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The 4th Largest Cathedral
The 4th largest cathedral in the world is located in Florence Italy. Florence’s cathedral is the fourth largest in the world after Saint Peter’s (Rome), Saint Paul’s (London), and the Duomo in Milan (Italy). The cathedral stands tall over the city in Piazza del Duomo with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. You can recognize this dome from anywhere in the city and named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The 4th largest cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century. The exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white, and green marble. It is just amazingly beautiful!
Inside the Duomo
The interior is plain, cold, and stark. The mosaic pavements (pictures below) are something I love to photograph.
There are no masterpiece paintings in this Duomo except the magnificent fresco ceiling. It is hard to imagine it took two centuries for the cathedral to be considered complete. The star attraction within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari‘s frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-1579)
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A picture of the back of the church shows a clock above the entrance. It was designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora Italica, (where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset) and it still works today!
We have been very lucky to visit Florence several times. Each time, there is scaffolding somewhere around part of the exterior for cleaning. I think that by the time they go around this enormous complex, it is time to start all over again! Not sure anyone will ever have a picture without some scaffolding and screening in it.
The dimensions of the building are Building area 8,300 square meters (89,340 square feet), length 153 meters (502 feet), width 38 meters (125 feet), width at the crossing 90 meters (300 feet). The height of the arches in the aisles is 23 meters (75 feet). The height of the dome is 114.5 meters (375.7 feet).
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Most people are aware that the dome consists of two interconnected shells. Erected between 1418 and 1434 – it is actually a shell within a shell. Filippo Brunelleschi entered his design in a competition in 1418. He was approved only after much controversy in 1420. The dome is capable of withstanding lightning and earthquakes and has a diameter of 149 feet or 45.5 meters. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. It is 463 steps to the top and worth every painful step; look at the views from the top!
Giotto’s Bell Tower
The bell tower stands 84.7 meters tall and approximately fifteen meters span, it is the most eloquent example of 14th-century Gothic architecture in Florence. Begun by Giotto in 1334 he only completed the first part of his bell tower (up to the hexagonal panels) before he died in 1337. It is 414 steps to the top of the viewing platform.
Baptistry of San Giovanni
The Baptistry of San Giovanni, one of the most ancient churches in Florence and is located opposite the cathedral entrance. The octagonal building is constructed of white Carrara and green Prato marble slabs. It is covered by a dome of eight segments that rests on the exterior walls.
There is a wonderful website that will provide you with more detailed information about the 4th largest cathedral and all these magnificent buildings. Please go to https://www.museumflorence.com/monuments/1-cathedral
Editor’s Note: This article was initially published in October 2016 and was updated in April 2023 for accuracy and additional information.
Frank ShacklefordJuly 22, 2021 at 1:36 pm
Great post about a truly beautiful place; I can’t imagine Firenze without the duomo, would be sort of odd looking; hopefully back in October from Georgia
imodicaJuly 23, 2021 at 5:31 am
Thank you, Frank, for the comment! Fingers crossed for you for October!
JuliaJuly 23, 2021 at 9:15 am
The one day I had in Florence, I walked past the Duomo and it wasn’t open. Completely empty around that area, so I decided to walk around to another piazza. Of course when I returned, it was absolutely packed. So I had to make the hard choice of saving it for another day. Thus, another excuse to return in the future! Thank you for sharing this beauty!! So neat to read about.
imodicaJuly 24, 2021 at 5:32 am
Love the comment, Julia! Thank you so much and yes – always a great reason to return.