Florence's Cathedral: the Duomo
- Piazza Duomo
- Free entrance
- Opening hours
- Open from 10 am - 5 pm
Thursdays: 10 am - 4.30 pm
Saturdays: 10 am - 4.45 pm
Sundays and religious holidays: 1.30 - 4.45 pm
1st Saturday of the month: 10 am - 3.30 pm
January 1, Easter & Christmas: 3.30 - 4.45 pm
- Days of closure
- Closed January 6
Florence's cathedral stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The cathedral named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore is a vast Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
The cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. A statue to each of these important architects can be found outside to the right of the cathedral, both admiring their work for the rest of eternity. Can you imagine it took two centuries for the cathedral to be deemed finished?
The church was consecrated as soon as the dome was in place although the façade (front of the church) was only half finished by then. It was just decoration, and thus remained unfinished up until the 19th century. At that point, it was actually redone by the likes of the time and finally finished!
The exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble. The interior, by contrast, is pretty stark and plain but quite enjoyable on warm summer days since the temperature inside tends to be cooler. The mosaic pavements are certainly its main attraction within.
Please note the clock above the entrance on the inside of the church. It was designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora italica, where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset... and it still works!
The biggest artwork within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9): they were designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari by 1579.
Visiting the cathedral
Entrance into Florence's cathedral remains free and for this reason you'll often find a long line to get in. Don't worry, the line moves pretty quickly. But in an effort to reduce this line, the cathedral administration is trying to increase the number of visitors allowed at any one time into the church. The problem: too many visitors inside tend to not respect the request for silence that a church merits. The solution: the church has recently (July 16 ,2012) decided to require any group of over 4 visitors to rent either radio or audio guides (cost is 2-2,50 euro per person) so that the level of noise inside the church remains low and larger amounts of people can be allowed inside at any one time. Large groups of students will receive 50% discount on the cost. If you're with a tour group, you'll likely already have the earphones and don't have to worry about this recent change.
Climbing up the Dome
- Piazza Duomo
- Entrance euro 8,00
- Opening hours
- Open from 8.30 am to 7.00 pm
Saturdays: 8.30 am – 5.40 pm
1st Saturday: 8.30 – 4.00 pm
May 1st: 8.30 am – 5.00 pm
- Days of closure
- Closed January 1, January 6, Thu-Fri-Sat Holy Week, Easter Sunday, April 25, June 24, August 15, September 8, November 1, Mon-Tue of the first week of Advent, Christmas, December 26
Built by Filippo Brunelleschi who won the competition for its commission in 1418, the dome is egg-shaped and was made without scaffolding. The raising of this dome, the largest in the world in its time, was no easy architectural feat. At the base of the dome, just above the drum, Baccio d'Agnolo began adding a balcony in 1507. One of the eight sides was finished by 1515, when someone asked Michelangelo -- whose artistic opinion was by this time taken as cardinal law -- what he thought of it. The master reportedly scoffed, "It looks like a cricket cage." Work was immediately halted, and to this day the other seven sides remain rough brick.
The only way to see the inside of the dome up close and enjoy the extraordinary view of Florence it offers is to climb its 463 steps (there is no elevator): the route takes you by the interior of the dome where you can admire Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9) up close. While they were designed by Vasari, they were actually mostly painted by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari and finished by 1579. The frescoes were subjected to a thorough cleaning completed in 1996, which many people saw as a waste of restoration funds when so many more important works throughout the city were waiting to be salvaged. The scrubbing did, however, bring out Zuccari's innovative color palette. Continue upwards through the two shells of the cupola and out onto the lantern, from which you can enjoy impressive views of the city.
Around the Piazza del Duomo, we also recommend you visit the Baptistery and the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, where you can see up close many of the original statues and decorative elements from the cathedral as well as Ghiberti's original Baptistery doors (the ones outside are copies). If you want to see another view of Florence, you can also climb up to the top of Giotto's bell tower.
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this website and blog, offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum! If you have questions for Lourdes, post them on the Forum!
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