Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) is an iconic Italian landmark and one of the most recognisable buildings in the country. Constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, the cathedral was built in the Gothic style in honour of Santa Maria del Fiore. Its distinctive dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was the largest dome in the world at the time of its construction (45.5 metres in diameter) - and as such, it was quite the architectural feat. In fact, many people refer to the cathedral as Il Duomo, which translates to "the dome". If you visit Florence, make sure to include Florence Cathedral on your itinerary.
The cathedral was built on the site of the ancient ruins of Florence's second cathedral dedicated to Saint Reparata. This original church was built in the 5th century and stood for more than 800 years before it was deemed too small to serve the growing population of Florence.
In 1296, construction on the new cathedral began, and it took more than 130 years to finally complete it.
The Florence Cathedral's dome (Il Duomo) is widely regarded as an architectural masterpiece that was built using methods that were way before its time.
Famously, the dome was constructed by a trained goldsmith who had no previous architectural training. The city of Florence held a competition to find someone who could come up with a cost effective and viable method of building the largest dome structure in Europe. In a story that is now legendary, Filippo Brunelleschi won the competition by demonstrating his idea to the Consuls with the use of an egg.
Brunelleschi issued a challenge to his fellow competitors, saying that whoever could make an egg stand upright on a flat piece of marble should be the one to build the cupola. After many attempts, no one could find a way to do it. So Brunelleschi himself took the egg, whacked the top of it off completely and placed it on the table where it stood upright. The judges were impressed, and they granted him the commission to construct the dome.
It took 16 years to complete the dome, which was made from brick and used a clever combination of cantenary arches and concentric shells to create a dome that would stand upright for centuries to come. The inner shell features a fresco of the Last Judgement painted by artists Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.
Apart from the dome, the second most recognisable aspect of Il Duomo is the striking neo-gothic white, green and red facade that covers the building's exterior. This 19th-century addition, designed by Emilio De Fabris and completed in 1887, was made in imitation of the original 14th-century facade, which had by then fallen into disrepair.
Throughout the Year
Entry to Florence Cathedral
Piazza del Duomo