The Dome of Florence Cathedral
By Ryan Croyle
Published by Ryan Croyle at Smashwords
Cover Copyright © 2013 Ryan Croyle
The dome of Florence Cathedral is considered by many to be among the finest in the world. Being one of the largest domes ever constructed, it is certainly worthy of such a title. The grandeur of the dome itself is a visible icon of Renaissance thinking- the power of man to use technology and its own ingenuity to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. It is representative of the humanist approach of the Renaissance to arts and architecture.
The city of Florence was becoming a center of mercantilism and the arts around the beginning of the fifteenth century. As the wool trade and resulting cloth production thrived, the economy of Florence also grew. This resulted in a building boom which rivaled that of the Roman Empire. While still primarily a rural community, the city of Florence sought a way to establish itself among other important cities such as London.
The original concept of the cathedral came about as the new city hall, Palazzo Vecchio, was completed and an equally grand church was to be built. The new cathedral of Florence was to be one of the largest in Christendom. Its chief architect at this time (around 1300) was Arnolfo di Cambio. The plan called for a particularly daring dome to crown the octagonal crossing of the nave and transepts. In quattrocento Italy, the medieval aesthetic was being lost in a growing focus on Renaissance architectural innovation. The design of the cathedral created numerous problems for constructing the dome in itself. For example, it was constructed without flying buttresses, as Italian architects found them to be ugly and awkward features. This made adding any extra weight to the building a near impossibility. The foundation stone of the cathedral had been laid in 1296, and by 1418, the cathedral had yet to be completed. Its construction was overseen by the Opera del Duomo, and for over 50 years, the south aisle of the cathedral had displayed a thirty foot long scale model of the completed building. The dome of that model had become the greatest architectural puzzle of the age.