by Sandro Pintus

A birthday to conclude a millennium

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore celebrated its seventh centenary on September 8th. Seven centuries of history, art and culture and seven centuries since September 8th 1296, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, when Archbishop Francesco Monaldeschi, who had only been in Florence for a year, laid the first stone of the great and magnificent building that during the next two centuries was to become the Cathedral of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

A suggestive view of the Cathedral facade (Foto FAN)
It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Flower or Iris (which is not a lily as many believe), the symbol of the city. Some more modern opinions believe, however, that the cathedral may have been dedicated to Mother Earth, the mother of all things, and the city of Florence. A series of cultural events, which will last for a whole year and conclude on September 8th 1997, have been organized to celebrate this birthday that also coincides with the end of the millenium. Arnolfo di Cambio's design, which was created to substitute the Church of Santa Reparata, was very different from the building that eventually became the cathedral when the work was finished, but we all know how things change with time. When Arnolfo died, building operations were continued by Giotto, followed by Francesco Talenti and later Giovanni di Lapo Ghini. Work on it continued until 1436 when Brunelleschi's cupola was inaugurated. The splendid frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari made an additional contribution towards the impressive effect of the cupola, even though they caused a certain amount of controversy, while the facade, designed by Emilio De Fabris, was finally completed in 1887, when Florence became the capital of Italy at the end of the last century.

View of the Cathedral and Palazzo Vecchio from P.zzale Michelangelo (Foto FAN)
Work on it however has never really stopped. Nowadays this mainly involves the general maintenance and restoration needed to repair the damage brought about by time, man and natural events. Over the last thirty years, such damage has been caused by the flood in 1966, the weather, and the rain, which recently damaged the frescoes in the cupola after a restoration that had taken fifteen years to complete. The Vasari and Zuccari frescoes have been returned to their original beauty and the use of extremely high level technology has made it possible to put an archive together that will be useful for future generations. Meanwhile, using sophisticated techniques, the cleaning work continues on the marble decorations, unfortunately damaged and eroded by pollution, in an attempt to protect a masterpiece that was created by one of the most brilliant geniuses who ever lived. A masterpiece that belongs to all mankind. See also: The cupola, masterpiece of Brunelleschi The machines used for the construction of the cupola That strange clock by Paolo Uccello Programme of the main cultural events A tour of the Duomo, reaction of the foreign tourists

FAN-Florence ART News
Silvia Messeri & Sandro Pintus

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