Alongside innovations in art, literature and learning in general the Renaissance also the time of great advances in architecture. In particular the building of arches and domes was revived and one of the best examples of this revival is the dome of the Cathedral in Florence. Duomo is actually the generic Italian word for a cathedral church and doesn’t actually refer to the dome. The Italian of dome is cuppola. Here you can see the Cathedral of Florence with its dome rising up behind it.
The Cathedral itself is amazing and is very beautiful on the inside. The outer facade is much more modern and is not really as intricate as the works on the inside. The dome itself is a masterpiece in its own right. It was designed by Brunelleschi who studied the dome of the Pantheon in Rome whose construction techniques had long been forgotten. The dome is marvelous because it it completely free standing. There are no pillars or other supports underneath it to hold it in place. It is actually two concentric domes and there is a narrow passage in between them that workmen used for getting up and is now open to the public. We got a chance to climb up this narrow stairwell all the way to the top.
The passage iteslf is tiny, just barely wide even for one person. There are over 500 steps — definitely not for the claustrophobic or weak of heart. At one point who are actually back inside the cathedral and very close to the beautiful images painted on the roof of the dome. They are all scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy and since we had been reading the Divine Comedy we recognized some of the scenes painted. Dante and his works permeate Italian (and particularly Florentine) culture and history and the inside of the dome is one of the many ways in which that influence gets expressed.
Impressive though the inside of the dome may be, it is the view from the top that is most captivating. After walking up the long narrow staircase, squeezing to let people pass you the exit onto the top is really quite sudden.One moment you’re in this dark, narrow space and the next you’ve emerged into the bright sunlight and a wonderful view of all of Florence stretches ahead in front of you.
And the view really is quite magnificent. We had been staying just on the edge of the city and walking about everywhere so we didn’t really get a sense of how big the city was until we got to the top of the dome and looked all around us. We spent well over an hour at the top of the dome taking pictures and there are a lot of them that I could put up, but I’m going to go with one which I think gives a pretty good idea of the city of Florence.
Along the left edge you can see the belltower which is right next to the Duomo and is almost as high as the dome, but not quite. At the bottom you can just see the tip of the Baptistry, another magnificent building which faces the Duomo. And in front stretches out the city of Florence. The line of trees that you can see in the middle flanks the Arno river that goes through the city and in the distance you can see some of the hills that surround Florence. And of course the sky is a beautiful shade of blue with just a few white clouds off in the distance. Florence is a really lovely city and when you’re standing atop the dome you can almost believe that time has passed this city by and the Renaissance never really ended.