So after not having the best start to my week in Florence I did eventually get to see the mind blowing art and architecture that I was there for. My one real regret for the week was that I hadn’t had the money to be able to visit this city sooner when I was a History of Art and Architecture student; I definitely would have had a renewed vigour for my studies! I was astounded by just how many buildings that I had studied that were gathered together in such a small space, from the Uffizi to Palazzo Vecchio, the Medici Riccadi, Palazzo Pitti, Santa Croce and countless others. I was in architectural bliss.
For me the absolute stand out architectural piece was the obvious one; the duomo. When I first saw this building, making slow progress towards it down a narrow Florentine street, I was totally unprepared by what I was about to encounter. I spent an entire year studying Renaissance (re:90%Florentine) architecture, but obviously no amount of reading, lectures or tutorials managed to convey the majesty of this building. I just could.not.believe.it. The marble cladding is just so bright and beautiful, it’s incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong reaction to a building, or at least not in my recent travels. I reckon it’s probably a contender for the most beautiful building I have ever seen.
In my head I was comparing it to Notre Dame in Paris because Notre Dame (1160-1345 w/later alterations) is also a city centre cathedral, but of a very different type. Every time I see Notre Dame I think about how it must have looked to medieval peasants when it was first constructed. It is a magnificent building now, but a person alive back then it must have looked like something that came from heaven; truly a house of God. I think if I had been alive back then I would have gone to church just to bask in the architectural glory alone, and in Florence this idea is still very tempting in 2013.
Florence’s Cathedral, colloquially ‘the duomo’ and formerly referred to as ‘Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore’ was begun in 1296 and completed in 1346, although the green, white and pink marble facade that amazed me was a later 19th century addition. Notre Dame always seems so dark and spindle-y to me, like a great black spider on the banks of the Seine while the duomo in contrast seemed incredibly bright. The austere interior was a pleasant relief to the ‘busy’ facade and it was nice to be able to concentrate on the solid lines of the construction. Absolutely astounding. I’m a little bit sad that I never picked up this kind of enthusiasm for the building while I was actually studying it, I guess seeing something in real life is worth more than a thousand words, or even a picture. Better late than never I suppose. And here are some (totally inadequate) pictures:
Appetite for beautiful architecture sated but not quite satisfied, my next stop was Venice which I’ll be writing about in my next travel post 🙂