Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

Date begun 1296; 1420-36 (dome)

Movement Proto-Renaissance

Located at Florence, Italy


Arnolfo di Cambio was commissioned to design this cathedral to replace a smaller church in the same location as the city grew in wealth and population; however, the plans changed throughout the century.


Certainly Gothic elements are at work here, including the pointed arches of the nave arcade and ribbed groin vaults; however, small windows of the side aisles and clerestory maintain the Italian tradition.


The dome over the crossing posed significant technical challenges in the construction of the cathedral. No vast towers comprise the westwork of the cathedral as they would in Gothic structures; however, a large campanile designed by the Florentine painter Giotto helps to counterbalance the massive dome to the east. Flying buttresses were a part of the original design, but were never implemented.


Brunelleschi actually beat Ghiberti in the competition for a final design of the dome of the Florence Cathedral. He was a devoted student of Roman architecture, from which he incorporated many elements into the structures he designed throughout Florence and elsewhere. The dome rises one hundred feet above street level, its ribs boldly outlining the design and leading to a marble cupola.