Architecture of the Duomo Florence | Design & Construction of the Cathedral

Duomo Florence is a Gothic church of incredible importance in Florence, named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore. Its construction began in the 13th century but was only completed in the 15th century. Arnolfo di Cambio envisioned and designed most of the structure, except the dome, which was the creation of Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior boasts colorful marble and intricate sculptures, while the interior showcases a blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Architecture & Design of Duomo Florence | Quick Overview

Duomo Florence Architecture

Official Name: Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Attraction Type: Cathedral

Location: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy | Find on Map

Founded: 1296

Area: 15,000 square meters (161,458 square feet)

Architectural Style: Gothic and Renaissance styles

Main Architects: Arnolfo di Cambio, Filippo Brunelleschi

Who Built Duomo Florence?

Duomo Florence was fully completed over two centuries by two renowned Italian architects.

Duomo Florence Architecture

Arnolfo di Cambio

Arnolfo di Cambio, born in Florence, Italy, was a talented architect and sculptor. He was the chief architect of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, bringing the new Gothic-style architecture to Italy. His work on Duomo Florence became the blueprint for other Italian Gothic buildings. A gifted sculptor, Arnolfo designed many sculptures and reliefs on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore's exterior. 

Besides Duomo Florence, Arnolfo designed a few other prominent buildings in the city, including the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Palazzo della Signoria.

Duomo Florence Architecture

Filippo Brunelleschi

Filippo Brunelleschi, the man who designed the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, was born in 1377 in Florence. He was a trained goldsmith and a skilled engineer, which helped him significantly when he turned to architecture. Brunelleschi designed Duomo Florence's dome and the machines used in its construction. 

He was the lead architect for other buildings like the Church of Santo Spirito and the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the first European orphanage. However, Brunelleschi is best remembered for the dome on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. His impressive use of Renaissance-style architecture brought a new way of thinking to artists that followed him.

Duomo Florence Architecture & Design

Duomo Florence Architecture

Design and Architectural Features

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo Florence Cathedral, reflects the Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. The exterior features intricate sculptures and decorative elements, including the iconic pink, green, and white marble stripes that cover the façade. The interior is equally impressive, with soaring arches, stained glass windows, and beautiful frescoes.

Duomo Florence Architecture

Dome and its Construction

An astounding piece of engineering and construction, Duomo's dome is one of the world's largest ones, even though the walls of the cathedral were not intended to support such a massive structure. Scaffolding wasn't used either, with Brunelleschi solving the problem by constructing two shells of brick inside the other with a layer of concrete between them. The inner shell was supported by four enormous horizontal chains extended from the walls to the dome's base, providing stability and support

Structure of Duomo Florence

Duomo Florence Architecture

Materials Used

The exterior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore building is made primarily of marble sourced from the nearby quarries of Carrara, Massa, and Prato. 

The pink, green, and white marble used in the exterior facade were chosen for their beauty and ability to withstand the weather. The base of the building is made of sandstone, while the ribbed vaults and arches are made of brick.

The interior of the Duomo is also made of different types of marble, including white Carrara, green Prato, and red Siena marble. The intricate designs and sculptures that adorn the interior are made of stone, and the floors are made of colored marble in geometric patterns.

Duomo Florence Architecture

Innovative Techniques

Filippo Brunelleschi pushed boundaries in more ways than one when designing the cupola. While it is known for its spectacular design and size, Brunelleschi had to utilize several innovative techniques and design choices to construct it. For example, he used two layers of bricks instead of a wooden frame to support the dome. The inner and outer shells were connected by a self-supporting structure, which allowed for the dome to be very large without needing additional support from flying buttresses, which are typically used in Gothic architecture. Brunelleschi also used a special brick-laying technique called the herringbone pattern, which helped distribute the weight of the dome more evenly. To further reinforce the structure, he used iron chains that were embedded in the masonry. These chains added extra strength and durability to the dome, allowing it to withstand the test of time.

Duomo Florence Exterior 

The exterior of the towering Duomo in Florence is a marvel of Renaissance architecture, with its pink, green, and white marble façade.

As you approach the entrance, you will find intricate statues of saints and biblical figures carved into the stone created by artists such as Donatello and Andrea del Verrocchio standing guard. Above them, you will find the Gothic-style stained rose window. You will find elaborate relief sculptures, designed by Emilio De Fabris in the 19th century, adorning the façade.

Rising high above the city, the dome is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of its architect, Filippo Brunelleschi. As you move closer, you will be able to see the intricate details of the brickwork, carefully laid in a herringbone pattern. 

But it is not just the grandeur and beauty of the Duomo that captures your attention; it is the history that is palpable in its stones. The Duomo in Florence is not just a cathedral; it is a work of art, a masterpiece of engineering, and a symbol of the enduring human spirit. Its exterior is a testament to the creativity, ingenuity, and devotion of the people who built it, and it remains one of the most awe-inspiring sights in all of Italy.

