The main church in Florence, Italy, is called the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as the Duomo). This church was started in 1296, and the dome (as brilliantly engineered by Brunelleschi) was completed in 1436. The church is located in the Piaaza del Duomo, and is one of the most recognizable sites of Florence. The Duomo is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Duomo’s Gothic interior is filled with art, a colossal clock by Uccello, statues, funeral monuments, stained glass, and the tombs of important bishops. The adjacent bell tower, or campanile, was completed in 1359, and is also accessible to visitors (and has a much shorter line).
- Watch this interesting video by travel writer Rick Steves, about the Duomo. Visitors can climb up 463 steps to the top (with an incredible view). Along the way, you can see Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgement (1572-79), which were cleaned in 1996. Imagine yourself back in the 1500s, and seeing Florence from on high – wouldn’t it be very unique? How does the introduction of tall buildings (and airplanes) influence our perspectives?
- There are two very cool (and hidden) things about the Duomo. First, there’s a statue of a bull with a bit of history on the Duomo. Secondly, in 1600, a bolt of lightning hit the copper ball atop the Duomo, which fell and landed on the piazza. Today, you can see a white marble circular stone on the piazza, to mark where the ball fell. Read of these two hidden treasures’ stories (numbers 2 & 3). Do you know some hidden facts about historical buildings? Share them with your class!
- Just east of the Duomo is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, or the Museum of the Works of the Cathedral. Opened in 1891, it holds much of the art from the cathedral, including Michelangelo’s Florence Pieta, intended for his own tomb. Take a look at these five important sculptures in the Museo, including Donatello’s wooden statue of Mary Magdalene. Then, take a look at some photos of the Duomo, including some of the amazing (and copious) art, and at these statues by Donatello. Discuss the importance of art throughout history in Italy – as well as the importance of art preservation so that future generations can also experience this great art.