Guess what your friendly J Term blogger has been doing...
If you answered "Having fun and adding to her list of quotes from Professor Merritt," you'd be correct. This post gets its title from one such quote, and the building that will "infect [our] dreams" is the Duomo di Firenze, a magnificent feat of architecture a stone's throw from our hotel.
I don't know that I'd say that the Duomo had an infectious impact, but it was definitely a memorable place that I won't soon forget. The building is a functioning cathedral but is open to the public and tourists because of its importance as a historical landmark. Visitors can climb to the top of the central dome of the church, which is the largest standing dome in the world. This offers incredible views both of Florence's colorful city center and the lush, rolling hills of its surrounding environs. (If pictures are not present when this post is made public, they will be added soon). This incredible testament to Rennasiance architecture was the pride and joy of Filippo Brunelleschi, the man who designed and oversaw the construction of the Duomo after failing to secure a commission to create custom doors for the nearby Baptistery. Brunelleschi was an interesting and dedicated character who stuck with the project well into old age. It is said that the elderly artist would perch himself at the very edge of the unfinished dome --which stood at a dangerous height-- in order to best observe its construction. Some people felt that this stunt was evidence that Brunelleschi had lost his mind, but even so, no one ever accused him of a lack of commitment to his work.
Views aren't the only thing the Duomo has to offer, for in addition to its impressive structure the architecture of the church is truly breathtaking. It is designed in gothic style adorned with intricate geometric designs, carefully crafted statues of religious figures, and gorgeous stained glass windows.
The inside of the church is more muted (with the exception of the inner wall of the central dome), the focus being centered on the altar rather than designs on the walls. The one wall display that is most eye-catching is a large clock fashioned by Paolo Uccello. Uccello, like many Rennaisance men, was a master of many trades. He dabbled in painting, producing such works as The Battle of San Romano , but his true passion was mathematics. This becomes obvious when presented with the aforementioned painting, as Uccello makes use of a variety of geometric shapes and experiments with lines and angles as he paints Florence's brutal victory over Siena. It makes sense that Uccello was chosen for the job; given the man's background, his sponsors could be sure that his clock would be fully functional and aesthetically pleasing.
The central dome is so captivating from the outside that it would only be fitting for its inner walls to be equally impressive, and that they are. A vibrant fresco covers every inch of the dome's ceiling, depicting Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. While Heaven is a land of splendor and closeness with God, it is relatively generic. That is to say, there is nothing unexpected or surprising about the fresco of Heaven, nor Purgatory, for that matter. Hell, on the other hand, is unnervingly detailed and gruesome. In the bottom layer of the fresco, Satan and his army of demons torture those who have been sentenced to enteral unrest for their sins. I admit that I was unprepared to see something so dark featured in a holy place, but it is important to remember that religious art --particularly Catholic art-- sometimes features unpleasant biblical scenes and messages. The juxtaposition of Heaven and Hell makes this fresco all the more striking. Check out the photos to see for yourself (if we are able to upload them)!
The cathedral to which the Duomo belongs was actually built on the foundations of an ancient Roman church, and these are still preserved in the basement. Visitors can still see an intact altar and mosaic floors, among other artifacts. Experts have been able to discern the size and design of the original church, which was soon dwarfed by the Duomo di Firenze, though thankfully Brunelleschi had the sense to salvage what he could from the Duomo's modest predecessor. For a history lover like me, it's comforting to know that even in centuries past people still recognized the importance of preservation. If they had not, who knows how many great civilizations could have been forgotten?
Since I think Jacque is going to write a bit about the Baptistery doors I'll keep this section brief so that I don't step on her toes. The Baptistery is a relic of the past. According to Florence's tourist site, it was first mentioned as a Basicilica in the year 827 C.E., and officially became a baptistery in 1128 C.E. In addition to its majestic doors, the building boasts many awe inspiring characteristics, such as the powerful artwork that spans across the octagonal ceiling and down the walls. As you'll see in the upcoming pictures, the predominant component used to create these works of art is gold leaf. Though still very vibrant, the gold continually falls from the ceiling in microscopic pieces, so that everyone inside of the Baptistery actually breathes in a small amount of pure gold! If you or someone you know are particualrly interested in this site, it is still possible to have your children baptized there. When the baby grows up, he or she can brag to their friends about all of the gold they were surrounded by before they could even speak!
That's all for this post. As always, thank you for reading!
Your Friendly J Term Blogger,