Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers

            The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers is a building built between the late XIII and early XV century. It is one of the masterpieces of Gothic art and the first Italian Renaissance and one of the largest buildings in Christendom. Its name refers to the lily, symbol of Florence, or the old name of the town called Fiorenza, but on the other hand, a XV century document states that the flower refers to Christ.
The original facade was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, although it is usually attributed to Giotto. The first front is due to the efforts of several artists, among them Andrea Orcagna and Taddeo Gaddi, and was only completed in its lower part. After it was abandoned. Between 1587 and 1588, the court architect of the Médici, Bernardo Buontalenti, demolished it by order of the Grand Duke Francesco I de Médici, as it seemed to be out of fashion in Renaissance times. There were several competitions but no candidate was elected. The facade was left open until the XIX century, where Emilio De Fabris was the winner and who designed the Neogothic marble facade. The construction of the three bronze doors was running from 1899 to 1903. They are adorned with scenes from the life of the Virgin. On top of the facade there is a serie of niches with the twelve Apostles, and in the center, the Virgin and the Child. Between the rose window and the tympanum there is a gallery with busts of great Florentine artists.
            About the inside, the cathedral is built as a basilica, with a nave and two halls, forming a Latin cross. The nave and halls are divided by wide angular arcs with composite columns, dividing the nave into four square galleries. The Gothic interior is dark and gives an impression of emptiness. Above the main door, there is the colossal clock facade with fresco portraits of Paolo Uccello.

The great dome was built between 1420 and 1434 by Filippo Brunelleschi. The space the dome cover it is a irregular octagon, and was very difficult to cover, it is almost similar in size to the Pantheon. Brunelleschi won the competition to build the dome. The system devised by Brunelleschi was based on several aspects. One was the shape of the shell with pointed profile. Brunelleschi designed a sustaining internal structure of nerves and an outer membrane coating, composed of white marble nerves that run on the edges of each face. Probably in the journeys to Rome, Brunelleschi studied the dome of the Pantheon, realizing that it was built without formwork and the huge mass was at once lightened and reinforced by internal panels. The adoption of this model posibilited the autosubstantiation of the structure while it was being constructed; was only required a simple scaffold that left from the fascia or drum of the dome. The dome of Florence subdivide its weight, to give less thrust: a lower and hemispherical inner dome tucked with oak braces, pushed out, an outer, heighter and banked in a pointed arch, pushing it in, serving as a buttress and thus counteracting the two thrusts. Brunelleschi united the two domes by ribs at the corners and the inner dome was cinched with large wooden rings linked together by iron rods. He used brick to lighten the internal ribs. Beside technical magnitude must stand out its beauty, highlighted by the white nerves on red helmets and the airy pointed form.

            It also has a crypt, used to bury the Florentine bishops throughout the centuries, although more ancient ruins were also discovered. Brunelleschi's tomb is near the entrance open to the public.
            About the history of the Cathedral, it was built in the space occupied by the old church of Saint Reparata. The new cathedral was designed to be the world's largest building.
This cathedral belongs to the Italian Quattrocento, developed in Florence in the XV century, where the Man in all its facets is the new concept of beauty. The anthropocentrism was developed and adapted the Christian religion. The Renaissance comes from the idea of recovering the classical art. One of the basic clue is the proportion. They recover the classical orders, but alter the proportions. In the early XV century, begins a slow process consisting in the recovery of models of Classical Antiquity. It started and soon became very popular in Italy, where the memory of Roman art could be seen every day. So the Renaissance, word given by the painter Vasari,  refers to the revival of Greco-Roman culture.

            In conclusion, the monumental Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers is an architectural achievement. The beauty of both, the dome and the building itself, make it a must-see for all art lovers.
            It is in Florence, Italy.

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