Brunelleschi s Dome is the story of how a Renaissance man bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder Not a master mason or carpenter, Filippo Brunelleschi was a goldsmith and clock maker Over twenty eight years, he would dedicate himself to solving puzzles of the dome s construction In the process, he did nothing less than reinvent the field of architecture He engineered the perfect placement of brick and stone some among the most renowned machines of the Renaissance to carry an estimated seventy million pounds hundreds of feet into the air, and designed the workers platforms and routines so carefully that only one man died during the decades of construction This drama was played out amid plagues, wars, political feuds, and the intellectual ferments of Renaissance Florence events Ross King weaves into a story to great effect An American Library Association Best Book of the Year Boston Globe An absorbing tale Los Angeles Times Ross King has a knack for explaining complicated processes in a manner that is not only lucid but downright intriguing Fascinating Read this book either on the flight to Italy or on the flight back Either way it will greatly enhance the pleasure you experience from visiting Florence Ross King s Brunellschi s Dome is short, easy to read and filled with delightful anecdotes It s prime merit is that it explains everything that the tourist would want to know about the design, construction techniques employed and technological innovations that were made in the building of this architectural wonder One is overwhelmed by the Read this book either on the flight to Italy or on the flight back Either way it will greatly enhance the pleasure you experience from visiting Florence Ross King s Brunellschi s Dome is short, easy to read and filled with delightful anecdotes It s prime merit is that it explains everything that the tourist would want to know about the design, construction techniques employed and technological innovations that were made in the building of this architectural wonder One is overwhelmed by the beauty of the Duomo when one sees it set against the Tuscan hills in the incomparable city of Florence King s book will help you appreciate the remarkable brilliance of the architectwho executed the project Updated July 17, 2013 added image and linksAt the height of the Renaissance in Florence a competition was announced The cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore had been under construction forthan a century, but no one knew how to construct the massive dome that was called for in the original design, a design from which the city rulers were loathe to depart The task was widely considered impossible, but Filippo Brunelleschi, a goldsmith and clockmaker, submitted a construction plan that was br Updated July 17, 2013 added image and linksAt the height of the Renaissance in Florence a competition was announced The cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore had been under construction forthan a century, but no one knew how to construct the massive dome that was called for in the original design, a design from which the city rulers were loathe to depart The task was widely considered impossible, but Filippo Brunelleschi, a goldsmith and clockmaker, submitted a construction plan that was breathtaking in its radicalism His achievement revolutionized architecture In dedicating his life to this project, he had, of necessity to invent hoists and cranes of extremely original design to perform tasks never before mechanized The dome remains aloft today, still one of the largest on earth The book is interesting and offers a nice picture of some aspects of life in the fifteenth century The subculture of high end artistes of the time, the warfare between city states, impact of the plagueThe photo was taken from the Getty Museum siteP 14 The Black Death was a faithful visitor to Florence It arrived, on average, once every ten years, always in the summer.Various remedies were tried to drive it away Church bells were violently rung, firearms discharged into the air, and the portrait of the Virgin from the church at nearby Impruneta an image with miraculous powers that was said to have been painted by Saint Luke borne in procession through the streets Those rich enough escaped into the country Those who stayed behind burned wormwood, juniper and lavender in their hearths Ox horns and lumps of sulfur were also burned, because stenches were considered equally effective in clearing the air So intense were these fumigations that sparrows would fall dead from the rooftops.P 34Perspective is the method of representing three dimensional objects in recession on a two dimensional surface in order to give the same impression of relative position, size, or distance as the actual objects do when viewed from a particular point Filippo is generally regarded as its inventor, the one who discovered or rediscovered its mathematical laws For example, he worked out the principle of the vanishing point, which was known to the Greeks and Romans but, like so much other knowledge, had long since been lost P 71Freshly cut from a quarry, limestone and sandstone smell of rotten eggs, and the stronger this sulfurous stench, the better the quality of the stone P 121In 1492 Filippo Maria captured both Brescia and Genoa, and a year later seized the town of Forli, only 50 miles from Florence The following year, as plague raged through Tuscany, his forces defeated the Florentines at Zagonara, in Romagna There were only three casualties, all Florentine soldiers who fell from their horses and drowned on the battlefield in their heavy plate armor it had rained heavily in Zagonara the night before This lack of bloodshed shows that warfare in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, contrary to popular conceptions, could be reasonably civilized Most battles resembled chess matches in which opposing commanders sought to outmaneuver each other, the loser being the one who conceded that his position was technically vulnerable These engagements were fought by mercenaries who settled the terms of warfare in advance, rather like sportsmen deciding the rules of the game EXTRA STUFFA small web site dedicated to the domeHere is a nifty article on Brunelleschi and the dome in the latest Feb 2014 NAtional Geographic mag You may have to sign in or sign up to actually get to the article, but NG is free I thought it was a fascinating look at a wonder of architecture and at the always interesting Middle Ages Filippo is generally recognized as the one who discovered or rediscovered the mathematical laws of perspective For example, he worked out the principle of the vanishing point, which was known to the Greeks and Romans, but, like so much other knowledge, had long since been lost Plato had actually condemned perspective