Audio File length: 2.54
English / USA Language: English / USA

Just like we always do at MyWoWo, I suggest taking a walk around the exterior of the great Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore before going inside. Let me tell you a little bit about its history as you walk along.

The immense building you're admiring is the result of a process that lasted several centuries, but one which also shows the imprint of two architectural geniuses with absolute clarity: they are Arnolfo di Cambio, who designed the general project, and Filippo Brunelleschi, who in the first half of the 1400s designed the masterful dome that crowns the whole. Florence's Cathedral is one of the largest churches in the world, and can hold about 30,000 people.

The Church of Santa Maria del Fiore took the place of the previous Church standing here, which was dedicated to Santa Reparata, and its construction began in 1299. The construction site was led by Arnolfo di Cambio for eleven years, until his death; he was then succeeded by Giotto. In about eighty years' time the Cathedral was substantially completed, lacking only the façade and dome.

I'll tell you more about the dome in the next file, for now let's discuss the façade's very troubled history: at the end of the 1500s all the parts built under Arnolfo di Cambio were dismantled, including the sculptures, which you can still admire today in the Cathedral Museum. For three centuries the façade remained unfinished; it was only completed towards the end of the 1800s in a Neo-Gothic style rich in decorations and sculptures. The use of the same white, red, and green marble that lines the sides makes the set homogeneous regardless. The bronze doors also date back to the same period.

If you look closely at the geometric patterns near the portal by Giotto's Bell Tower, you'll notice that they're a little bit different than the rest of the building: in fact, this is the oldest part of the coating.

The most beautiful side entrance of the Cathedral is at the back left: it's called the "Porta della Mandorla", or Almond Gate, and dates back to the beginning of the 1400s. Note the beautiful bas-relief that decorates the top, and the splendid mosaic depicting the Annunciation.


FUN FACT: the wooden portal you see on the left side of the Cathedral between two columns supported by two lions is called the Porta dei Cornacchini, and it's tied to a dramatic episode. A certain Anselmo dreamed of being devoured by a lion. To free himself from the shock of the nightmare, he approached one of the lions of the columns and put a hand in his mouth. But there was a scorpion hiding inside, which stung and killed him!

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