Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Yesterday, I was referring to Florence's gargantuan cathedral as the Duomo.  The Duomo is just the dome at the top, 'duomo' meaning 'dome'.  The proper title of the cathedral is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  We decided not to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the dome nor the same number to the top of the bell tower.  We simply entered the cathedral, and took an English tour.  

The cathedral took 240 years to build, and was largely built to satisfy the political interests of the time.  Rival city-state Sienna had constructed some elaborate religious architecture there, so Florence had to match it.  Jean and I had previously been struck by how many churches, cathedrals etc in Europe look small from the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside.  Florence's primary religious real estate does the opposite.  Once inside, you think 'this is it?'.  

Like other cathedrals, this one has its rows of columns, its stained glass windows, its altar with the cross, and its beautifully painted frescoes high up on the inner surfaces of the dome.  The number 8 was important in Christianity, and the dome has an octagonal shape.  Around the dome are eight large windows, which can be seen from all edges of the city, and which resemble giant eyes looking both downwards onto the streets below as well as out to the Tuscan horizon.  In the 240 years of construction, there were two architects.  When the first died, the second didn't like the first's stained glass windows.  So he boarded them up from the outside.  Thus, these windows can be seen from the inside only and let in no light, whereas the second architect's stained glass windows do let light in.

Given Florence's many narrow lanes shaded by high buildings, palaces, and museums, and given too that the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is only 90 metres high, it is not everywhere to be seen like the omnipresent Eiffel Tower.

After the Cathedral, we had a coffee at a coffee shop adjacent to the cathedral.  The going rate for a coffee in Italy seems to be about 1.20€.  Here, it cost a whopping four euros!  Have to say though the coffee in Italy is good.  Caffe lattes come sufficiently weak for my liking.  Usually, they're not that hot, but this one was buonissimo.

The Cathedral's facade
Much is marble, including the floor shown

Looking up to the dome
The dome, or Duomo, with its eight high windows
The Altar
The Duomo's ever watchful eyes
Parked motor bikes with Duomo behind

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