Florence celebrates 600 years of Brunelleschi's Dome

Work began on the world's largest brick dome in 1420.

Florence is marking 600 years since construction work began on Brunelleschi’s Cupola for the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, a landmark which has dominated the skyline of the Tuscan capital for six centuries.

In 1418 the ingenious design for the dome was awarded to 41-year-old Florentine architect, engineer and goldsmith Filippo Brunelleschi, who is considered a founding father of Renaissance architecture.

Building work began on 7 August 1420 and the dome was finally completed 16 years later. The cupola remains the world's largest brick dome ever built, with an outer diameter of 54.8 metres and an inner one of 45.5 metres.

The genius behind Brunelleschi's design is that the dome is in fact two concentric domes: an outer dome conceals the inner one.

The pointed dome, stronger than the semi-circular one; was built using light brick; and by wrapping the walls with tension rings of stone, iron, and wood, similar to hoops on a barrel, preventing it from cracking or collapsing.

Photo by Oleksandr Zhabin on Unsplash

For the duration of the cupola's construction, Brunelleschi was forced to work alongside his arch rival Lorenzo Ghiberti - a strained relationship to say the least - two decades after Ghiberti had beaten him to win the designs for the new bronze doors of Florence's Baptistery.

The finished cathedral, whose construction began in 1296, was consecrated finally by Pope Eugenius IV on 25 March 1436, in what was a triumph for Brunelleschi, Florence and the world.

Ten years later Brunelleschi was awarded the ultimate honour when his body was buried in the crypt of the Florence Cathedral, under the dome whose design and construction he had overseen brick by brick.

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Address Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

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Florence celebrates 600 years of Brunelleschi's Dome

Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy