La Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (literally translated as the cathedral of Santa Maria with a lily) is the main church of Florence and one of the largest temples in Italy. The dome of the church is considered to be a bright example of early Renaissance architecture.
They began to build the cathedral in XIII century when Florence became a powerful and rich city. It was decided to build the church on the site of dilapidated Santa-Reparata Church (it was over 900 years old), which was then the main temple of the city. It was required that the new cathedral should be «something even more wonderful beyond human powers and possibilities».
The cathedral was laid down in 1296 and his first architect was Arnolfo di Cambio, how-ever, as it is often the case with all great temples, the architect hardly had time to laid down the foundation and erect some walls. After his death his followers began to change his design, and there also remained the problem of how to erect the huge dome designed by di Cambio, which was then a very difficult task.
In XIV century Giotto di Bondone erected the bell-tower of the cathedral with the height of 99 meters. Today it is called Giotto`s Campanile. From its upper floor one can have the most beautiful view of the entire Florence, as well as the dome of the cathedral, which is beautiful by itself.
By that time there had already been certain experience in construction of such domes – for example, St. Sophia`s Cathedral in Constantinople and Pantheon in Rome, - however, the Florentines wanted to surpass their predecessors. The dome of La Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (42 meters) was 11 meters larger than that of St. Sophia`s Cathedral (31 meters). Although the dome of Pantheon had the same diameter (42 meters), it was based on a low and strong foundation, while the building of Florentine cathedral was huge by itself, and it was then difficult to calculate the load of the giant dome.
Finally, it was decided to accept the project of Florentine architect Philippo Brunellesky, who suggested erecting the dome without any scaffolding. So that it didn’t collapse, it was decided that it shouldn’t be spherical but pointed and be supported by specialized ribs. In 1436 the dome was finished and the cathedral was at once consecrated. However, in the next decades the dome was being changed, and in XIX century the facade was completely rebuilt. It was covered with marble panels of green, pink and white colors.
When visiting La Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore you should do the following:
1. To climb Giotto`s Campanile in order to see the overwhelming panorama of Florence and cathedral`s dome in all its beauty. You can also climb atop the dome, but then you can not see it.
2. To visit Baptistery and see the famous "Gates of Paradise". The east pair of the doors was so dubbed by Michelangelo. The replica of the Gate was installed at the northern portal of Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
3. To visit Cathedral`s Museum. The originals of Gates are stored there, as well as sculptures of many famous Italian sculptures.