The Duomo – Inside and Out


Payton here again with another update on our incredible experience here in Florence, Italy.
Today, my classmates and I visited the convent and basilica of San Marco, followed by a trip to the Florence Cathedral or Duomo, where we toured the inside of the building, going beneath the main floor where we learned about the long and complicated history of the site. Finally, we explored the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo, which houses original artwork that adorned the cathedral, bell tower, and baptistery, along with lesser known masterpieces by the great artist Michelangelo.

Walking around the city, we had all passed by the Duomo many times and we finally got a glimpse of the inside when we climbed to the top of the dome on Friday. Today, we returned to the area and were able to fully appreciate the vast interior of the building. Compared to some of the other cathedrals and churches we have visited, the inside is rather bare against the incredibly ornate exterior. In this way I felt it was the opposite of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which has an unfinished façade but an amazingly detailed interior.

Still, the inside is enormous and is filled with history. As we entered the building, we could look up at the funerary frescoes of Niccolò da Tolentino and John Hawkwood: two mercenaries from the fifteenth century who had a close relationship with the city of Florence. We also saw a painting titled ‘Dante with the Divine Comedy’, which shows the poet with his masterpiece, surrounded by depictions of the otherworldly realms narrated in the book.

Fresco of Niccolò da Tolentino

Next, we descended beneath the main floor to the crypt of Santa Reparata, where we walked among the ruins of the ancient church which predated the Duomo on this site. Also visible are sparse remains of the Florence of Roman times, along with a shrine and reliquary of the saint whom the old cathedral was named after. Finally, we saw funerary monuments to such important Florentines as Giovanni de’ Medici and Filippo Brunelleschi, the latter being the famous architect of the Cathedral’s record-setting dome.

Yet we still had more to experience of the Duomo’s rich artistic history. In the nearby Museo dell ‘Opera del Duomo, we viewed many of the original sculptures and other works of art which decorated the Cathedral, along with the Baptistery and Campanile. The famous ‘Gates of Paradise’, the massive golden doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Florence Baptistery, were definitely my favourite work in the museum. I also really enjoyed the exhibit dedicated to Brunelleschi and his Dome, as well as a couple of sculptures created by Donatello and Michelangelo late in their lives: Donatello’s visceral and stylized depiction of Mary Magdalene, and Michelangelo’s intensely personal Pietà which includes a self-portrait of the artist.

Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise
Michelangelo’s Pietà

I’ve continued to enjoy my experiences with my class at FUA as well. I’ve been studying contemporary organized crime in Italy and abroad, and on Friday we took a small field trip to a building called the Torre dei Pulci, which sits just across from the Uffizi Gallery. This was the site of a mafia bombing in 1993, which destroyed much of the tower and even damaged the nearby Uffizi. It was very interesting learning about this event in class and getting to see the area where it occurred, and I honestly didn’t expect to have such an experience as a part of my class.

Our last weekend here in Florence has been amazing, and I’ll certainly be reminiscing about the memories that have been made as our trip winds to an end. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity however, and I’ve learned and experienced so much I’ll never forget and made friends who I’ll always share these wonderful memories with.

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