5 incredible facts about il Duomo

If you're a design or architecture buff, or heck, just love an interesting story, look no further. The conception and construction of the Duomo is filled with persistence, many many firsts, and unorthodox thinking.

    It took a whopping 140 years to complete the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore (more famous as Il Duomo). A committee had come up with the ambitious plans and ideas to build the entire grand cathedral in 1293. They started the cathedral even though no technology to complete the dome existed at the time, and ended up leaving the part of the dome’s roof exposed for more than a century. This is why, from conception to completion, the process took over 140 years.

      It is the third largest cathedral in the world. The Duomo is 502-feet long, 300-feet wide and 376-feet high, and it was the largest cathedral in the world until St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.

        It is also the largest masonry dome in the world!!  With over 4 million bricks, weighing over 40,000 tons, almost the size of half a football field across at the base, and standing over 10 stories high, it is the largest masonry structure in the world. Can you imagine constructing that without any technology?? 🤯🤯

          The man who designed and built the domed rooftop had no previous architectural training. Fillipo Brunelleschi was a trained goldsmith and had never built anything in his life. After 100 years, the dome project was offered as a public competition, and Brunelleschi won the competition and created an ingenious way to construct the dome using no scaffolding.

            The magical secret behind the dome design is the herringbone brick pattern, and a flower!  The shape of a flower was used at the base to guide the rope pattern which outlined the brick layout (remember there were no lasers or levels back then!). This forced the bricks to create a series of inverted arches as the walls grew higher. The inverted arches were the key reason that the structure has lasted all these years. Instead of gravity pulling the heavy bricks down causing them to cave in from the top as everyone had assumed, the herringbone layout of the bricks and the inverted arches actually use gravity to reinforce the structure. Absolutely genius.  


            Join Betty Ritschel, our Florence artist, to learn more about the Duomo and admire its incredible construction as you paint your own masterpiece in her Watercolor Workshop this Sunday, September 27th

              Leave a comment