Thursday, 14 May 2015

Brunelleschi's dome, Ross King

My Dutch version.
In 1296 the first beginnings were made for the new Cathedral in Florence. This had to be a Cathedral that reflected the growing richness and power of the city.
According to the plans the Cathedral would have a huge dome, the largest of all. There was however a small problem, they did not know how to build it yet. They just hoped, in touching faith, that God would provide the knowledge when the time was there. 

In 1418 they held a contest where architects and others could submit their plans for a dome for the Cathedral.
Finally they decided to go with the design plans by goldsmith Filippo Brunelleschi. He had made a very daring design, without any of the usual elements used by architects until then for such a structure. People did not know how and if it would be possible, but they began nevertheless.
In the forty years that followed Brunelleschi would be the main architect working on such a huge project.
And the project was huge, four million bricks would be used and all wooden poles and bricks and other materials had to be made by hand. Building a Cathedral in those days was building for eternity.

Filippo Brunelleschi witnessed the dome being almost completed and the cathedral consecrated in 1446. A few months later he died and he was the first to be buried inside the cathedral. Never had an architect received so much honor, but Brunelleschi managed to do something no architect before or after him managed.

He had absolutely no examples and had to work out everything by himself. He had to design new machines to transport the bricks and other materials to the top. He had to invent new ways of measuring the right angles and had to come up with solutions to prevent the dome from collapsing. He did not want to use a wooden frame to support the dome as was the custom, but built it in another way. How he managed to do that, we do not know. He was extremely secretive and never wrote anything down.

But he is the man who built the largest dome and the Santa Maria del Fiore still dominates the city of Florence and its surroundings.

Everybody who visits Florence will visit the dome and if you want to know more about it, I can recommend Brunelleschi’s dome by Ross King. It is full of juicy anecdotes about the workers, the practical jokes Brunelleschi liked, the competition between the different architects and the way things worked in Florence.
And even for the absolute technical-lay person (as I am) the information about how the dome was built, the problems Brunelleschi faced and the genius solutions he came up with, is very interesting.

Published in 2000

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