The Duomo in Florence, Italy - Florence's Cathedral
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Florence - the Duomo

Florence Duomo
Florence Duomo (cathedral)

The Republic of Florence began to plan this cathedral in the late 1200s AD, when Dante was growing up, to replace the old cathedral from about 500 AD that was too small and old. They had already replaced their old baptistery, and now they wanted to do the cathedral.

The government of Florence raised money to pay for their new cathedral with a tax on people's wills. The new church was very big - it is the fourth biggest church in the world - and so it was very hard to build.

Arnolfo di Cambio, the first architect to work on the Duomo (DWOH-mo)(Duomo means Cathedral in Italian), designed the duomo in the Gothic style, with a main nave and two side aisles, and an apse in the back. But di Cambio died in 1302, and a new group of men took over the government of Florence. Work stopped for a long time. In 1334, the artist Giotto agreed to work on the Duomo, but he only had time to build the campanile (bell-tower) before he died three years later. Then Pisano took over as the architect, but when a terrible plague killed thousands of people in Florence in 1348, work stopped again. (This was the plague that killed many of Boccaccio's friends.)


The Duomo, with music recorded at the Duomo
and the sound of the Duomo's bells

Twenty-seven years later, in 1375, workmen actually tore down the old cathedral and began building the new one, somewhat modernized from the original plan which was now almost a hundred years old. In 1418, with most of the cathedral built, Brunelleschi (brew-nuh-LESS-key) designed a great dome to go over the high altar at the crossing (where the transept crossed the nave), and worked out how to build it. The cathedral was basically finished in 1436, even though the red, white, and green marble on the outside wasn't finished until four hundred years later.

On the inside, there are fresco paintings by Paolo Uccello.

Bibliography and further reading about Florence's Duomo:

Gothic architecture
Medieval architecture
More about the Middle Ages


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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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