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Monday, January 22, 2018

Florence, at Piazza del Duomo

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the cathedral of Florence, Italy. The cathedral is commonly called the Duomo.

The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and the Bell Tower. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting Tuscany.
The basilica was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio with the dome by Filippo Brunelleschi. The bell tower was designed by Giotto.
 The outside of the Duomo  is decorated with marble panels in green and pink bordered by white. The construction began in 1296 and finished in 1469, except for the decoration. The facade (the main front) was decorated between 1876 and 1903. 
The dome of the Duomo,  designed by  Brunelleschi  is built of bricks in octagonal shape, it is the biggest brick dome in the world.   It is a masterpiece capable of withstanding lightning, earthquakes and the passage of time, it continues to enchant all those who observe it from afar. Brunelleschi's astonishingly innovative approach involved vaulting the dome space without any scaffolding by using a double shell with a space in between. The inner shell (with a thickness of more than two metres) is made of light bricks set in a herringbone pattern and is the self-supporting structural element while the outer dome simply serves as a heavier, wind-resistant covering.
 The dome is crowned by a lantern with a conical roof, designed by Brunelleschi but only built after his death in 1446, while the gilt copper sphere and cross on top of the lantern, containing holy relics, was designed by Andrea del Verrocchio and installed in 1466.
The Last Judgement fresco on the internal wall of the dome is made by Giorgio Vasari  flanked by Vincenzo Borghini, who worked to the iconographic subjects and added other themes taken from Dante‘s Divine Comedy.
Most of the splendid stained glass windows were made between 1434 and 1455 to the designs of famous artists like Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello. The wooden inlays on the Sacristy´s cupboards were designed by Brunelleschi and other artists, including Antonio del Pollaiolo.
The Baptistry in the Piazza del Duomo complex,  named Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John)  is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise.
It took Ghiberti 21 years to complete the Gates of Paradise. These gilded bronze doors consist of twenty-eight panels, with twenty panels depicting the life of Christ from the New Testament. The eight lower panels show the four evangelists and the Church Fathers Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory and Saint Augustine.
 Above the Gates of Paradise stood the Baptism of Christ by Andrea Sansovino.
The Italian poet Dante and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistery.
The Bell Tower designed by Giotto, is a slender structure is square in plan with 14.45 metre sides. It is 84.7 metres tall and has polygonal buttresses at each corner.  It is the most eloquent example of 14th century Gothic architecture in Florence.
Clad in white, pink and green marble like the Duomo adjacent to it, the majestic square bell tower, considered to be the most beautiful Bell Tower in Italy.
The rich decorative apparatus comprising hexagonal panels and lozenges embodies the concept of Universal Order and tells the story of the Redemption of Mankind.

Based on and

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Florence, along the Arno River

Dante in his poem about Arno river says:

And I: "Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;
From thereupon do I this body bring."

The Arno is a river in the Tuscany region of Italy.  It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber. With a length of 241 kilometres, it flows from the Apennine Mountains to the Ligurian Sea, just 11 kilometres west of Pisa. Lush vineyards and olive groves line the river's scenic course to the west, out to sea.
The Arno river generally flows at its highest during spring and autumn of every year, when rainfall in the Apennines is at its greatest. However in 1557 and 1966  the peaceful river overflowed from its embankments invading large areas of the Casentino, the plains of Pisa and Empoli, and over the entire historical center of Florence, causing dozens of deaths and untold damage to the city’s monumental and artistic heritage.
After the flood in Florence the river’s banks were raised, and in 1984 the Bilancino Dam was built near Florence to protect the area from future flooding.
The Arno River crosses Florence, and passes below the Ponte Vecchio,  the Ponte alle Grazie and the Santa Trinita bridge.
The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge"),  is a medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, still have shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. It has always hosted shops and merchants who displayed their goods on tables before their premises. The back shops (retrobotteghe) that can be seen from the river, were added in the seventeenth century.
In 1900, to honour and mark the fourth century of the birth of the great Florentine sculptor and master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, the leading goldsmiths of the bridge commissioned the most renowned Florentine sculptor of the time Raffaello Romanelli to create a bronze bust of Cellini to stand atop a fountain in the middle of the Eastern side of the bridge, where it stands to this day.
A few steps from the Ponte Vecchio, stands the church of Santo Stefano, one of the oldest churches of Florence. The lower part of the facade retains Romanesque elements, while the upper part was rebuilt during the Gothic renewal. The interior was renovated during the Baroque period. It is full of stunning works of art and decoration, including the beautiful staircase by Buontalenti, with a marble balustrade, built in 1574. Numerous paintings also remain from the Renaissance period.
Santo Stefano is now deconsecrated church, and is now used as auditorium for music performances. The church’s atmosphere becomes incredibly magic in the night, when the lights turn down and the music fills the religious silence, and the audience immerse itself in the unforgettable experience of the union of Art, Architecture and Music.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Florence, view from Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) is a square with a panoramic view of Florence. This is the best place to watch over Florence anytime of the day, it is an iconic panoramic view of Florence. 
The view embraces the town centre of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, the Ponte Cecchio bridge and other bridges crossing the Arno, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and other famous spots.
This Florentine piazza was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869 on a hill just at the South bank of the Arno river. The square, dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, has bronze replica of his famous David statue.  
David is the most iconic statue in Florence, and one of the most memorable.  Although many statues of David have been created before, this masterpiece by Michelangelo is unique.
 It is unique in particular in the way the stance David is standing in. Other artists show David slaying the giant Goliath, or standing over Goliath’s corpse, Michelangelo’s statue is different.
In this statue, David is just standing there, looking over his shoulder at the moment directly after challenging Goliath, at a moment prior to one of the most defining points in history.
David entered the battle with only five stones and a slingshot. David won this battle, and  punctuated the victory by slicing off Goliath’s head and showing it to his enemies. In time, he became king of Israel, bringing forth the most prosperous time in Israeli history.
After beating Goliath, David sang the Psalm 151:
I went out to attack the Philistine,
    who cursed me by his idols.
But after I uncovered his own sword,
        I cut off his head.
    So I removed the shame
    from the Israelites. 

