The Dome, UNESCO World Heritage Site is also the major tourists attraction in Florence. The Cathedral is the 5th largest church in Europe, and its complex architectural and cultural story is the result of the innumerable events associated to the economic and politic history taking place in Florence at that period united to the length of time of a construction site whom lasted more than 170 years. Its construction started in 1296, it was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, also architect of Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Croce, on the same site of an earlier church dedicated to Saint Reparata, crumbling with age and no longer large enough to serve the growing population and the glory of Florence, after its recent hegemony on the cities of Pisa and Siena.
Thanks to excavation campaigns between 1965 and 1974 part of Santa Reparata foundations and interesting remainings are today available to be visited. The works on the Cathedral slowed after the death of Arnolfo di Cambio and obtained a new impetus after the relics of Saint Zanobi were discovered in the ancient church of Santa Reparata.
The Guild of Wool Merchant took over the exclusive patronage of the construction and had Giotto assisted by Andrea Pisano (whom succeded to him after his death) to overlook the works. Several architects contributed to the construction until it was finally completed in 1436, with the finalization of the dome by Filippo Brunelleschi and its consecration by Pope Eugene IV.
Many famous artists alternated and gave their personal tribute to the ornamentation of Santa Maria del Fiore: Donatello, Ghiberti, Michelozzo (designer of the Lantern), Verrocchio (creator of the guilt copper ball and cross crowning the conical roof ), Luca della Robbia (the pulpits), Andrea del Castagno, Vasari and Zuccari (frescos of the Cupola) and many others. Some of the pieces of arts originally housed in the Cathedral are today collected in the Museum of the Dome, The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The last intervention, the façade was made by Emilio de Fabris completed in 1887.
For further informations about tickets and openings hours: www.operaduomo.firenze.it