History of Duomo Florence | Santa Reparta to Building of the Brunelleschi's Dome

From its origins in the 13th century to its completion in the 15th century, the Duomo has been of religious and cultural significance in Florence and beyond.

Timeline of Duomo Florence

  • 1296: Arnolfo di Cambio submits designs for Duomo Florence, and construction begins. 
  • 1418: Filippo Brunelleschi is awarded the project of completing the dome.
  • 1420: Construction of the dome begins. 
  • 1436: Construction of the cathedral, including the dome, is completed. The cathedral is consecrated by Pope Eugene IV.
  • 1601: Duomo Florence loses its bronze ball in a raging thunderstorm. 
  • 1871-1887: Decoration of the external façade of the Duomo Florence is completed. 
  • 1982: Duomo Florence is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Detailed History of Florence Duomo

Duomo Florence

The Site

The Duomo Florence was built on the site of the seventh-century church of Santa Reparata. The building, having been found in the early 5th century, had gone through several repairs and had deteriorated over the years. Given that the cathedral was no longer large enough to serve the growing population, the city decided to build a new church.

Constructing the Basilica

Constructing the Basilica

Construction of the Duomo Florence started in 1296 and was completed by the 14th century. At the time, the plan was to create a cathedral so impressive that it would showcase the power and status of the city. When the construction of Duomo Florence first started, the cathedral was designed in a typical Florentine Gothic style. After Brunelleschi took over the reins of construction, the architecture of Duomo Florence became more Renaissance style.

Filippo Brunelleschi
Bronze Ball Duomo Florence

The Bronze Ball Falls

A bronze gilded ball of 2.3 diameters with a cross on top was placed at the top of the dome to complete it. On 27 January,1601, during a raging thunderstorm, a lighting struck the ball, detaching it from the structure. It rolled down and fell in the middle of the square. A year after the incident, thanks to goldsmith Matteo Manetti, the ball was restored. In order to commemorate the event, a marble plaque has been placed in the square marking the exact location the ball was found.

Cracking of the Dome

Duomo Florence

Almost immediately after the dome was constructed, cracks started to appear in it. Since 1989, four fissures that run from the top of the dome to the church foundations have been observed. This startling discovery prompted three hundred monitoring devices to be attached to the dome of the Duomo Florence, making it the most carefully monitored structure during that time. 

In 1934, Pier Luigi Nervi discovered that the cracks in the dome of the Duomo Florence opened and closed with the season. During winters, when the dome’s stone and bricks contract the cracks widen. During summers, as the material expands, the cracks in the dome get closed. 

Duomo Florence and Renaissance Architecture

Renaissance Architecture of Duomo Florence

Topped with its famous red-tiled dome, the Duomo Florence towers above the city of Florence. Constructed in a Florentine Gothic and Renaissance architectural style, the Duomo Florence is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. 

The Duomo Florence is considered to be the largest masonry structure in the world. Over four million bricks weighing more than forty thousand tonnes were used to construct the cathedral as per the designs submitted by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296.

Discovery of the Santa Reparata

Santa Reparata at Duomo Florence

An archaeological excavation beneath the Duomo Florence from 1965 to 1973, led to the discovery of the remains of the Santa Reparata — the most tangible evidence of early Christianity in Florence. 

One of the major complexes of early Christianity in the Tuscia region, Santa Reparata's importance was accentuated due to its proximity to the baptistry. It is believed that the foundation of the Santa Reparata was laid as a result of a vow that was made after the victory of the Christians over Radagaisus, King of the Goths, around 405 AD. 

The church suffered extensive damage during the war between the Goths and the Byzantines, owing to which it was rebuilt during the Carolingian times. After this, the Santa Reparata was eventually demolished to make way for the present Duomo in Florence. 

Restoration and Preservation

Duomo Florence

Restorations on the Duomo Florence started in September 2021 and have now been completed. Extensive restoration and preservation works were carried out on the Porta Dei Cornacchini of Duomo Florence.

The Porta doorway located on the north side of the nave of the Duomo and its surrounding sculptures underwent a series of works. Since the marble of the lion sculpture was severely damaged, they had to go through a rigorous and intense restoration process.

During the restorative works, extensive traces of color were found on the 1359-1360 sculpture of Madonna with Child and Adoring Angels that is situated directly above the door. This extensive damage can be attributed to natural degradation and previous restoration interventions. Investigations of the sculptures at the Duomo Florence revealed that a layer of brown oxalate was in touch with the marble sculptures, which was further covered by a coating of fluorosilicates, in the 1950s. The brown layer was protective and played a significant role in maintaining and preserving the marble sculpture at the cathedral. 

Duomo Florence Today

Today, Duomo Florence is one of the most visited attractions in the city of Florence. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, the Duomo Florence is the fourth-largest cathedral in Europe. 

Home to more than one thousand artworks and forty-four stained glass windows, the Duomo Florence is one of the most popular attractions in Florence. The Duomo an iconic landmark that is considered to be one of the most important churches in the world of Christianity as well as one the most stunning works of Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture.

Book Tickets to Duomo Florence

Florence Cathedral Guided Tour with Optional Dome Climb
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Mobile Ticket
1 hr. 19 min.
Guided Tour
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Florence Cathedral Tickets with Optional Dome & Bell Tower Climb
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45 min. - 1 hr.
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Florence Cathedral Express Guided Tour
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30 min. - 1 hr. 30 min.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Duomo Florence History

Q. When was the Duomo of Florence constructed?

A. Construction of the Duomo Florence began in 1296 and was completed by 1436.

Q. How old is Duomo Florence?

A. Duomo Florence is around 600 years old.

Q. How many years did it take to build Duomo Florence?

A. It took around two centuries, that is two hundred years, to build Duomo Florence.

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

A. The Duomo Florence is one of the most exemplary examples of Goth and Italian Renaissance architecture. To date, architects still study Duomo Florence to understand the Renaissance period.

Q. Who designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral?

A. The red-tiled and octagonal-shaped dome of the Florence Cathedral was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Q. What is the significance of the Florence Cathedral in Italian history?

A. The Florence Cathedral was built on the site of the seventh-century Santa Reparata Church, which is believed to be one of the earliest Christian churches in the world. Even today, the Florence Cathedral is believed to be one of the most important churches of Christianity.

Q. How has the Florence Cathedral been preserved and restored over time?

A. Repeated restoration and preservation works have been carried out at the Florence Cathedral. The most recent preservation works of the Florence Cathedral include the restoration and preservation of the Porta Dei Cornacchini, the doorway located on the north side of the nave of the Florence Cathedral. 

Q. Where is Duomo Florence located?

A. The Duomo Florence is located at Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy.

Q. What is Duomo Florence famous for?

A. Duomo Florence is famous for its Gothic and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. The Duomo Florence is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and is considered to be one of the most important churches of Christianity.

Q. How much does it cost to visit Duomo Florence?

A. A visit to Duomo Florence can cost you anywhere between €15-€46, depending on the type of ticket that you purchase.

Q. Are there guided tours explaining Duomo Florence’s history?

A. Yes, there are guided tours that will tell you about Duomo Florence’s history. You can choose from the Florence Duomo Express Guided Tour and the Guided Tour of Florence Duomo with the Cupola Climb experience.

Q. Is it worth visiting Duomo Florence?

A. Yes, the Duomo Florence is a must-visit attraction in Florence! Duomo Florence is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence and should be on your itinerary. Not only is Duomo Florence known for its stunning Gothic and Italian Renaissance architectural style, but it is also one of the most important churches of Christianity in the world.