Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sarah Santos - Florence, Italy. March 31-April 2 - Duomo

Once you are in the historical center of Florence, the famous dome of the Duomo can be seen from several different streets and there are signs everywhere directing you toward it. I didn’t have to wander very far from our hostel to get my initial glimpse of this great symbol of Firenze (Florence in Italian). The first thing I noticed as I got nearer was the colors; the Duomo was decorated in green, red, and white. I had never seen a colorful church before. Also, I quickly discovered that the Duomo consists of three buildings: the baptistery, bell tower, and cathedral. Renaissance sculptor and engineer Brunelleschi’s dome is atop the cathedral--Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The cathedral, dome, and bell tower are absolutely beautiful in a way that is very different from the other Gothic buildings I’ve seen thus far. Some people even say that the dome looks like speckled ice cream because of all the colors. The next day, I learned from the tour guide that the three colors are to represent the Roman Catholic Church’s virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The guide also spent a lot of time telling us the history of the dome. It is the largest self-supporting brick dome in the world. What makes it especially impressive was the engineering of the dome. The cathedral’s construction had begun in the late 13th century but was not structurally completed until 1436. The construction took this long because until Brunelleschi, it seemed impossible to build a dome of its size without the use of scaffolding or buttresses. This particular dome was both the first and last to be built in this style. Brunelleschi was able to construct it by building a smaller dome to support the larger outer dome. Michelangelo’s David was originally supposed to stand on top, but they couldn’t manage to move it from the square in front up to the dome. From the very top of the dome are reportedly the best views of the entire city. Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure because I went on a Saturday and it closed early since the cathedral needed to be prepared for Sunday mass. The cathedral itself is also the final resting place for several prominent Florentines including Brunelleschi and Michelangelo. As if this all wasn’t beauty enough for a morning, the baptistery has three doors. The most notable of these doors is the East Door that Michelangelo named the “Gates of Paradise”. On the door, in gold, are depicted scenes of the David and Goliath story. To the Florentines, this story is very important to them as it emphasizes the importance of the mind. The next time I am in Florence, the Duomo will again be on my list and I can’t wait to check and see if the top of the dome really does has the best views of the city.

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