VISIT THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL

The architectural design behind the construction of the Dome is that designed by Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the thirteenth century, while the Cupola, which has made a symbol of the construction and has become an iconic reference to the entire Tuscany, is the production of Renaissance genius Filippo Brunelleschi.

The construction of Santa Maria del Fiore has met a really challenging and complicated architectural issue: the Dome structure itself.

It proved extremely difficult to develop machines capable of working to the Dome heights, never before imagined.

It was thanks to Brunelleschi and its ‘double shell structure’ invention that the construction could be finally completed. The Dome is therefore not only a symbol of beauty, but also a magnificent sample of ingenuity and technical expertise. In 1436 the church was consecrated however the facade was not yet finished – it was then completely rebuilt in the nineteenth century. Inside the dome it is possible to see up close Giorgio Vasari’s beautiful frescoes.

Vasari designed and drafted the extraordinary Judgement, terminated by his student Federico Zuccari in 1579. When it was built, Santa Maria del Fiore was the largest existing basilica with its 153 meters long and still today it impresses visitors with its majesty. Giotto’s tower is the Cathedral bell tower and its construction is contemporary to the one of the church.

The project entrusted to this celebrated master was later continued by Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti. We have designed this experience to allow participants to admire all these works representing the timeless beauty and ingenuity of Florentine art.

Skip the line tickets included
Private tour for small groups
Departure from an agreed meeting point or pick-up to Poggio Baronti
Professional guide
Visit of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Baptistery of San Giovanni, and Museum of Opera del Duomo
Return to an agreed meeting point or Poggio Baronti
About 3 hours tour
Languages: Italian, English + French, Spanish and German on request

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style with the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence, whose archbishop is currently Giuseppe Betori.

History: Santa Maria del Fiore was built on the site of Florence’s second cathedral dedicated to Saint Reparata; the first was the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze whose first building was consecrated as a church in 393 by St. Ambrose of Milan. The ancient structure, founded in the early 5th century and having undergone many repairs, was crumbling with age, according to the 14th-century Nuova Cronica of Giovanni Villani, and was no longer large enough to serve the growing population of the city. Other major Tuscan cities had undertaken ambitious reconstructions of their cathedrals during the Late Medieval period, such as Pisa and particularly Siena where the enormous proposed extensions were never completed.

The new church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and approved by city council in 1294. Di Cambio was also architect of the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio. He designed three wide naves ending under the octagonal dome, with the middle nave covering the area of Santa Reparata. The first stone was laid on September 9, 1296, by Cardinal Valeriana, the first papal legate ever sent to Florence. The building of this vast project was to last 140 years; Arnolfo’s plan for the eastern end, although maintained in concept, was greatly expanded in size.

After Arnolfo died in 1310, work on the cathedral slowed for thirty years. When the relics of Saint Zenobius were discovered in 1330 in Santa Reparata, the project gained a new impetus. In 1331, the Arte della Lana, the guild of wool merchants, took over patronage for the construction of the cathedral and in 1334 appointed Giotto to oversee the work. Assisted by Andrea Pisano, Giotto continued di Cambio’s design. His major accomplishment was the building of the campanile. When Giotto died the January 8th of 1337, Andrea Pisano continued the building until work was halted due to the Black Death in 1348.

In 1349, work resumed on the cathedral under a series of architects, starting with Francesco Talenti, who finished the campanile and enlarged the overall project to include the apse and the side chapels. In 1359, Talenti was succeeded by Giovanni di Lapo Ghini (1360–1369) who divided the center nave in four square bays. Other architects were Alberto Arnoldi, Giovanni d’Ambrogio, Neri di Fioravante and Andrea Orcagna. By 1375, the old church Santa Reparata was pulled down. The nave was finished by 1380, and by 1418, only the dome remained incomplete.

On 18 August 1418, the Arte della Lana announced an architectural design competition for erecting Neri’s dome. The two main competitors were two master goldsmiths, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, the latter of whom was supported by Cosimo de Medici. Ghiberti had been the winner of a competition for a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery in 1401 and lifelong competition between the two remained sharp. Brunelleschi won and received the commission.

Ghiberti, appointed coadjutator, drew a salary equal to Brunelleschi’s and, though neither was awarded the announced prize of 200 florins, was promised equal credit, although he spent most of his time on other projects. When Brunelleschi became ill, or feigned illness, the project was briefly in the hands of Ghiberti. But Ghiberti soon had to admit that the whole project was beyond him. In 1423, Brunelleschi was back in charge and took over sole responsibility.

Work started on the dome in 1420 and was completed in 1436. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on March 25, 1436, (the first day of the year according to the Florentine calendar). It was the first ‘octagonal’ dome in history to be built without a temporary wooden supporting frame. It was one of the most impressive projects of the Renaissance. During the consecration in 1436, Guillaume Dufay’s motet Nuper rosarum flores was performed. The structure of this motet was strongly influenced by the structure of the dome.

The decoration of the exterior of the cathedral, begun in the 14th century, was not completed until 1887, when the polychrome marble façade was completed with the design of Emilio De Fabris. The floor of the church was relaid in marble tiles in the 16th century.

