is in the heart of the historic centre of Florence, dominated by the imposing cathedral, the Campanile (Bell Tower) designed by Giotto and the Battistero di San Giovanni (the Baptistery of San Giovanni or sometimes called the Florence Baptistery or the Baptistery of St. John). Florence's Cathedral is one of the most important architectural works of the period, in Gothic-Renaissance style, and one of the largest and most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. The building work was started in 1296 under the guidance of the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, on the spot where the ancient Cathedral of Santa Reparata had previously been. When the first three arches had been completed, in 1378-80, the roofs of the nave and aisles were constructed. The problem of the dome was solved by Brunelleschi, who became the first Renaissance architect. On 25th March 1436, Santa Maria del Fiore was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV. The huge dome dominates the square, the city and the whole plain, and can be seen from many points on the surrounding hills, even from a considerable distance. Emilio De Fabris was awarded the contract for the present facade, in neo-Gothic style, built between 1871 and 1887.
is positioned beside the cathedral and was designed by Giotto but built by Andrea Pisano and completed by Francesco Talenti. It is 84 metres high and entirely coated in polychrome marble, in white, green and pink, and is also decorated with many sculptures and panels, most of which have now been replaced by copies. In the panels of the base, the human activities are depicted, representing the trades of the medieval Florentine guilds, whereas the Planets, the Virtues, the Liberal Arts and the Sacraments are depicted in the second layer of panels.
on top of the Cathedral is the largest masonry dome every built. Machines that the architect himself designed were used for its construction; they were required to lift the materials during the building works. The Lanterna (Lantern), with a diameter of about 6 metres, is of essential importance for the overall static strength of the construction. In 1472, Verrocchio built the bronze sphere which was placed on top. For this work, Brunelleschi’s machines were again required. One of the apprentices who helped Verrocchio in this difficult operation was the young Leonardo di Vinci.
patron saint of the city of Florence, rises in front of the Cathedral. With an octagonal shape, it was originally located outside the walls and was surrounded by other buildings, which were demolished in the XIV and XV centuries to create the square as it is today. The need for a very large building arose from the need to house the crowd for baptism, which was performed only on two pre-ordained days of the year. The building has a dome made of 8 segments. The exterior decorations, in white marble from Carrara and green marble from Prato, are divided into three horizontal bands, with square geometric decorations. The interior decoration is similarly divided into three horizontal bands. The baptismal font, which was originally positioned in the centre, has splendid embellishments of inlaid marble work showing the signs of the zodiac and geometric patterns indicating the cardinal points.
Photo: Paolo Stinco