The Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence cathedral) is the main church and the major landmark of Florence. The church who should enlarge the existing religious structure, was originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and got approved by the city council in 1294. During this period Florence was one of the richest cities in Europe also thanks to the bankers family “Medici”. Especially this family, who’s members were in the city council, wanted to build a mighty cathedral showing the big wealth and influence of Florence to its fellows.
After Arnolfo died in 1310, work on the cathedral slowed for 30 years because various architects were responsible for finishing the remaining parts of the cathedral. Around 1367 the cathedral was completely covered by colored marbles (white, green, pink) like the earlier Baptistery, the facade on the outside instead remained unfinished and was completed only in the 19th century. Back to the beginning of the 15th century, there was another problem lowering the reputation of Florence and with it of the Medici family: the structure of the cathedral was still missing its imposant dome.
The city council wanted to own the biggest dome the world has ever seen in this period, the upcoming problem was that no architect could design and certainly not construct it. In 1419 the city council anncounced a public competition for the construction of the dome with a prize of 200 gold florins and eternal fame for the one who could build it.
The city council agreed to make Filippo Brunelleschi to the superintendent and his rival Lorenzo Ghiberti to the co-superintendent. Brunelleschi looked for inspiration to the great dome of the Pantheon (built by the Romans) in Rome. The result of this research was that the material used for building the dome of the Pantheon was not applicable for the dome in Florence due to its planned larger size.
As strange as it may sound, Brunelleschi got the ultimative solution when seeing a herringbone:
With a sophisticated design consisting of an inner shell of bricks with a fish-bone pattern and a horizontal stone chain, the weight was distributed evenly. The outer much smaller shell carries the roof and protects the inner shell from strains. Between the the two bowls the staircase was getting constructed which today leads visitors to the top of it.
Relevant visitor information (status 28.01.2018):
- Cathedral from the inside
- Crypt of Santa Reparata (inside the cathedral, in the underground)
- Cupola (the top of the dome with a great view over Florence, mandatory prebooking, no elevator, 463 steps to climb)
- Battistero (Baptistry in front of the cathedral)
- Campanile, The top of the Bell Tower (no elevator, 414 steps to climb)
- Mueso dell’Opera, museum about the history of the cathedral
Closed: The museum will be closed on the first Tuesday of each month.
- Best option: Buy your cumulative ticket online on the offical website and preebook (mandatory) at the same time your visit on the top of Brunelleschi’s dome (credit card payment only).
- Like I did: Buy them directly in one of the four ticket offices. Pay attention, you have to prebook your ticket for getting on the top of the dome. When I went to the ticket office this option was booked out for the next 5 days so make sure you go to the ticket office early enough or buy your ticket online.
- Official tour “A glimpse of Florence”: 1 hour tour through the inside of the cathedral including the exclusive visit on the panoramic terrace and the entrance to the Baptistery, Belltower & Crypt: book online.
- Offical guided tours: book here
- Official thematic tours: book here
- Exclusive tours: book here
- Fidelity card: book here
- During my visit I couldn’t find any audioguide to rent. You can download a free audio guide here.
- Tickets are valid for 6 days from the date selceted for the visit on the calendar at the moment of the purchase
- Usable for 48 hours from the first passage
- One entry to each site
- The booking for the Brunelleschi’s Dome cannot be modified. If you are unable to make the visit at the reserved time the validity of your ticket will be lost.
- When getting on the top of the dome or bell tower remember there’s no elevator, it is not advisable for persons with heart, vertigo and claustrophobia problems
- Dress properly for getting inside the cathedral otherwise the security may deny you the access: