The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is located in the city of Florence in north central Italy and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was constructed in the gothic style with a facade of marble in shades of pink, green and white.The current Duomo replaced the crumbling fifth century cathedral (dedicated to Santa Reparata) once it was established that the old church was too dilapidated to repair.
Construction of the new basilica began in 1296 with the initial design by Arnolfo di Cambio and was completed 140years later in 1436 under the direction of Filippo Brunelleschi who was responsible for the magnificent red brick dome. The massive dome itself took almost seventeen years to build and was constructed between 1420 and 1436. It is still the largest dome in the world that is constructed from approximately four million bricks and weighs a massive 37,000 tons.
The dimensions of the basilica are vast having a length of 153m (502 ft) and a width of 38m (125 ft) while at the transept the width widens to 90m (295 ft). The height of the dome is almost 115m (377 ft) and it is 45m (147 ft) across. It is possible to climb the 464 steps to the top of the dome and the views of the surrounding city with the distant Tuscan country side are breathtaking. If you plan to make this trek allow plenty of time as there is usually a long line up.
The surrounding grounds, the Piazza del Duomo, are home to two other world heritage buildings: Giotto’s Campanile and the Battistero di San Giovanni both adjacent to the Duomo. Giotto’s Campanile is an 85m (278 ft) tower that was constructed between 1334 and 1359 and contains seven bells. The Campanile also provides magnificent views of the countryside but to reach the top you must first climb the 414 steps. The Battistero di San Giovanni is a large octagonal baptistery that was constructed between 1059 and 1128. Perhaps the most striking feature of the baptistry is the gilded bronze doors that took twenty one years to complete. They are comprised of twenty-eight panels - twenty of which portray the life of Christ in the New Testament, while the remaining eight depict the church fathers and the four evangelists.
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