Florence Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Florence Cathedral

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Florence Cathedral, with its iconic ‘duomo’, is a world famous 15th-century cathedral.

Lily Johnson

16 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), often called the “Duomo”, is an iconic site in Italy, built from September 1296 and consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV on 25 March 1436.

Florence Cathedral history

From its lavish use of marble to its status as the fourth largest church in Europe, Florence Cathedral was always intended to be vast and impressive. In fact, its initial designer, Arnolfo di Cambio wanted it to be the world’s largest church of the Roman Catholic faith, and funded by the incredibly wealthy and influential Medici family, this was not far out of reach.

One of the most famous aspects of Florence Cathedral is its dome. Designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, who took inspiration from the engineering style used to build Rome’s Pantheon, it was one of the largest of its day and is tiled in a distinctive orange shade. Visitors who climb the 463 steps of the “Duomo” are rewarded with incredible views of Florence.

Adjoining the Cathedral is the octagonal Baptistry, believed to be one of the city’s oldest structures and possibly dating back as far as the 4th century. As Florence grew in power and importance, the Baptistry was enlarged and renovated, mostly from the 12th century onwards. One of the Baptistry’s most celebrated elements are its bronze doors, which depict important Christian events.

Florence Cathedral today

Inside Florence Cathedral, the dome is decorated with a fresco known as “The Last Judgement”, initially painted by Vasari who also contributed to the Palazzo Vecchio, and later finished by Zuccari. Michelangelo’s and Donatello’s works are also represented inside, as are copies of Pisano’s works. Despite this, the interior of Florence Cathedral is very austere, almost bare, representing the typical Florentine style of the time.

Further fascinating aspects of Florence Cathedral are the archaeological findings at the site, including the ruins of Santa Reparata Cathedral, its predecessor. This is contained in the crypt, part of which is open to the public and which also houses the tomb of Brunelleschi.

Guided tours are available. Florence Cathedral is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of historic Florence.

Getting to Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral is located in the centre of Florence in Italy, and is best reached via public transport. Florence Airport is around 8km away, with regular buses and trams into the centre. Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station is a 10-minute walk away, while the 14 and 23 bus services stop at Pucci Duomo, a 3-minute walk away.

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