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Cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore

The construction of the Duomo, the Cathedral called Santa Maria del Fiore, was started by Arnolfo di Cambio on the 8th September 1296. It is the fourth longest church in the world (after Saint Peter in Rome, Saint Paul in London and the Cathedral in Milan). In some experts' opinion, Arnolfo's project was quite different from the present building, but the outside walls undoubtedly are the same as those in the original plan. When Arnolfo died in 1310, there was a delay in the works. They however were started again in 1331, when the Guild of Wool Merchants took over the construction of the church. In 1334 Giotto was appointed ‘master’ of the works. He mainly attended to the building of the campanile (bell tower) and died three years later. There were several interruptions until 1367, when a competition was held and a final model for the church by four architects and four painters was accepted. The vault of the nave was finished in 1378 and the aisles were completed in 1380.

Between this year and 1421 the tribunes and probably the drum of the dome were built. The octagonal dome, consisting of two concentric shells linked together, was completed in 1434. A competition was held for the dome in 1418 and, after many doubts, Filippo Brunelleschi's project was accepted in 1420. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore (fiore referring to Florence) was consecrated on the 25 of March, 1436.
The remarkable differences in the various parts of the Cathedral show the evident changes in taste during the long time passed between the foundation of the church and its completion. Outside the shape of the round blind arches is a Romanesque vestige. The whole interior, with its huge arches, doors and windows, is Gothic . The dome is a masterpiece of the Renaissance. The façade, though in Gothic style, is from the 19th century. On the north side of the Cathedral, the Porta della Mandorla, dating from the 15th century, shows a Gothic influence both in the architectural design and decoration.

The interior, in the shape of Latin cross, consists of a nave and two aisles. Massive pillars with composite capitals support the Gothic groined vaults.
The frescoes on the north aisle, representing two 'condottieri' on horseback, are by Paolo Uccello and by Andrea del Castagno. In the lunettes above the entrances to the two sacristies there are terracotta works by Luca della Robbia. The design of the round stained glass window is by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

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