Florence Cathedral is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic city centre of Florence. It is dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore The locals call it the Duomo.
Florence is synonymous with the Duomo which is a major tourist attraction. It is located in a busy area of Florence, Piazza del Duomo. The cathedral is a short walk of 800 metres from Santa Maria Novella train station. There are many shops and restaurants in the locality.
Exterior of Florence Cathedral
One is struck by the cathedral’s rather solemn exterior, an exception being its dome which is paved with red stone.
The cathedral is a magnificent structure. Its construction took 140 years to complete. Work began in 13th century. The original design was that of Arnolfo di Cambio. He was the foremost architect and sculptor of Florence in the later half of thirteenth century.
The massive dome is the largest masonry dome in the world. The designer was Filippo Brunelleschi. Work began in 1420 and its completion was sixteen years later. The dome used 40 million bricks and weighs 40,000 tons. The production of so many bricks and lifting of building materials to such a great height were major challenges. Filippo Brunelleschi built a completely new lift for the huge quantity of bricks and mortar. Two oxen walking in circles operated the lift.
The exterior facade is paved with marble in three colours. Marble from different quarries in Tuscany have different colours: white marble from Carrara, green from the quarries of Prato and pink from Sienna. Visitors can climb more than 400 steps to the top of the dome or cupola which rises 107 metres.
The interior is vast. It is 153 metres long and 90 metres at the widest point. Inside there are 44 beautiful stained glass windows and paintings.
The giant fresco under the dome spreads over 28,750 sq. ft. It is one of the largest frescos in the world. It has a depiction of the Last Judgement. The designer was Giorgio Vasari.
The colossal clock above the main door shows time in 24 hours. The clock face has only one arm. Paolo Uccello designed it in the fifteenth century. The clock is still in working condition.
Next to the Duomo is the Bell Tower which is in Gothic style. It houses many life-size statues by Florentine masters. The tower has a height of 85 metres. The cathedral of Florence is one of the few churches where the church itself is higher than the church tower. The mighty dome on the church is at 107 metres and higher than the bell tower. Visitors can climb both the dome and bell tower. The view of Florence from the top is grand. From atop the bell tower, you have the possibility to photograph the dome at close quarters.
Baptistery of St. John
Right in front of Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the Baptistery of St. John. It has an octagonal plan. It is famous for its three bronze doors which depict the life of John the Baptist. The Baptistery dates back to 3rd or 4th century. It has a magnificent marble facade like the cathedral.