The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 14: Florence Duomo and the Last Judgement

Your virtual Italy vacation continues and Thor and I visit the Florence Duomo and two versions of The Last Judgement.

NOTE: Since European travel is still tenuous with the pandemic continuing, I’m continuing my blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! After starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll now resume every week (after the blogging detour in real time to Hawaii). Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

The Piazza del Duomo offers the monumental Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly called the Florence Duomo for the distinctive dome. The cathedral is the 4th largest Christian church in the world, and it is immense, able to hold 20,000 people inside.

Building began in 1296, on the site of a much earlier church, and the cathedral was consecrated in 1436 by Pope Eugenius IV. Several phases and styles over the centuries resulted in a Gothic Cathedral with Renaissance additions, finally furnished with a new Gothic Revival facade in the 19th century. The elaborate facade is beautifully gleaming with marble in tones of green, pink, and white, dedicated to the Mother of Christ. The famous dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi was added in the 15th century. It was an innovative design, the first large octagonal dome erected without scaffolding, drawing on the ancient Roman Pantheon for structural inspiration. There are two layers, the outer one of brick, with reinforcing ribs and wooden “chains” supporting and separating the two layers.

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You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from another research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at




The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 14: Florence Duomo and the Last Judgement — 5 Comments

  1. Those ceilings are breathtaking, especially when one considers the lack of modern day tech to light things, and to raise and lower the artists. And the view of the city is also amazing. Why is it that old buildings are so easy on the eye, but modern ones are mostly butt-ugly.

    • Thanks, Sherwood! I agree — the central cities of Europe, with their graceful old buildings, are certainly easier on the eye than our U.S. hodgepodges. (The outskirts sprawls are ugly almost everywhere.) Though when I read about the construction of the Duomo and its aging wooden bracing, I started to feel a bit queasy in retrospect about that climb up between the dome layers.

  2. I want to share this comment that Anef left on the version of this post:
    “It’s ironic that the Duomo is decorated inside with scenes from Dante, given that Dante was exiled from Florence (due to Politics) and wrote the Commedia while living in in Ravenna.
    You mention modern politicians and CEOs – in fact the Inferno features many of Dante’s contemporaries (recently deceased or in some cases still alive) suffering for their misdeeds on earth. If you are especially wicked, Dante explains, your soul can go straight to Hell before death for punishment, while a demon inhabits your body on Earth (indistinguishable from the real thing).”
    Thank you, Anef! I wonder if some of those damned souls in the Duomo fresco are identifiable, since the artists did insert some Florence notables in the upper regions, probably trying to curry favor.

  3. Most people don’t realize that the exterior monuments on old cathedrals are relatively young. Acid rain erodes the limestone so quickly that the statues must be replaced periodically. That’s why the cathedrals are so often wrapped in scaffolding and sheets.