Local names: Santa Maria del Fiore of Duomo or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
If you ever wander the streets of Florence, you won’t be able to miss the cathedral (or Duomo). This imposing and impressive architectural masterpiece is unique in the world. There are several separate buildings that belong to this cathedral’s rich history.
The building of this gigantic church that is dedicated to the Holy Virgin, commenced in 1296. Its nave is 153 metres long, the cupola almost 46 meters. The cathedral was designed to reflect the city’s powerful position at the time. It took several centuries to build.
When first architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, passed away, there was much discussion about its design, which was adjusted many times. Eventually a dedicated committee came to an agreement in 1368, but Filippo Brunelleschi’s famous dome wasn’t finished until the fifteenth century. It was the largest cupola of its time and has no traditional support structure.
When you walk the more than 400 steps to its top, you can see how the beautifully decorated interior frame carries the structure. You can also take stairs down in the cathedral to the Santa Reparata. This crypt houses the remains of the 4th century Santa Reparata church that was destroyed to make room for the cathedral.
Baptistery (Local name: Battistero di San Giovanni)
The baptistery is actually part of the cathedral. It’s located in front of it and is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. It is likely to date back to the 4th century.
The baptistery (where Dante was baptised, amongst other people) contains two world-famous artworks. The ceiling dates back to the 13th century and depicts the Final Judgement.
But the building is mostly famous for Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors. This artist won a competition in 1404. The plague was finally eradicated in the city, and this was celebrated with the ultimate artwork. Seven prominent artist competed, including Brunelleschi.
Ghiberti spent 21 years on the northern doors, and then he worked on the eastern doors between 1424 and 1452. Michelangelo admired the work and called them the ‘Gates of Paradise’. The doors depict biblical stories including the Fall, Cain and Abel, Moses receiving the tablets of stone, and the Fall of Jericho. Most notable is the perspective that Ghiberti used. The original doors are on display at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the ones on the baptistery are replicas.
Giotto’s Bell Tower (local name: Campanile)
This bell tower is famous for its marble and many reliefs. On the outside the white, green and pink Tuscan marble demand your attention.
The panels by Andrea Pisano on the lower parts show the Genesis in bas relief, and in the interior there are reliefs of the creation, but also many other artworks.
On the upper levels you will find many depictions of the planets, the virtues, the arts and the sacrements.
Giotto’s Bell Tower is 85 meters high and stands next to the Cathedral of Florence.