Driving further 8 kilometres northeast of Florence, we arrive at Fiesole a town on a scenic height above Florence. Since the 14th century the city has always been considered a getaway for the upper class of Florence and up to this day Fiesole remains the richest municipality in the whole of Tuscany.
At centre of Fiesole, there is a square called Piazza Mino. The square is named after a Florentine sculptor Mino da Fiesole. Therefore this piazza has been used for expedition of art sculptures honouring Mino da Fiesole.
Further towards the west of Fiesole there is a monastery called St. Francis monastery, it is a Franciscan monastery. The facade of the church is Gothic in style with a gabled roof. The convent is located to the right of the church. The convent building is surrounded by three cloisters. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Florence, City of Statues

Dante Alighieri in his Devine Comedia said (see previous blog about Dante):

“Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great,

That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings,”

Indeed Florence is a great city and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its works of art and museums are acknowledged by Unesco. Besides its artistic and architectural greatness, Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.  
The square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio known as the Piazza della Signoria is packed with the work of famous sculptors such as: Giambologna, Baccio Bandinelli, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Benvenuto Cellini, and Michelangelo Buonarroti. All these artists were born in Florence or were resident of Florence.
Every statue tells its own story taken from Greek or Roman mythology. Effectively it is an open air gallery of renaissance art. Every statue is original, except the David statue is a replica.

Giambologna’s statue the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is based on a Roman mythology, in which the men of Rome, under Romulus, committed a mass abduction of young women from the other cities in the region. Giambologna sculpted a representation of this theme with three figures (a man lifting a woman into the air while a second man crouches), carved from a single block of marble. This sculpture is considered Giambologna's masterpiece.

“The Fountain of Neptune” situated beside Palazzo Vecchio is made of marble and bronze, the fountain was commissioned in 1565 and designed by Baccio Bandinelli. It is the work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati with some elements created by collaborators.

Neptune is the god of freshwater and the sea in Roman religion. In the Greek tradition, Neptune is the brother of Jupiter and Pluto.

“Perseus with the head of Medusa”, is a bronze sculpture created by Benvenuto Cellini. It is considered a masterpiece and is one of the most famous statues in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria.
It depicts Perseus as he stands on Medusa’s body and holds her head up in the air. Medusa was a hideous woman-faced Gorgon whose hair was turned to snakes and anyone that looked at her was turned to stone.  

“The Rape of Polyxena” is a marble statue created by Pio Fedi. In this statue Polyxena is struggling to get away from Achiles while he easily contains her in one arm. The other arm is about to strike down her mother, Hecuba, with his mighty sword.

“Hercules and Cacus” is a white sculpture to the right of the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio. This work by the Florentine artist Baccio Bandinelli. Here, the demi-god Hercules, who killed the fire-belching monster Cacus during his tenth labor for stealing cattle, is the symbol of physical strength.

“David” is the most iconic statue in Florence, and one of the most recognizable. In this statue, David is just standing there, looking over his shoulder. Michelangelo sculpted David the moment directly after challenging Goliath, at a moment prior to one of the most defining points in history.

Photo by Guillaume Piolie - Wikimedia
The statue of Cosimo I de Medici  by Giambologna indicates the Medici's ambitions and is an portrait of the man who brought all of Tuscany under Medici military rule.  He was an Italian banker and politician, the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance. His power derived from his wealth as a banker, and he had a great appreciation of arts and architecture. 
Cosimo and his heirs rule from this place and from his office next door, which is now the Uffizi museum. 
It is said that Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus  to the right of the David statue was appropriated by the Medici to show their physical power after their return from exile. The Neptune statue by Ammannati celebrates the Medici's maritime ambitions. The statue of Perseo holding Medusa's head, by Benvenuto Cellini, is a stark reminder of what happened to those who crossed the Medici. 


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