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Santa Maria del Fiore

The Santa Maria del Fiore, located north of the Piazza de la Signoria, began with sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296, and for the centuries that followed, more talented artists worked on the building's structure. Among these artists is the famous painter Giotto, who designed its campanile, or bell tower in 1334.

But what perhaps is the greatest contribution to this structure is architect-cum-sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi's striking octagonal cupola, built from 1420-1436.

This Florentine Cathedral was meant to be done in the Gothic style, started by di Cambio when he began the project. But in 1366, artists, painters, and sculptors advised the city that all structures should then take after Roman forms, hence the addition of the octagonal dome.

The dome was proposed by Brunelleschi, who created a 1:12 replica of his proposal, to demonstrate that the dome can be built without any formwork. His proposal was accepted, and the building of the dome lasted from 1420 until 1436. Aside from the dome, Brunelleschi also created various statues for the cathedral.

The octagonal dome consists of eight "shells," where empty spaces are left to lighten the weight of the construction. The angle ribs that you will see are not meant for structural support. The dome is covered with an external cap, made up of tiles that were designed specifically for the dome. The tiles are meant to be assembled easily and maintained with ease.

The dome's dimensions are as follows: it is perched 177 feet above the ground, and boasts of a monumental 108 feet height. The distance from one end to the other is about 176 feet, and the lantern that crowns it is about 72 feet high. It weights a massive 37,000 metric tons, and is made up of about 4 million bricks.

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