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Standing on the top viewing platform of the Duomo di Firenze lantern
One of my favorite photos from my trip, standing on the top viewing platform of the Duomo di Firenze lantern.

In college I was lucky enough to travel to Italy for a semester abroad. We visited some truly amazing places that don’t typically make it onto tourist maps. With all these hidden gems, one of my favorite places is probably the best-known building in Florence. This week I thought I would show you the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo di Firenze.

Left, center nave of the basilica, square divisions, gothic arches, and quadripartite rib vaults dominate the space. Center, side chapel and dome. Right, view of the city and the main roofs from the lantern.
Left, center nave of the basilica, square divisions, gothic arches, and quadripartite rib vaults dominate the space. Center, side chapel and dome. Right, view of the city and the main roofs from the lantern.

Construction began on the Duomo di Firenze in 1296 and lasted for 165 years. In the end, it not only included the main basilica, but also had a baptistery and a campanile (bell tower in the Piazza del Duomo). It also had the distinction of having the largest dome in the world at the time. The dome is still a marvel as it is the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Shadow of the dome over the city
“A structure so immense, so steeply rising toward the sky, that it covers all Tuscans with its shadow”, quote from writing of Leon Battista Alberti Photo by self.

Since construction spanned such a long time-frame, the Duomo di Firenze saw a total of eight architects at the helm. Each added their own touches to the project, beginning in 1294 with Arnolfo di Cambio’s design. By 1418 Giotto had added the campanile. Francesco Talenti included the apse and side chapels, Giovanni di Lap Ghini divided the center nave into four square bays. When it was completed, the cathedral was a mere 89,340 square feet. Next was the finishing touch – the grand dome. We’ll talk about the dome in more detail in the next blog.

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