The Duomo of Florence, aka Santa Maria del Fiore, is the fourth largest church in the world. Construction began in 1296 over the site of the previous church, Santa Reparata. It’s called Duomo not for it’s imposing dome, but for the Latin word, Domus which means “house.” A cathederal was the literal “house of god,” and therefore it must be big enough to house all the inhabitants of the city. The previous church was just too small, and so our beloved Duomo was born.
The first wall to go up was the narthex, that’s just a fancy word for the main entrance. In this case it’s the wall with the steps facing the baptistry. In fact the oldest artwork in the church is the liturgical clock, painted by the artist named Uccello around 1443. You can find this peculiar clock on the fascade’s interior wall. Did I lose you a bit with Liturgical clock reference? It’s just technical way to say it measures the hours by prayer times and not by the analog, 24 hour system we use today. Our current 24 hour clock didn’t actually come into vogue until the 17th century.
Now, one can’t talk about the Duomo of Firenze and not mention the actual Dome itself. In 1418 the body of the church was complete and only the dome remained open and undone. The church held a competition to decide how to cover that gaping hole and a goldsmith name Filippo Brunelleschi won. He started work in 1420, an undertaking that many thought was impossible. If you’ve ever seen the dome in person you realize just how massive it is. In fact, to this day it is still the largest masonry dome ever built. Work was finally finished in 1436, a full 140 years after the first brick was laid. Do you realize that means not a single person who was alive when the foundation was laid, lived to see it completed. That, my friends, is faith and dedication.
Today, this church has seen a bit of everything, from the bubonic plague in the mid 14th century, to a murder plot in the 15th century, to lightning strikes, world war II bombings and more If you go or have been to Florence, it’s imposing, beautiful shape on the horizon is surely something you won’t soon forget.