Duomo Florence Interior

The interior of the Duomo in Florence is equally impressive, featuring stunning frescoes, intricate marble work, and beautiful stained glass windows.

Duomo Florence Architecture
Duomo Florence Architecture

Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows, including the rose window above the main entrance, add to the majesty of the cathedral. Prominent artists of the Renaissance, including Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia, and Andrea della Robbia, designed the glass windows using vibrant colors and storylines. Some of the designs on the windows depict scenes from the Bible, the life of the saints, and the history of Florence.

Duomo Florence Architecture

The Altar

The main altar of Duomo Florence, located below the dome is made of white marble and features intricate sculptures and designs. Stunning frescoes and paintings surround it, including works by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Alessandro Allori.

Duomo Florence Architecture

Choir Stalls

The choir stalls, used for seating choir members and clergy, designed in the late 1400s, feature intricate carvings and sculptures that depict religious figures, symbols, and scenes. The stalls are made of walnut wood and are considered some of the finest examples of Renaissance woodwork.

Duomo Florence | Symbol of Renaissance Architecture

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore profoundly influenced Renaissance architecture and continues to inspire architects and designers even today. The combination of innovative construction techniques and classical elements, such as the use of Corinthian columns and Renaissance motifs, made the Duomo a symbol of Renaissance architecture.

Book Tickets to Duomo Florence

Florence Cathedral Guided Tour with Optional Dome Climb
Free Cancellation
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
1 hr. 19 min.
Guided Tour
More details
Florence Cathedral Tickets with Optional Dome & Bell Tower Climb
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
45 min. - 1 hr.
More details

Frequently Asked Questions About Duomo Florence Architecture

Q. What is the Duomo Florence architectural style?

A. Duomo Florence is an example of Italian Gothic architecture.The cathedral also incorporates elements of Renaissance and Romanesque styles.

Q. Who built the Florence Cathedral?

A. The Florence Cathedral was designed by several architects, including Arnolfo di Cambio, Filippo Brunelleschi, Emilio de Fabris, and Giuseppe Sacconi.

Q. When was Duomo Florence built?

A. The construction of the Duomo Florence began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. The facade, however, was only completed in the 19th century.

Q. How old is Duomo Florence?

A. Duomo Florence is over seven centuries old.

Q. How big is Duomo Florence?

A. Duomo Florence cathedral measures 153.6 meters (504 feet) in length, 40.6 meters (133 feet) in width, and 90.5 meters (296 feet) in height.

Q. How tall is the Duomo in Florence?

A. Duomo Florence is 90.5 meters (296 feet) in height.

Q. What materials were used to construct the Duomo Florence?

A. The Duomo Florence was constructed using a variety of materials such as white and green marble, pink and green marble, along with stone and brick. The dome was made using brick and reinforced with iron chains.

Q. What's inside Duomo Florence?

A. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore's interior is filled with stunning works of art and architecture. You can admire the intricate frescoes, inlaid marble floor, intricate wooden choir stalls, and the stunning dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Q. Why is the Duomo Florence architecture famous?

A. Duomo Florence is known for how it blends together Gothic and Renaissance architecture as well as its distinctive dome, which was considered a groundbreaking engineering feat during the Renaissance.

Q. How did the architecture of the Duomo impact Renaissance architecture?

A. The architecture of the Duomo in Florence, particularly the innovative techniques used by Filippo Brunelleschi in constructing the dome, had a profound impact on Renaissance architecture, inspiring new developments in structural engineering, design, and construction techniques. The dome's self-supporting double shell structure, use of herringbone brick patterns, and embedded iron chains set a new standard for durability and stability in architecture, and influenced the development of new forms of domes and vaulting systems in buildings throughout Europe.

Q. What is the significance of the dome in the architecture of the Florence Cathedral?

A. The dome is the largest masonry dome in the world and was a major feat of structural engineering at the time it was built. The significance of the dome lies in its innovative design and construction techniques.

Q. What is the significance of the façade of the Florence Cathedral?

A. The façade of the Duomo Florence blends Gothic and Renaissance styles. It is decorated with intricate sculptures, inlays, and reliefs narrating Christianity's story and the city's history.

Q. What is the difference between the dome of the Florence Cathedral and other Renaissance domes?

A. The dome of the Duomo of Florence is unique among Renaissance domes because it was built using a double shell structure, with stone and brick used in alternating courses. The design and construction, with its intricate geometry and use of light and shadow, add to its beauty.

Q. Where can I buy tickets to Florence Cathedral?

A. You can buy tickets to Florence Cathedral online.