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Welcome to the Florence page! Here is a gallery of some of the most beautiful and important pieces of Renaissance architecture in the city. Buildings represented include the Orsanmichele, the Duomo (Florence's Cathedral), the Palazzo Rucellai, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, and others. If you move your cursor over an image, it will tell you what it is. For a look at the 'Chain Map of Florence', click here.
Visitors to this site: All images are copyrighted to Allan Langdale but feel free to take any you might find useful as long as you give me a credit. The air view of Florence on the second Florence page is not mine, however. I do not know the origin of this image. The Corot painting is from a postcard. The painting of the Loggi dei Lanzi (Florence page four) I also do not know the source of. Thanks.
New Addition to Webpage! Old Photos of Florence and Florentine Art. Click here. Some great old lantern slides of Italian cities may also be found at UCSC's own DeCou lantern slide collection on line. Click on 'Images Index'.
The Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, which Florentines call Il Duomo, is the cathedral of Florence. The difference between a church and a cathedral is that a cathedral is a major church which has a bishop assigned to it. The word cathedral comes from the latin term cathedra which means throne or seat, in this case it refers to the seat of a bishop. The bishopric was a very high ranking in the Catholic church, and bishops had a great deal of power, especially in the cities over which they administered. The next step up the ladder for an ambitious Catholic cleric was to be made an archbishop, who administered a large geographic area which might have several bishops.
This church had a very long building period, like so many grand architectural projects of the Middle ages and the Renaissance. This church was begun around 1300. Generations of architects worked on the building, the most famous feature of which is the great dome, or cupola over the crossing designed by Brunelleschi, who didn't live to see it completed (indeed, it is still not yet completely finished).
The facade was finished even later, and parts of it date to the late 19th century! The building thus displays many styles of architecture from Late 14th century Gothic, to Renaissance, to 19th century neo-gothic elements. The sculptors who worked on the cathedral were some of the most famous of their days, including Nanni di Banco, who executed the famous Porta della Mandorla, and Donatello who made several sculptures for the building.
The Baptistery: (see view from campanile below right)
The baptistery, San Giovanni, is right in front of the cathedral, and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, for obvious reasons. It is here where the citizens of Florence were baptized. It is actually older than the cathedral and was probably built between 1050 and 1150. The building's style is called 'Romanesque' or 'Roman-like' because the rounded arches and less ornate designs harkened back to ancient Roman architecture. The building is best known for three sets of bronze doors with narrative reliefs on them, the first executed by Andrea Pisano (c. 1330) and two other sets designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Here is one of Pisano's representations of "Faith" (Fides, in Latin), and here is the figure of "Hope" (Spes in Latin). Here are four relief panels depicting scenes from the life and death of John the Baptist. They depict the story of Salome, who dances for Herod and asks for John's head on a platter. John is beheaded and the head is presented to Herodias, the mother of Salome, who instigated the horrible idea. Ghiberti's first doors were done from 1403-1424, and his later, even more famous east doors (the ones that face the cathedral, often called 'the gates of paradise'), were worked on from 1426 to 1452.
The Campanile: (see above left)
The word campanile in Italian means belltower. It was very typical in Italian churches that, as here in Florence, there would be three structures in a complex of religious buildings: the church itself, the bell tower, and the baptistery. The famous leaning tower of Pisa is in fact the campanile of the Pisa cathedral. The famous painter Giotto designed the campanile for Florence, and another famous Gothic artist, the sculptor Andrea Pisano, worked on the stone reliefs on the lower sections of the tower. An example is this relief depicting the Art of Medicine. It was constructed between 1334 and 1359-a relatively short 25 years. One can climb the campanile to the top even today, where one can get the best views of the city. The photograph of the Baptistery above was taken from the top of the campanile. Note the tourists gathered around Ghiberti's great bronze doors, "The Gates of Paradise" as Michelangelo supposedly called them.
The Orsanmichele: (see below right)
Sometimes you'll see the name of this building written 'Or San Michele'. It is simply a short form for the Oratory of Saint Michael in Italian. But this name is actually a holdover from the 8th century oratory that to be there at that site. This building was finished around 1350 and, although it still served as an oratory, it also served as a town granary, where grain was stored in the upper stories to keep it dry and away from rats and mice. Such grain storage was important in times when crops could fail and people could starve. The oratory, rededicated here to the Virgin Mary, occupied the street level story. The large arcades at street level were originally completely open, but around 1380 the open arches were walled in with gothic tracery and masonry, creating an enclosed structure. In time, the building's function began to take on a more communal aspect. The various guilds and political institutions were invited to pay for various niches around the exterior of the building and commission well known sculptors to fill them with statues of the guilds' patron saints. Fourteen such civic institutions were represented, including the Corazzai (armour makers guild), the Cambio (bankers guild), and the Arte della Seta (silk makers guild). Sculptors such as Nanni di Banco, Ghiberti, and Donatello produced figures for the Orsanmichele. For other images of the building, its interior, and its sculptures, click here.
Santa Croce: (see images below)
Like the cathedral in Florence, Santa Croce was begun in the Middle Ages, around 1295, but its nave was not completed until around 1385. The facade was only partially finished with brick facing until the 19th century when the marble facing was put on. Like the cathedral, 19th century neo-gothic elements characterize the facade.
The interior of the church is a veritable museum of Renaissance art. A magnificent high relief scupture of the Annunciation by Donatello can be found along the wall of the south aisle. Two of the best examples of Renaissance tomb sculpture can also be found inside: the Tomb of Leonardo Bruni and the Tomb of Carlo Marsuppini. One can find Michelangelo's tomb here too. Of the many frescoed chapels the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels are perhaps the most famous since they contain frescoes by Giotto.
In the cloister just south of the church proper is one of Brunelleschi's best buildings, the Pazzi chapel. Click here to see images of this structure. In the refectory of the convent associated with the church is Taddeo Gaddi's wonderful Last Supper, the great grandfather, one might say, of Leonardo da Vinci's more famous version in Milan.
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For a nice panorama of Florence with a painting by Corot, click here.