The Florence Cathedral and its 463 steps to the beauty!

The Florence Cathedral and its 463 steps to the beauty!

“I will go to Rome to make your sister dome, larger yes, but not more beautiful”. Before leaving to Rome to complete the St. Peter dome, Michelangelo Buonarroti declared this sentence and greeted the “Cupolone” (= “Big Dome”, so named by the Florentines) in Florence, built around the 1425 by Filippo Brunelleschi and decorated by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari on the theme of the Last Judgment. The real core of the center of Florence is in fact represented by Piazza San Giovanni and the complex of Santa Maria del Fiore, where some of the most important and visited tourist destinations coexist: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower , the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the crypt of Santa Reparata, the Opera Museum of Florence.
And doubtless the Dome by Brunelleschi deserves an accurate visit!


Florence [Photo credits Stuart Caie]

Brunelleschi’s Dome
The height of the Dome starts 52 metres above the floor and spans 44 meters, composed by a double shell, made of sandstone and marble. The total height of the entire structure is 116,50 meters and it is estimated that for the construction have been employed over four million bricks. Brunelleschi would have to build the dome out of brick, due to its light weight compared to stone and being easier to form, without any fabrics and with nothing under it during construction. The final result was a “magnificent and inflating” [cit. Brunelleschi] external dome, consists of eight ribs marble and red bricks, arranged on the basis of an herringbone pattern. A curiosity: in 1601, a lightning struck the bronze ball and its cross, by Verrocchio, which broke away from the dome and rolled down, crashing to the ground. By memory of the incident, the Florentine Republic did indicate the exact point of fall with a round white marble stock, just behind the Duomo in front of Dell’Oriuolo street.


The Last Judgement fresco, by Vasari and Zuccari [Photo credits Miguel G.S.]

The Last Judgement fresco, by Vasari and Zuccari
After the long queue that often precedes the entrance to the cathedral, once you manage to enter inside, look up to heaven and you will be immediately caught by the spectacular fresco of the dome. Commissioned by Cosimo I de ‘Medici in 1572 to Vasari, it was then concluded by Zuccari in 1579. The Last Judgment represents Heaven, Purgatory and Hell according to allegorical images. The dome covers 4,000 square meters in six concentric overlapping logs and consists of 24 niches painted. All around are painted the elders of the apocalypse. In the part representing the kingdom of heaven, the God Father in Glory is placed side by side by the Virgin and St. John, and He rests on the three theological virtues (the Faith, the Hope and the Charity) and the angels of God. The Purgatory is symbolized instead by a hill, the symbols of the Church and of the time and seasons as well. Finally, Hell is populated by caricatures of famous people of the period.

The stairway to the view of Florence

The stairway to the view of Florence [Photo credits PROniall62]

The stairway to the view of Florence
The entrance to the famous staircase is just to the left of the main altar. From here, begins the 463 steps, in a narrow and steep and even two-way passage, which leads up to the top of the dome. The path is not easy, and how tiring is it! So, to stop thinking about the hustle, you also could count all the stais and figure out if the number is correct (sometimes there are contrasting points of view!). After the last effort, however, when you will be able to get outside of the dome, the drudgery becomes clear: the 360 ° view of Florence from the very top is a spectacular and unique experience! You will not regret it!

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