The exterior walls are faced in alternate vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble from Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena (red), Lavenza and a few other places. These marble bands had to repeat the already existing bands on the walls of the earlier adjacent baptistery the Battistero di San Giovanni and Giotto’s Bell Tower. There are two side doors: the Doors of the Canonici (south side) and the Door of the Mandorla (north side) with sculptures by Nanni di Banco, Donatello, and Jacopo della Quercia. The six side windows, notable for their delicate tracery and ornaments, are separated by pilasters. Only the four windows closest to the transept admit light; the other two are merely ornamental. The clerestory windows are round, a common feature in Italian Gothic.

During its long history, this cathedral has been the seat of the Council of Florence (1439), heard the preachings of Girolamo Savonarola and witnessed the murder of Giuliano di Piero de’ Medici on Sunday, 26 April 1478 (with Lorenzo Il Magnifico barely escaping death), in the Pazzi conspiracy.

The Florence Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, is a religious building in Florence, Italy, and has the status of a minor basilica. The octagonal baptistery stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni, across from Florence Cathedral and the Campanile di Giotto.

The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style. Although the Florentine style did not spread across Italy as widely as the Pisan Romanesque or Lombard styles, its influence was decisive for the subsequent development of architecture, as it formed the basis from which Francesco Talenti, Leon Battista Alberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, and other master architects of their time created Renaissance architecture. In the case of the Florentine Romanesque, one can speak of “proto-renaissance”, but at the same time an extreme survival of the late antique architectural tradition in Italy, as in the cases of the Basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto, the Temple of Clitumnus, the church of Sant’Alessandro in Lucca.

The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise.

The Italian poet Dante and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistry.

Early history: It was long believed that the Baptistry was originally a Roman temple dedicated to Mars, the tutelary god of the old Florence. The chronicler Giovanni Villani reported this medieval Florentine legend in his fourteenth-century Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. However, twentieth-century excavations have shown that there was a first-century Roman wall running through the piazza with the Baptistry, which may have been built on the remains of a Roman guard tower on the corner of this wall, or possibly another Roman building. It is, however, certain that a first octagonal baptistry was erected here in the late fourth or early fifth century. It was replaced or altered by another early Christian baptistry in the sixth century. Its construction is attributed to Theodolinda, queen of the Lombards (570-628) to seal the conversion of her husband, King Authari.

Octagonal design: The octagon had been a common shape for baptisteries for many centuries since early Christian times. The number eight is a symbol of regeneration in Christianity, signifying the six days of creation, the Day of Rest, and a day of re-creation through the Sacrament of Baptism. Other early examples are the Lateran Baptistry (440) that provided a model for others throughout Italy, the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus (527-536) in Constantinople and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna (548).

The earlier baptistry was the city’s second basilica after San Lorenzo, outside the northern city wall, and predates the church Santa Reparata. It was first recorded as such on 4 March 897, when the Count Palatine and envoy of the Holy Roman Emperor sat there to administer justice. The granite pilasters were probably taken from the Roman forum sited at the location of the present Piazza della Repubblica. At that time, the baptistry was surrounded by a cemetery with Roman sarcophagi, used by important Florentine families as tombs (now in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo).

Construction: The present much larger Baptistry was built in Romanesque style around 1059, evidence of the growing economic and political importance of Florence. It was reconsecrated on 6 November 1059 by Pope Nicholas II, a Florentine. According to legend, the marbles were brought from Fiesole, conquered by Florence in 1078. Other marble came from ancient structures. The construction was finished in 1128.

An octagonal lantern was added to the pavilion roof around 1150. It was enlarged with a rectangular entrance porch in 1202, leading into the original western entrance of the building, that became an apse, after the opening of the eastern door, facing the western door by Lorenzo Ghiberti of the cathedral in the 15th century.

On the corners, under the roof, are monstrous lion heads with a human head under their claws. They are early representations of Marzocco, the heraldic Florentine lion (the symbol of Mars, the god of war, the original male protector of Florentia, protecting a lily or iris, the symbol of the original female patron of the town (Flora, the fertile agricultural earth goddess).

Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, three bronze double doors were added, with bronze and marble statues above them. This gives an indication that the Baptistry, at that time, was at least equal to the neighbouring cathedral in importance.

The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral) in Florence, Italy is a museum containing many of the original works of art created for the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral (Duomo) of Florence.
As of August 2013, the director of the museum is Fr. Timothy Verdon, an American.

The museum is located just east of the Duomo, near its apse. It opened in 1891, and now houses what has been called “one of the world’s most important collections of sculpture.” Among the museum’s holdings are Lorenzo Ghiberti‘s doors for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral called the Gates of Paradise, the cantorias, or singing-galleries, designed for the cathedral by Luca della Robbia and Donatello (also from him is a “Magdalene Penitent”), and The Deposition, a pietà intended by Michelangelo for his own tomb.

It was reported on August 6, 2013, that a tourist had accidentally snapped a finger off a 14th-century statue of the Virgin Mary by Giovanni d’Ambrogio. The finger itself was from a later repair, not part of the original work.

VISIT THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL

Come and visit the Florence Cathedral, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Museum of Opera del Duomo: book your stay at Poggio Baronti B&B and we will take care of everything!
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