A marvel of engineering and a site of one of the birthplaces of the Italian Renaissance, Brunelleschiâ??s Dome, or Cupola del Brunelleschi, is iconic to the city of Florence. Sitting atop the Florence Cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, the Brunelleschiâ??s Dome is the crowning glory of the cathedral and of the city itself. Designed by goldsmith Filippo Brunelleschi, Il Cupolone, or the Big Dome, took 16 years to build and was completed in 1436. The largest dome on earth is over 145 feet wide and visible from most of Florence, and is full of architectural wonders that were way ahead of its time. Brunelleschiâ??s Dome would go on to inspire some of the greatest minds of the Renaissance.
Visiting Brunelleschiâ??s Dome is a must when in Florence, Italy. Located in the heart of Florenceâ??s historic city center, the entire cathedral complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most popular attractions in all of Italy, and indeed all of the world. Weâ??ve included some background to prepare you for your visit to the duomo, or dome, as well as travel tips for visiting this historic site and cultural landmark.
Birthplace of the Renaissance
Many historians agree that the ingenious design and construction of Brunelleschiâ??s Dome helped to usher in a new era of art and engineering in Italy and Europe, making it the birthplace of the Renaissance. There are several aspects of the dome that make it a remarkable feat of architecture and engineering to this day, let alone when it was built in the early 15th century.
Construction of the Florence Cathedral was started in 1296 during the Middle Ages. Its style is mostly Gothic and it was built to signify Florence as one of Europeâ??s economic and cultural capitals, as the city had flourished from wool and silk trading and finance. The cathedral, while beautiful, sat incomplete without a roof for over â?¦ years until it would finally receive its dome.
In 1418, Florentine priests announced a contest for the design of the cathedralâ??s dome and a reward of 200 gold florins for the winning design. While many architects would compete for the prestigious task, it was Brunelleschiâ??s groundbreaking design and building techniques that won out.
The dome was to be built on top of the existing cathedral walls, and its construction would start 180 feet above ground. Brunelleschi invented a unique lifting system with gears and pulleys to lift the heavy materials that were required for his dome up in the air. Brunelleschiâ??s lifts would later go on to inspire Leonardo da Vinci who described how they were built in his famous sketchbooks.
The construction of Brunelleschiâ??s Dome shunned existing norms such as using wooden scaffolding or flying buttresses; the innovative design of his dome would support its own weight. Brunelleschi would achieve this by constructing the dome with a double-shell design. The smaller, internal dome is visible from inside the cathedral, and is nestled inside a larger external dome that is visible from most of Florence. In order to counteract the domeâ??s outward pressure, Brunelleschi bound the walls with 24 ribs made of stone, iron and wood to support its weight. The ogival-style dome features a slight point, rather than a smooth, rounded top, to help further reduce pressure from the massive structure.
Brunelleschi's Dome was completed in 1936 and the finally finished Florence Cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV at the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th. Once it was completed, the interior of the cathedral and dome was decorated by Renaissance artists such as Donatello, Paolo Uccello, and Luca Della Robbia. The interior of Brunelleschiâ??s Dome features breathtaking 16th century frescoes by Giorgio Vasari with scenes depicting the Last Judgment.
The looming, supple curves of Brunelleschiâ??s Dome were in stark contrast to the angular lines of the Gothic style that was still dominant in the skyline of Milan, which was the powerhouse in northern Italy, and the arch rival of Florence. The triumphant success of Brunelleschiâ??s Dome signaled the city breaking free from the Middle Ages and kicked off a period of unbridled innovation and invention in Europe known as the Renaissance.
Best Time to Visit Brunelleschiâ??s Dome
Due to the high tourism season in Italy during the summer months, the best time to visit the duomo is generally from October through March. This will be your best chance at avoiding long lines at this hugely popular attraction at the heart of Florence. Visiting during the low season also allows you to avoid the extreme summer heat in Italy, and you can often find better deals while enjoying the open-air museum that is Florence.
The dome is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, with shortened hours on the weekends. There are also many popular guided tours available. Climbing the 463 steps that spiral up to the top of the dome can be long and arduous, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city of Florence. Mornings are the busiest time for the plethora of tours available, so whether you want to join in or avoid the crowds, plan your visit accordingly.
Now is the time to book your trip to Florence if youâ??ve been thinking about visiting Brunelleschiâ??s Dome! We can book you the trip youâ??ve been waiting for so you can take in this marvelous feat of architecture and the birthplace of the Renaissance.