The Duomo in Florence consists of three buildings, the Baptistery, the Cathedral, and the Bell Tower. The first of which to be built was the baptistery which dates from the 11th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. The Cathedral is famous for its dome constructed by Brunelleschi and, is the largest brick and mortar dome in the world.
The Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence better known simply as the “Duomo”, which means Cathedral. Although renowned for being one of the lasting symbols of the Italian Renaissance (1400 - 1600), the Duomo actually started out as a Gothic structure. Florence was the centre of the Renaissance (Rebirth) and led the way in Renaissance architecture until 1490 when it became a Republic and the city fell upon hard times.
The Duomo consists of three buildings, the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Bell Tower. The first of the three to be built was the Baptistery which was constructed on the site of a Roman Temple. It is known to be one of the oldest buildings in Florence and is thought to date from the 11th century though the exact date is not known.
The gilded bronze door facing south was made in 1336 by Andrea Pisano while the doors facing north and east - known with the name of Gate of “Paradise” - were made by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1427 and in 1452.
The door in place now is in fact a replacement, the original was removed for restoration and is exhibited in the "Museo dell´Opera del Duomo".
The Baptistery has a magnificent mosaic ceiling depicting the Last Judgment which dates from the 13th century.
The construction of the Cathedral began in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio although he died before it was completed leaving it without a dome.
It was relatively easy to erect a dome using formwork for support, but Florence was unwilling to pay for this, so they wanted it done without, consequently, they held a competition to find a suitable design, this was won by Filippo Brunelleschi who devised a way of doing that by producing a double skin. His dome consisted of two layers, an inner and an outer one which protected it from the weather and gave it a more pleasing external form.
The Dome consisted of circular profiles of ribs and rings, the spaces between the ribs and rings being spanned by the inner and outer shells. These were constructed of stone for the first 7 metres (23 ft) and then brick above this height. The ribs are stone arches and are 2 metres (7 ft) thick at the base tapering to 1.5 metres (5 ft), which meet at an open stone compression ring at the top. The construction of the domes can be seen when visiting the dome.
The weight is displaced down and across by the use of bricks in a herringbone bond which works like bookends holding books in place. Five chains were placed around the circumference and were built into the brickwork as it progressed upwards to withhold the lateral force of the dome and prevent it from thrusting outwards.
Visitors can climb the 464 steps to the lantern above the dome, although there is a place to rest on the way up which gives a view of the nave and the ceiling of the dome.
Visitors then progress upwards between the two shells following the dome's curvature from the main body of the church to the observation gallery on top of the dome, which contains a platform and a lantern.
At ground level, the interior of the cathedral, with its Gothic architecture, columns, ribbed ceilings, and pointed arches contains the 3rd largest nave in Christendom.
Finished around 1367, the Cathedral was covered by coloured marble like the Baptistery, with the exception of the facade that remained unfinished until 1887 when the 20-year project by Emilio de Fabris completed it in the style of the Gothic Revival.
The exterior is covered with pink, white, and green marble and contains numerous beautiful statues and decorations.
This Bell Tower was started in 1334 by Giotto di Bondone. He was succeeded in 1343 by Andrea Pisano - who produced the South Doors of the Baptistery.
Pisano continued the construction of the Bell Tower, following Giotto’s design of a high slender structure with a square base and sides of just over 14 metres (47 ft).
Pisano was followed by Francesco Talenti who built the top three levels, completing the Bell Tower in 1359: Although he did change the original design of Giotto by not building a spire, thus reduced its’ planned height from 122 metres to 84.4 metres (400 ft to 277 ft).