Sacred Spaces: The Duomo of Florence

Our Sacred Spaces blog series explores the history and beauty of the world’s churches and cathedrals. This week, we’re looking at the Duomo of Florence and its famous tapered dome.

Want to catch up on this blog series?  Follow the links below!

Basilica di San Marco (Venice) | St. Issac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev) | St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Petersburg)

The Jewel of Florence

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Known globally as the Duomo, the Cathedral of Florence (officially known as the Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore) is the main church of Florence, Italy.  The third largest cathedral in the world (just behind St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London), it stands a glowing example of Gothic architecture.

The Duomo was built on the site of a 7th century church dedicated to Santa Reparata (the remains of this structure can be found in the crypt of the current cathedral).  Designed by Arnolfo di CAmbio in the 13th century, it was intended to be the world’s largest Catholic church.

The cathedral was completed in 1367, with the exception of the facade which wasn’t finished well until the 19th century.  The rest of the exterior was completely covered in white and pink marble.  Despite this small unfinished portion, the cathedral was consecrated in the 15th century upon the completion of its infamous dome.

A 15th century addition, the dome was the brainchild of designer Filippo Brunelleschi.  IAt 35.5 meters tall, it is the world’s largest dome. Yet, it was built without supports as  Brunelleschi utilized an ingenious design consisting of  “[…]an inner shell made of bricks with a herringbone pattern and a horizontal stone chain, which reduced stress and allowed the weight to be evenly distributed.” 

National Geographic has a wonderful video on how this impressive dome was built, which we have included below. (Click here to view the video directly on YouTube).

The interior of the cathedral is in direct contrast to the ornate exterior.  It is less colorful with minimal decoration, save the impressive Giorgio Vasari fresco depicting the Last Judgment.  The fresco, painted between 1572 and 1579 by Vasari’s student Frederico Zuccari, spans the interior of the dome.  The interior also:

“[…]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”.” 

When visiting the Duomo, one should not miss the clock above the entrance (on the inside of the cathedral).  Designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello, it is in accordance “[…] with the ora italica, where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset… and it still works!”

Can’t make it to Florence? You can explore the Duomo in the video below. (Click here to view the video directly on YouTube).

Main image via
Interesting facts about the Cathedral of Florence –
Inside Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo –
Cathedral of Florence –
Il Grande Museo del Duomo –
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