But every rule has its exceptions, and in Florence, my general tendency has been turned on its head. If I try to take the city, all in at one time, the sensorial overload is absolutely overwhelming… Each attraction in Florence must be tasted in small bites!
An example of this is Il Duomo or as it is officially known: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most recognizable symbols of Renaissance architecture. The building and its corresponding bell tower and baptistery are totally covered with marble inlay of multiple hues and adorned with more sculptures than the human mind can absorb.
This cathedral was the third built in Florence. Not to be outdone by the magnificence of the new cathedrals in Pisa and Siena, Il Duomo was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294 to be the largest Roman Catholic church in the world, although the design was later reduced in size.
After Arnolfo died in 1302, work slowed. In 1331, the Arte della Lana (Guild of Wool Merchants) took over responsibility for the construction of the cathedral and in 1334 they appointed Giotto as overseer for the work. His major accomplishment was the campanile, but he died in 1337.
The nave was finished by 1380 and by 1418 only the dome was uncompleted.
In 1418 a competition was held to design a new dome for the cathedral. The two competitors were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. The latter won the competition with his distinctive octagonal design.
Construction on the dome began in 1420 and was completed in 1436; the cathedral was consecrated in March of that year by Pope Eugenius IV.
It was the first ‘octagonal’ dome in history to be built without a wooden supporting frame.
The cathedral’s facade was demolished in 1587 and left bare until the 19th century. In 1864 a competition was held to design a new facade won by Emilio De Fabris. Work was begun in 1876 and completed in 1887. The huge bronze doors date from 1899 to 1903.