HISTORY OF VERNACULAR
ARCHITECTURE AND HUMAN
CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE
The Basilica di Santa Maria
del Fiore or Cathedral of
Florence (English: Basilica
of Saint Mary of the Flower)
is the main church
of Florence, Italy.
Its construction begun in
1296 in the Gothic style to
the design of Arnolfo di
Cambio and completed
structurally in 1436 with the
dome engineered by Filippo
The cathedral complex,
located in Piazza del Duomo.
CONCEPT AND OVERVIEW
The concept of the dome first emerged during
the renaissance in the form of an architectural
marvel that tops the cathedral of florence.
The construction of the dome marks the
beginning of renaissance architecture; the
cathedral and its dome together represent
early renaissance style--one that blends old
and new designs.
Brunelleschi travelled to Rome with the
sculptor Donatello to study architecture;
there, the two artists investigated various
roman ruins to learn about the design and
proportion of buildings, as well as the
construction of arches and columns.
Although Brunelleschi never duplicated
classical features, he borrowed ideas from the
ancient ruins and incorporated them into the
design of his dome.
PARTS OF THE CATHEDRAL
1. The baptistery of saint john
2. The cathedral of santa maria
del fiore (the duomo) with the
excavations of santa reparata
3. Giotto's bell tower
4. The museum of the opera del
5. The cathedral canonries
6. The lay confraternity of mercy
7. The bigallo portico
8. The archbishop's palace
9. The column of saint zanobius
10. The pisan porphyry columns
PLAN AND STRUCTURE
The cathedral of Florence is built as a basilica,
having a wide central nave of four square bays,
with an aisle on either side.
The chancel and transepts are of identical
polygonal plan, separated by two smaller
polygonal chapels. The whole plan forms a Latin
The nave and aisles are separated by wide pointed
Gothic arches resting on composite piers.
The dimensions of the building are enormous:
1. length 153 metres (502 ft).
2. width 38 metres (124 ft).
3. width at the crossing 90 metres (295 ft).
4. The height of the arches in the aisles is 23
metres (75 ft). The height of the dome is 114.5 m.
A - NORTH DOOR
B - MIDDLE DOOR
C - SOUTH DOOR
D - BELL TOWER DOOR
E - CANON'S DOOR
F - ALMOND DOOR
G - BALE DOOR
Employed the Gothic pointed arch cross
section instead of a semicircular one
To reduce dead load, he created a double
shell as was done in the Pantheon
Employed 24 vertical ribs and 5 horizontal
rings of sandstone, as observed in the ruins
of Roman construction
The cupola on top was a temple of masonry
acting as a weight on top of the dome.
A wooden framework was laid on which
stone strings were attached at 5
Bricks were laid on top of the framework.
Herringbone fashion of construction was
The Ribs, 13 feet (4 meters) deep, are
supported by 16 concealed ribs radiating
The ribs had slits to take beams that
supported platforms, thus allowing the work
to progress upward without the need for
•Giorgio Vasari's fresco of the Last
•Spans an area of 33,000 sq ft.
The centre nave is created by
great Gothic vaults resting on
wide arches that divide the space
in to four square bays, giving a
more classical than Gothic
harmony to the structure.
The arches rest in their turn on
powerful composite pilasters
similar to those Francesco Talenti
used for the Loggia dei Lanzi.
What we see today is probably
the result of Talenti's variations on
Arnolfo's design, which foresaw a
major number of bays and
pilasters (and therefore
The fresco of the old Santa
Reparata in the Museum of the
Bigallo also gives us this
The design and execution of the
polychrome marble flooring is
attributed to Baccio d'Agnolo and
Francesco da Sangallo (1520-26).
The naves and the tribune are
illuminated by the beautiful 15th century
stained glass windows created by
artists like Ghiberti, Paolo Uccello,
Donatello and Andrea del Castagno
The lunette above the door in fact
contains a mosaic by Gaddo Gaddi
(early 14th century), who also worked
on the mosaics in the Baptistery.
The three round stained glass
windows, together with the one in the
cupola, were carried out from paintings
by Ghiberti (1403-13), and can be said
to be among the few remaining proofs of
his pictorial activity.
The famous clock on the inner
facade, with its quadrant and
medallions, was painted in fresco
by Paolo Uccello (1443).
It is one of the few mechanical
clocks that still exists and works: it
has only one hand and tells the
time by going round in the opposite
direction compared to modern
clocks because it measures the
time from sunset to sunset.
The wall also contains the tomb of
Bishop d'Orso (1321), one of the
most beautiful works of sculpture
in the Cathedral.
The lefthand nave contains frescoes by Paolo
Uccello and Andrea del Castagno while the Last
Judgement by Vasari -Zuccari is painted in
The crucifix in wood above the high altar is the work
of sculptor Benedetto da Maiano (1477).
Three apses, separated by the two sacristies (bas-
reliefs by Luca della Robbia), open into the
transept, each one divided into five chapels.
The chapel behind the high altar contains Ghiberti's
masterpiece of goldsmithery: the Urn of St.
Below the cupola stands the huge octagonal
chancel curtained off by an elegant
marble balustrade by Baccio Bandinelli (1555),
which was once decorated with numerous bas-
reliefs and statues, many of them now conserved in
the Museum of the Opera del Duomo.
The main feature of the exterior of the
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the rich
articulation with colored marble - white from
Carrara, green from Prato and red from the
There is marble everywhere -on the façade
built in the medieval Gothic style, on the sides
of the aisles leading to the nave, on the
buttresses, the small side domes and the
massive main dome.
The alternating colors show rectitude and
beauty, the two basic principles of Florentine
The exterior has an abundance of sculpted
1296— cathedral begun on design byarnolfo di
1357— project continued on a modified plan by
1366-7— talenti's definitive design emerged
calling for an enormous octagonal dome.
1418— competition for construction of dome .
1420— technical solution for vaulting proposed
by brunelleschi approved and construction
1436— church consecrated.