cathedral of Florence, popularly known as "il Duomo",
form the Latin "Domus Dei" or the house of God, was
begun with the laying of the first stone, on September 8th 1296.
The architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, was the same who designed
Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and The Loggia dei Lanzi.
The new church was meant to replace a much smaller one,
Santa Reparata, a crumbling old romanesque building.
cathedral took almost 140 years to complete due to several wars
and especially the Black Plague of 1348, which returned several
times before the end of the century, so that several generations
of architects worked on the building, culminating in the
extaordinary dome, designed and built by one of the fathers of
the Florentine renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi.
was the first real dome to be built since the fall of the Roman
empire. Brunelleschi who studied the structure of the Pantheon
in Rome (1st century, A.D.) was able to not only to design the
dome, but he also designed and invented machines for hauling and
lifting the stones to dizzying heights, whithout having to
construct scaffolding from the ground.
His was the famous lift
to carry men, material and provisions to the top. He had kitchens
installed at the top so that the builders wouldn't have to lose
time coming down for their meals. The church was finally
consecrated by Pope Eugene IV in 1436.
Needless to say that the
cathedral was decorated by several generations of artists up to
the 19th century, when the facade was redesigned in a neogothic
style by Emilio De Fabris between 1871 and 1887.
The facade was
the work and inspiration of the newly united Italy, dedicated in
the presence of the new King, Umberto II.