1400 – 1500
Renaissance in Italy & the North

Brunelleschi's Dome

Filippo Brunelleschi, Dome, Exedrae (tribunes), and Lantern for Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

in 1418-19, Brunelleschi won the competition sponsored by the Arte della Lana (wool merchants guild) to finish Florence's cathedral (begun by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296). The principle concern was designing a dome that could span the 140 foot octogonal barrel already built to support it. No dome then existed that was this wide except the ancient Roman Pantheon which spans 142 feet but is made of concrete and is supported on massive walls. In the end, Brunelleschi's ingenious design would allow the lantern above the dome to rise 375 feet above the pavement (the Pantheon's dome is 125 feet high and well as wide) and would be built without the Pantheon's massive walls or the buttressing that medieval architects had relied upon to counter the huge outward thrust created by arches (and domes) of this size.

Key dates:
1296 cathedral begun by Arnolfo di Cambio
1355-57 Francesco Talenti enlarges the east end of the Duomo, including the dome base
1418-19 Arte della Lana competition
1420 Brunellschi's solution accepted
1439-45 construction of exedrae
1446-61 construction of dome and lantern

Your Comments (1)

Previous Comments

Frank Kaul wrote on Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Brunellschi's dome is the perfect example of the combination of the Romanesque and Gothic styles into Renaissance architecture. Brunellschi's achievement in architecture shows him to be another Renaissance man.

Add Comments

We think Smarthistory works best when it prompts discussion. Please post (on-topic) comments.*

*All comments are moderated

To post a comment, you need the Adobe Flash Plugin. Download it from here.
This work is an open educational resource and This work is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.