Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral of the city of Florence overlooking the homonymous square. It is the fourth largest church in Europe after St. Peter’s in Rome, Saint Paul in London and the Cathedral in Milan. In fact, the first objective of the building was to be better than the cathedrals of Pisa and Siena. The cathedral, in fact, is 153 meters long, with three naves which end in the enormous circle which supports Brunelleschi’s Dome. Inside you can admire one of the largest frescos in the world: 3600 square meters of paintings, painted between 1572-1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.
The state church built by powerful people of Florence
Santa Maria del Fiore was built by the Municipality, as a “state church” and the works along the two aisles are in thecivic iconography program in honor of illustrious men of Florentine life, such as the fresco “The equestrian monuments of the governors John Hawkwood “by Paolo Uccello,” Nicholas of Tolentino” by Andrea del Castagno, the famous” Painting of Dante “by Domenico di Michelino and Busts of Giotto and Brunelleschi.
The religious program instead, is about a mosaic above the main entrance door, the work of GaddoGaddi and the stained glass circular window above the altar, by Donatello between 1434 and 1437, representing both, “Coronation of the Virgin”.Both the civic program and sacred iconography, are about the common meaning of human dignity and elevation granted by God, as the monuments to the “famous men”, in which the historic dignity is celebrated and mosaic and the window, in which is commemorated the spiritual greatness of man.
Short history of the Florence Cathedral
The ancient seat of the cathedral of Florence was the Basilica of St. Reparata, and on its basis was built the current cathedral by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. The work then was continued by Giotto until 1337, while Francesco Talenti and Giovanni di LapoGhini completed it in 1357.
In 1412, the magnificent temple erected on the ruins of the former, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the name of “Santa Maria del Fiore,” where the “flower”, according to an ancient document, would have been Christ sprout up on the stem (Maria) on the roots of the family of David. The church was consecrated in 1436, at the end of the work of Brunelleschi’s Dome and currently it is the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Florence.
Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296 started the construction, even if its project had many changes during the years, such as those on the outer sides of the buildingin the first four lower windows, expanded then by Francesco Talenti in the middle of the ‘300. The façade of the cathedral was the last to be built by Emilio De Fabris between 1871 and 1887 in a neo-Gothic style.Infact, it was made in honour of the Virgin Mary, portrayed on the throne with a flowered scepter. The mosaics designed by Niccolò Barabino represent, instead, on the middle door, “Christ enthroned between Mary and St. John the Baptist with Florentine people and saints”, on the right “Artisans, merchants and Florentine humanists paying homage to the Faith” and on the left” Charity among the founders of the Florentine pius acts.”
The interior of the Florence Cathedral
Inside, the cathedral looks great, but with few furnishings. This sobriety corresponds to the spiritual ideal of medieval and early Renaissance Florence, which suggests, in architectural terms, the spirituality of the great reformers of the Florentine religious life. The enrichment of the interior, with rich coloured marble floors and niches, belongs to a later moment in the history of the Cathedral, under the patronage of the Grand Dukes in the ‘500. The construction of Santa Maria del Fiore was a big project that lasted about 170 years, one of the greatest architectural masterpieces, which suffered for the political events, economic and artistic Florence. Its implementation was attended by the most important artists of the century.
Many people worked on it, including Giotto
Arnolfo di Cambio who already directed the construction of the Palazzo dellaSignoria, gave to the structure its particular style. Excavations show that probably Di Cambiodecided to design a church with a large dome, inspired by the Roman model of the Pantheon and with the intent of overcoming the Baptistery size. Unfortunately, after his death in 1302, works were suspended for about 30 years. On the death of Arnolfo di CambioGiotto and Andrea Pisano started to work at the construction, but it didn’t last very long since both died in a few years, forcing the construction to stop another time. Both Giotto and Pisano focused anyway, on the Bell Tower. Giotto provided the project and was able to start the construction, continued after his death by Andrea Pisano. The construction of the basilica body was a team work, in which master builders and laborers, worked with other architects. Works started again in 1349 with the project Francesco Talenti, who finished the bell tower and changed the façade inserting a precious marble decoration in the side walls and defining the model of the column of the central nave. After the 1359 Giovanni LapoGhini took the direction of the works completing the first three aisles, with an innovative square plan.
The outer walls were covered with a rich decoration in polychrome marble of Campiglia, Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena and Monsummano (red). There were built four side doors, among which stood out for its beauty the “Canonical Door”, in flamboyant Gothic style and “Almond Door” so called for the element inside the Gothic spire with the high relief of the Assumption by Nanni di Banco.
Information for visits to Florence Cathedral
Address: Old Town Centre
How to get there: by feet
Monday-Wednesday and Friday: 10 am – 5 pm;
Friday: 10 am – 4 pm (May and October), 10 am – 5 pm (July-September), 1 am – 4.30 pm (from January to April, June, November and December); Saturday: 10 am – 4.45 pm ; Sundays and religious holidays: 1.30 – 4.45 pm
Holy Thursday: 12.30 – 4.30 pm
Good Friday: 10.30 am – 4.45 pm
Holy Saturday: 11 am – 4.45 pm
Closed on Christmas, 1st January, Epiphany and Easter.
The ticket costs € 15 and includes:
Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Baptistery of San Giovanni
The remains of Santa Reparata