer hard work of people.
- There’s the largest masonry dome ever made on top of the cathedral
The Duomo Cathedral is the largest masonry structure ever built in the entire world. Why do you ask? Well, it weighs over 40,000 tons, is of almost the size of half a football field across at the base of it, is made over 4 million bricks, and stands at 10 stories high. Is that reason enough? I’m sure it is.
- The Duomo was built on top of a small church
On the very same ground which holds the Duomo Florence, there is still remains of a small original church that was built. It is called the Santa Reparata. This church was built between the 4th and 6th centuries and is a much more modest and smaller version of the grand cathedral.
- The Gates of Paradise seen in front of the cathedral was made by a winner of a huge competition held in the city
It turns out that a committee of Florence held a competition in order for the east doors of the baptistery to be decorated. Each contestant was given the same amount of bronze and enough materials and was asked to submit their plans within the mentioned guidelines. The two final contenders were Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, out of which the latter won due to his classical style, and hence made these two beautiful doors we now see in front of us. The name was given to it after Michelangelo quoted that “the doors seemed like the gates of paradise”.
- The Duomo Florence was built by a man who had no previous architectural training
Filippo Brunelleschi, the creator of this magnificent beauty, was a trained goldsmith. He had never built anything in his life before this project that astonishingly still stands in all its glory today.
- The cathedral had been under construction for about 80 years even before Brunelleschi was born!
The building grew grander and larger day by the day, defying the original plans. No one had a single clue regarding how a roof would we built right on the top. Even the artists who conceptualized the idea has no idea as to what can be done to build a dome. The reason why this conundrum had gone on for so long because the residents of Florence were determined to outdo the other cities in Tuscany no matter how long the building took to finish.
- The inspiration for the domed cathedral was the Pantheon in Rome
The Florentines were determined to have something similar to the Pantheon even though they didn’t actually know how to go about it. No architectural plans had been discovered for the Pantheon as such.
- Without a solution for sound design, the project of the Duomo was offered as a competition for the public
The Duomo’s construction had been going on for over 100 years. Afraid of being looked at as fools in front of their competitors, the officials of Florence finally offered a challenge to the public. This challenge asked the public for a cost-effective and possible solution to the problem. Brunelleschi was the only one who entered the competition with an idea that did not involve any major work, and this is how he caught the attention of the judges.
- The competition was won by Brunelleschi using a mere egg
At this point, Florence was completely desperate for a solution. The competition was won by Brunelleschi, without him even having to show his plans. He asked the entire public and even the judges to make an egg stand upright on the table. When everyone failed to do so, he smashed the bottom of the egg on the surface of the table, thus making it stand. This is how he ultimately won, without even having any prior experience in construction.