by Silvia Messeri

The machines used for the construction of the cupola

When Leonardo da Vinci, already fascinated by Brunelleschi's genius, arrived as an art apprentice in Florence in 1469 and saw the cupola of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, he immediately wanted to study the machines that Filippo Brunelleschi had used in its construction.

Mariano di Jacopo called Taccola: The horse-driven version of the Brunelleschi hoist
(on the right) Leonardo Da Vinci: Brunelleschi's elevators
The only illustrations of these machines that have survived to this day are the drawings that were carried out by some of the most famous engineers of the Renaissance: Giuliano da Sangallo, Mariano di Jacono, known as Taccola, and Bonaccorso Ghiberti, all of whom were fascinated by the mind that had conceived and created such brilliantly clever devices. Brunelleschi in fact left no written or drawn illustrations of the machines he used in the construction of the cupola.

Giuliano Da Sangallo:
Revolving crane for the lantern (first version)
Thus we find drawings of Brunelleschi's lifting devices or the revolving crane used to raise the lantern by Leonardo, together with several others by Ghiberti and Sangallo of Brunelleschi's three-speed hoist, while Taccola carried out a view of Brunelleschi's horse-drawn hoist.

Cover page of the "The Renaissance Engineers from Brunelleschi a Leonardo da Vinci" catalogue
All these illustrations can be found in the fascinating catalogue published by Giunti for the Engineers of the Renaissance exhibition and which contains a detailed description of the machines and human inventiveness in one of the most creative periods in the history of mankind.

See also: A birthday to conclude a millennium The cupola, masterpiece of Brunelleschi That strange clock by Paolo Uccello Programme of the main cultural events A tour of the Duomo, reaction of the foreign tourists Incredible machines from Brunelleschi to Leonardo


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Silvia Messeri & Sandro Pintus

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