florence, italy cathedral: brunelleschi's duomo of florence, giotto's campanile

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  Florence Cathedral: the Duomo of Florence and Giotto's Campanile  

Address: Piazza Duomo, Florence

The Florence Duomo is dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore and is typical of Italian Gothic architecture. duomo florenceThe present building was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio (c. 1245-1302), one of the greatest architect- sculptors of his age, who considerably enlarged the existing structure. This was finished in around 1367 and was completely covered with coloured marbles like the earlier Baptistery, although the uncompleted facade was given its covering in the nineteenth century. The Cupola remained unfinished, and in 1421 the polygonal base was erected. Two architects won the competition to design the dome, Lorenzo Ghiberti (1368-1445) and Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), but it was Brunelleschi who actually built it using remarkable technical knowledge to achieve the uniquely beautiful results we see today. Completed in 1436, the Cupola is the most characteristic feature of the Florentine skyline, symbolising a great cultural tradition and the city's civic awareness. One of the most notable features of the exterior apart from the apses is the beautiful Porta della Mandorla on the north facade, so-called from the large aureole around the Assumption of the Virgin (mandorla = almond) sculptured by Nanni di Banco (1380/90-1421). Inside are several important works of art, offset by the architecture's taut Gothic forms, completely different from medieval buildings north of the Alps. Of primary importance are the two frescoes on the right-hand wall showing the equestrian monuments of the "condottieri" John Hawkwood and Niccolò da Tolentino by Paolo Uccello (1436) and Andrea del Castagno (1456). The fresco decoration of the clock on the inside wall, showing four vigorous heads of male saints, are by Paolo Uccello. duomo florence Many of the sculptures from the Duomo are now kept in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo (see separate entry) but others are still in place, such as the lunettes by Luca della Robbia above the doors of the Sacristy or the bronze door of the Mass Sacristy. The great Pietà by Michelangelo (c. 1553) has been temporarily removed.

The splendid stained glass windows should not be forgotten, mainly executed from 1434-1445 to the designs of such important artists as Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello. Also notable are the wooden inlays of the Sacristy cupboards to the designs of Brunelleschi, Antonio Del Pollaiolo and others.

The Cupola's interior remained undecorated until Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) and Federico Zuccari (c. 1540-1609) painted a huge and not entirely satisfactory Last Judgement there. The "Cupolone" or huge dome remains, with the cathedral bell-tower known as the "Campanile di Giotto", the most striking feature of any view of the city. Giotto, the famous painter and architect designed the tower, although at his death in 1337 only the lowest part was complete. Work was continued under Andrea Pisano (c. 1290-1349) and Francesco Talenti (active 1325-1369) who completed the structure repeating the decoration of marble relieved by windows; the traditional pointed finial was never added. The sculptured marble panels illustrate a cycle centred around the theme of the order of the universe.

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