by Silvia Messeri

The cupola
The masterpiece of Brunelleschi

The cupola is a construction of the greatest architectural and artistic value and can be said to be one of the most important and significant enterprises of the entire Renaissance. Even today, the cupola of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, built by Filippo Brunelleschi, stimulates amazement and wonder for its beauty and majesty.

Brunelleschi's cupola (Foto FAN)
In actual fact, it was a wager, as far as the great architect was concerned. Using revolutionary techniques for his day, he managed to invent a construction that was so modern that even today the finest architects of our times continue to study and admire it.

The cupola with its newly restored frescoes (Foto FAN)
Building started in 1420 and work continued on it for over 16 years, concluding in 1436. The cupola was constructed without any centering to support the walls and this was the first time that such a method had been used for a building of this type. As often happens where brilliant minds are concerned, Brunelleschi 's project was looked upon with some scepticism by the Florentines, who found it impossible to understand how the illustrious architect could manage to build such a large monument. He did in fact invent some really extraordinary solutions to guarantee the cupola's stability and lighten the weight of its structure.

The cupola seen from P.zza S.S.Annunziata (Foto FAN)
When the building was finally complete, the cupola reached the height of about 60 metres from the ground from a 55 metre base. After 16 years' labour it still needed to be completed by the lantern (about 22 metres high, including the copper sphere) that crowns it today, taking it to almost 100 metres from the ground. The entire structure weighs 37.000 tons and it has been calculated that about 4 million bricks were needed to build it.

See also: A birthday to conclude a millennium 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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