Saturday, June 18, 2011

Florence Duomo

Florence's Duomo, its cathedral, and particularly its great dome, dominate the city's skyline and identity like no other great city and great building. The green, white and pink marble Gothic building was erected in the 14th century--anticipating the largest dome that ever had been built--but without the engineering nor architectual expertise to complete such an endeavor. But in 1420, Brunelleschi solved these problems, studying the Pantheon in Rome, drilling into its dome to see how the Romans had done it a millennium earlier. He solved the problem and many underlying engineering problems: one of the earliest patents granted was for the special hoists he designed to lift 3 ton blocks into the sky, along with thousands and thousands of bricks, all resting on a complex system of arches and buttresses and a double-dome. It's been standing up there for nearly 600 years, I know, but I am always nervous in these ancient and gigantic buildings that are held together by nothing much more than friction and gravity. And genius.
The Duomo, from Piazzale Michaelangelo, across the river

Speaking of genius: here is the campanile, the
bell tower, built a bit earlier; 267 feet tall;
designed by Giotto, aka "Father of the
Renaissance," in painting at least; but he also
did campaniles, begins to
understand what being a "Renaissance Man"
was all about...

Ground-up view

West facade and campanile

Intitially, the interior looks rather stark, if huge (3rd largest
nave in Christendom)

But then when one begins looking around,
there are all kinds of interesting things:
e.g., this giant bass-ackwards 24 hour clock
in Roman numerals

Super-billboard-sized illusionistic paintings of
local equestrian heroes

Great glass, and

This merely billboard-sized painting of Dante explaining
his Divine Comedy to the Florentines; he was subsequently
exiled and died in Ravenna, but Florence would really like
to have his mortal remains back now

And then the KO punch: the interior of the great dome is just
as colossal and impressive as the dome itself...Vasari's Last

Great Hell and Satan scenes

But best of all, at the very top, hanging in over the edge,
this motley crew of illlusionistic skumdullions lightening
things up a bit...

Glimpse of a Last Supper behind the altar

And beautiful della Robbias all around

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