Cathedral of Florence
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Museum's plan

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was completed in 1434 and is the most important landmark in Florence,
as well as being the fourth largest church in the world.


The typical Italian Gothic building, the Cathedral of Florence, is dedicated to "Santa Maria del Fiore". The church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio (c1245-1302) who considerably enlarged the existing religious structure. Finished around 1367, the Cathedral was completely covered by coloured marbles like the earlier Baptistery, except for the façade that remained unfinished and was terminated only in the 19th century.

The project left unfinished also the Dome, since in 1421 only the frame (polygonal base) had been erected. Two architects, Lorenzo Ghiberti (1368-1445) and Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) won the competition although it was the latter who actually built the dome, showing a great mastery of technical knowledge, in 1436.

One of the most remarkable features of the outside of the building is the socalled "Porta della Mandorla"(north) (della mandorla = almond) that was given this name because of the large aureole around the figure of the Virgin sculptured also by Nanni di Banco (1380/90-1421) among others.

Its interior preserves very important works of art: on the left side we find the first two detached frescoes showing the "Condottiero Giovanni Acuto"and "Niccolò da Tolentino" painted respectively by Paolo Uccello in 1436 and by Andrea del Castagno in 1456. Paolo Uccello also frescoed the clock on the inside wall, showing four vogorous "heads of saints".

The many sculptures made specifically for the cathedral (many of which have now been moved to the "Museo dell´Opera del Duomo"), comprise also the "Lunettes" by Luca della Robbia above the doors of the Mass Sacristies. The large "Pietà" by Michelangelo (c. 1553) has instead been removed and transferred to the "Museo dell´Opera del Duomo".

Most of the splendid stained glass windows were made between 1434 and 1455 to the designs of famous artists like Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello. The wooden inlays on the Sacristy´s cupboards were designed by Brunelleschi and other artists, including Antonio del Pollaiolo.

The internal walls of the dome, which have recently been restored, were frescoed between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) and Federico Zuccari (c. 1990-1609) who represented a large scene of the "Final Judgement".

The bell tower by Giotto remains, together with the huge dome one of the most striking views of the town. The famous painter, Giotto, was in fact also the architect of the project for the bell tower, although by the time of his death (1337) only the lower part had been completed. The works continued under the direction of Andrea Pisano (c. 1290-1349) and Francesco Talenti (not. 1325-1369) who completed the project.



The reliefs in the lower row of the campanile, depict the creation of man and woman, the beginnings of human work, and the "inventors (according to the Bible) of various creative activities: sheep-herding, music, metallurgy, wine-making.
In the upper register are the seven planets, beginning with Jupiter at the north corner. On the other facades, in the lower registerwe find astrology, building, medicine, weaving and other technical and scientific endeavors.
In the upper registers are: on the south, the theological and cardinal virtues; on the east, the liberal arts of the Trivium and Quadrivium; to the north, the seven sacraments. The statues in the niches represent the patriarchs, prophets and kings of Israel, and pagan sybils.

Facade of the Cathedral
1880 - 1888
Giotto's bell tower
1334 - 1359
Porta della Mandorla
On the north side of the Cathedral, on which numerous artists collabored in the early decades of the 15th century, among them Donatello, Nanni di Banco and Jacopo della Quercia
The nave
1378 - 1421
The dome

Giotto's bell tower
Brunelleschi used more than 4 million bricks
in the construction of the dome.
The lantern 1446 - c. 1461
Internal scaffold for the construction of the dome
The crane invented by Brunelleschi
Cathedral landscape
The lantern by Brunelleschi and Michelozzo
South side of the Cathedral
Porta della Mandorla
on the north side of the Cathedral

Porta della Mandorla
Almond by Nanni di Banco
Porta della Mandorla
Lunette by Jacopo della Quercia
Mosaic on the left door by Nicolò Barabino
Florentine artisans, merchants and humanists
paying homage to the Faith
Fresco on the left wall by Domenico di Michelino
Dante and the Three Kingdoms

The painting was made in 1465 to commemorate
Dante's 200th birthday. It dipicts scenes of Dantes Divine Comedy: the hell, the mountain of purgatory and the earthly paradise with Adam and Eve.
Above the main door is the colossal clock face with
fresco portraits of four Prophets or Evangelists by Paolo Uccello (1443).
This liturgical clock shows the 24 hours of the hora italica (ltalian time),
a period of time ending with sunset at 24 hours. This timetable was
used till the 18th century. This is one of the few clocks from that time,
that still exist and are in working order.
Inside the cupola: 3600 m2 of frescoes,
created by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari,
who worked there from 1572 to 1579.
The restoration of these ceiling frescoes began
in 1978 and was completed in 1994.
Andrea del Castagno
Nicolò da Tolentino
The winner in 1432 over the troops of the arch-rival Siena (fresco)
Paolo Uccello
Sir John Hawkwood, an English Mercenary
Commander-in-chief of the army of Florence in the
war at the end of the 14th century against the expansion
of Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan (fresco)
Stained Glassis
Lamb with crossed flag symbol of the
Guild of wool merchants (Arte dellla Lana)
The Arte della Lana was the wool guild
of Florence during the late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance.
Was nominally responsible for the building and decoration
of the most important edifice in the city, namely the Cathedral.

On the right side of the square:
Brunelleschi is still looking up at his work.
Statue by Luigi Pampaloni - 1830

When Brunelleschi proposed to build the dome, people thought he was crazy and visionary. Nobody at that time (1436) thought it was possible that one could build such a large dome. To convince the Florentines Brunelleschi designed a model on the piazza in the same scale of the later dome. With this work, he became one of the greatest architects of all time.

The reliefs of the lower row of the Campanile by Giotto and Andrea Pisano
Now in the Cathedral Museum
Hidden Italy * Bettina Röhrig * Logebachstr. 5 * D-53639 Königswinter * Germany