Anyone who is competitive, loves a challe...
Throughout much of Brunelleschi’s youth and during earlier construction on the
cathedral, the plague was a “faithful visit...
This caused a minor setback to the construction, but in the end, the workers needed to
work so bad, they came back to work...
structure These types of precautions play a large role in why the dome still stands after
multiple earthquakes in the regi...
born in 1377 in Florence and trained as a goldsmith and metalworker
Father :

Brunellesco Di Lippo (No...
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Dome of Santa de Fiore


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Dome of Santa de Fiore

  1. 1. HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE FILIPO BRUNELLESCHI : DOME OF THE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE Anyone who is competitive, loves a challenge, and can relate to falling on tough times would most certainly be able to relate to Filippo Brunelleschi. Like most people who live life, he went through times of success and with thousands of helping hands, thousands of tons of material, immense levels times of dismay. Nevertheless, Brunelleschi had such extreme highs and lows exceeding off the charts of most any normal person’s experiences. Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome was completed of hard work and ingenuity, and ground breaking inventions; moreover, completing the dome took compiling and completing design processes that appeared never ending, help from friends and foes, and overcoming life threatening obstacles, all to complete the unrivaled architectural feat we know as the dome of Santa Maria de Fiore, or in other words, the Florence Cathedral or Duomo. long ago on August 19, 1418, it all started with a contest. The challenge was to design a plan for the supporting and constructing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, and those to complete a plan had to submit their ideas in no longer than six weeks time . Should one have their plan selected for construction, they were told, by the Opera de Duomo, they “shall be entitled to a payment of 200 gold Florins” . This was a large amount of money to be paid; however, no dome had ever been constructed the size required by the plans for the Cathedral, and many people said it could not be done . As one could imagine with such a task being in uncharted territory, there was much debate and talk over how the challenge should be approached. Not only would the dome be the largest across, but it would also be the tallest ever as well . This type of challenge was just the kind Filippo Brunelleschi was interested in. Starting many years earlier, he was an intelligent goldsmith by trade, and he had hobbys of studying mechanics and motion on the side, which would be of great help as he became older . He was accustom to being involved in challenges to win contracts for paid work; nevertheless, should winning a competition mean working with a partner to collaborate on a project, he would have nothing to do with it, as seen earlier with an opportunity to create elaborate bronze doors with Lorenzo Ghiberti . Brunelleschi left and would not work with Lorenzo on the project, because much of the work Filippo did was by himself and in secrecy . Skipping ahead, Brunelleschi left the chance to work on the doors but focused on the opportunity to work on the dome, and because of this, he would win the competition and embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
  2. 2. Throughout much of Brunelleschi’s youth and during earlier construction on the cathedral, the plague was a “faithful visitor” to the the city of Florence; it would come around, “on average, once every ten years” . During this time the construction on the cathedral would be dramatically reduced. On a positive note, when Brunelleschi was younger, during the times of plague, he would leave Florence and travel, and it was during these times he would study the architectural works of the Romans, bringing back knowledge and ideas . This was instrumental in helping formulate more design ideas and methods to later be used in Florence. When Brunelleschi proposed his idea for the dome’s construction, his plan was unlike any other. He had the idea of constructing the dome with no scaffolding support underneath or “centering” . This was unheard of and very bold to propose such an idea, and some of those around him “considered him a lunatic” . Filippo would not describe how he would accomplish the task of building the dome without centering, and this was much of the reason for why they treated him so poorly . However, when every contestant failed to pass their models by the panel, they came back to Filippo for answers, and this was the start of a competition with the rival Lorenzo, thus, years of contending for the commission . As time would pass, Filippo continued to sell his ideas in a general fashion (never describing how he would build the dome exactly) to get his chance to build the dome . August 7, 1420, was a day of “celebration,” marking the first day of construction on the dome ! This was the beginning of challenges to come. To really get going on the construction of the dome, all Filippo had to do was design, build, and invent something that had never been done before, the “ox-hoist” . This invention was absolutely necessary to the project, because it enabled the transportation of materials to the base of the dome (a height of 170 ft) more efficiently and much safer . For an example showing the hoist’s importance, the ox-hoist lifted “an estimated 70 million pounds” of material for the construction of the dome (58). The most revolutionary aspect of the hoist was the added feature of the “reversible gear,” truly a much needed invention . The reversible gear allowed the material loads to ascend and descend without unhooking the ox from the hoist, each time they needed to reverse the direction of the hoist A separate setback to the construction of the dome came about during the “winter of 1422-23” During this time the “tramontana, a raw wind…bringing depression and fatigue to Florence” brought work on the dome to a halt. Filippo was able to take this time and design a new crane for the competition being held by the Opera del Duomo. This time, the goal was to build a crane to move the weighted load horizontally in place. Filippo’s design won the competition, and his crane was called the “castello” It was not uncommon for others to come and draw his new crane, and for that reason, Leonardo da Vinci and others are often credited with castello’s design, one of Filippo’s greatest fears As time went on and the dome began to grow in height, the job became more and more dangerous, and for this reason among others, the masonry workers went on strike (96).
  3. 3. This caused a minor setback to the construction, but in the end, the workers needed to work so bad, they came back to work for less pay As luck would have it, the cathedral would fall delay as Florence went to war with Milan in 1424 In 1429 “cracks were discovered” on one of the side walls This produced a serious hold-up in the construction. It was determined supports on the side walls would be needed, and planning for this had to be constructed as a model and approved before further work With Florence still at war, a risky attempt to have Filippo construct a dam used to flood enemy camps was taken on, and to further hurt his reputation, his dam failed and flooded the friendly camp instead of the enemy’s This was a huge setback to Brunelleschi’s reputation. After the war, Florence was in a time of new lows after having spent money on the war, because the funding and resources for the continued construction of the dome had been more than cut in half, further slowing the progress As chapter fifteen is titled, “From Bad To Worse” I could not agree more with the recent developments hindering the project. If things could not get worse, Filippo gets thrown in jail for “Masons Guild” payments being past due, a truly petty offense, more than likely being fueled by one of his longtime rivals Filippo did not receive too much help along his adventure to complete the dome. Nevertheless, he was very reluctant to allow help, due to his lack of trust and fear of plagiarism. Along the way there were a few people who did help him out though. For example, his father, Ser Brunellesco realized Filippo wanted to pave his own path, instead of following his father’s footsteps, and his father allowed him to work with a friend as an apprentice. The friend was Benincas Lotti, a goldsmith, who helped bring Filippo up as a young tradesman .Without the recognition of Filippo’s father understanding his desires to work as a goldsmith, starting his technical career, we might not have had the Duomo. A different item of help was received when the “600 feet” of rope was contracted from skilled crafters in Pisa, used to making the highest quality of rope in the region The Opera de Duomo, who by the the way never did pay Filippo his 200 gold Florins for winning the commission for the dome, did pay his debts and get him out of jail from the Masons Guild fines Without the help of the Opera de Duomo, the work on the cathedral would have been further delayed. Later when working on the lantern, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s grandson, Buonaccorso, helped the project by designing a new hoist with a much needed ratcheting wheel and braking system, enabling the material to be suspended in midair for any period of time Antonio di Ciaccheri did alleviate some of the burden from Filippo when it came time to deliver the much needed marble for the lantern, and with Filippo’s last catastrophe involving the transportation of the marble being lost, he was very happy to see it was being taken care of There were many architectural achievements along the way during the construction of the dome, to include the engineering feats. The ability to use the wooden and iron chains to create “invisible buttressing” to “protect” the dome was very important The wood and metal have higher “tensile strength” to resist the motions of pushing or pulling on the
  4. 4. structure These types of precautions play a large role in why the dome still stands after multiple earthquakes in the region . The dome also had “two shells,” aiding in the construction methods and strength of the design . One of the construction and architectural accomplishments along the way was allowing each of the arched eight walls to come up and meet precisely in the middle . Filippo had to create “ribs” for the dome, helping to hold the weight of the bricks and guide them along . To add to the strength of the dome, Brunelleschi used “bands” of brick in a “zigzag or herringbone pattern” . This type of pattern helped tie in the bricks and compensate for weaker areas. In the 1970’s Rowland Mainstone, “an English structural engineer” arrived in Florence to inspect and determine some of the construction methods used by Filippo . It was determined he used “nine [horizontal] rings” that “served a vital function in building” the dome . The circles basically formed a skeleton on top of the inner dome, keeping the outside dome stable and “from falling inward” . There continued to be a theme of a need for materials faster than could produced throughout the time of construction for the dome. For example, when using the wooden chains, Filippo wanted to use oak, but due to limited quantities, he was forced to use chestnut; nevertheless, the chestnut trees were smaller in size and still required a very lengthy time to prepare, further proving to be an inconvenience With the efficiently designed cranes and streamlined work processes, it became a need to get bricks much faster than could be produced. For instance, due to the reliance on kilns, using one alone, “it would have taken one kiln over thirteen years to produce enough bricks for the dome” . As the work continued, the need for marble to be transported from far away quarries became a major concern for the project, and for this reason Filippo went out of his way to devise a plan, build a ship, and attempt to transport the marble himself This proved to be a major setback, because his ship with “100 tons of white marble” sank, costing him “the equivalent of ten years salary” Overall, Filippo Brunelleschi gave his all in delivering to Florence what they had been waiting for all those years, and many times, he almost died trying to grant them their wish. He overcame challenges of all kinds, worked through political matters and won endless competitions to build his dream, and he proved to the world he could do it. He worked tirelessly for so long, and it was miraculous he was able to see it finished before his time to pass. In some ways, it might have been a sense of catharsis to see the cathedral completed, so relieved and happy to see it completed, and once it was finished, he was ready to go, passing away a month later, completing the work of a lifetime .
  5. 5. FILIPO BRUNELLESCHI born in 1377 in Florence and trained as a goldsmith and metalworker Father : Brunellesco Di Lippo (Notary) Mother : Giuliana Spini