as a deceit He praised the flat Egyptian art for showing figures in t I thought it was a fascinating look at a wonder of architecture and at the always interesting Middle Ages Filippo is generally recognized as the one who discovered or rediscovered the mathematical laws of perspective For example, he worked out the principle of the vanishing point, which was known to the Greeks and Romans, but, like so much other knowledge, had long since been lost Plato had actually condemned perspective as a deceit He praised the flat Egyptian art for showing figures in their true proportions This prejudice against dishonesty in art was adopted in Christian art as well Only in the first decades of the 14th century did the ancient methods of perspective reappear when Giotto began using chiaroscuro to create realistic three dimensional effects A giant hoist had to be made to lift heavy timbers and other products The rope makers were taxed to manufacture a 600 foot long rope weighing over a thousand pounds Before the dome was completed the hoist would raise aloft marble, brick, stone, and mortar weighing an estimated 70 million pounds The last act of the dome s construction was the placement of an eight foot high bronze sphere that sits atop the lantern The commission for the ball went to the sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio One of his young apprentices was Leonardo da Vinci Because Leonardo did some drawings of the hoist, he is often wrongly given credit for their invention The whole idea of building such an enormous dome is so difficult for me to fathom I don t think I will ever understand it fully Filippo was a master of illusion From outside, the dome looks perfectly octagonal It was actually built circle by circle Filippo was a scholar of Dante, so the dome is often compared to Dante s Heaven However, a comparison to Dante s nine circles of Hell is also apt The Florentines were inept in a battle against the duke of Milan Clergymen blamed homosexuality They thought it was destroying the city Florence was so famous for homosexuality that the German slang for sodomite at that time was Florenzer Efforts were made to identify and prosecute homosexuals One way to end the problem was to makefemale prostitutes Brothels were set up everywhere The prostitutes were required to wear distinctive garb gloves, high heeled shoes, and a bell on the head But none of this helped the men in battle One way for the Pope to march safely through the streets was to have coins thrown in order to scatter the people and keep them from pressing too closely to the Holy Father It took over 16 years to complete the dome Ancient Romans had a dubious method of protecting their buildings from lightning believing that eagles and sea calves were never struck, they buried the corpses of these creatures within the walls to ward off disaster The dome is an amazing feat I will never visit Florence and visit, but I enjoyed my vicarious visit through this book Gee, when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be an architect I didn t pursue it because I knew I was terrible at math What I didn t take into account was my complete lack of physics knowledge After reading this book, I know I made the right decision.There is A LOT of description of pulleys, machines, construction, etc I didn t understand most of it I felt like an idiot I was determined to persevere and finish slogging through this book I did it, but not without falling asleep MANY time Gee, when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be an architect I didn t pursue it because I knew I was terrible at math What I didn t take into account was my complete lack of physics knowledge After reading this book, I know I made the right decision.There is A LOT of description of pulleys, machines, construction, etc I didn t understand most of it I felt like an idiot I was determined to persevere and finish slogging through this book I did it, but not without falling asleep MANY times.The title architect was not a particularly likable figure and so it was hard to care about his travails I didn t feel the author created a fully developed portrait of his complex subject Of course, the book really is about the dome Maybe if I d ever seen Santa Maria del Fiore in person I might have liked this book.The best thing I can say about Brunelleschi s Dome is that it has made me want to go to Florence and see what all the fuss in about A quick, popular read about the construction of the Duomo in Florence Lots of gossip, facts, technical information taken from secondary sources but not well referenced Still, an ideal preparation for, or companion to, a trip to beautiful Florence. When you stand in the Duomo in Florence and look up, even though you know the dome has been there for over 5 centuries, it s still hard to believe it stays in place It s even harder to imagine how it was constructed without supporting scaffolding Read this book and you will understand, not only the construction but also the nature of the Renaissance civilization that encouraged and financed such a miracle. This one s going back to the library unfinished I d heard so often that it was good Though my MFA is in Painting, I did teach a year long Art History survey course, so I ve even lectured on the darn dome And I ve always been interested in architecture.But I am 75 years old and I don t have time to waste on books I m not enjoying This one is so poorly written I can t believe it got the good reviews it did.The writing is plodding and awkward The author introduces technical architectural terms This one s going back to the library unfinished I d heard so often that it was good Though my MFA is in Painting, I did teach a year long Art History survey course, so I ve even lectured on the darn dome And I ve always been interested in architecture.But I am 75 years old and I don t have time to waste on books I m not enjoying This one is so poorly written I can t believe it got the good reviews it did.The writing is plodding and awkward The author introduces technical architectural terms without defining them and there is no glossary He discusses complicated bits of machinery with no clear diagrams of how they worked Somebody can do better than this This is an account of how the monument that human ingenuity could build to itself came into being.During the 13C the prosperous Florence deemed that its small Cathedral neededthan justrepairs Santa Reparata was then demolished and a new and considerably larger building was commissioned to Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect who had already designed other pleasing churches in the city The new Cathedral would also drop its no longer suitable old name and take on the radiant designation This is an account of how the monument that human ingenuity could build to itself came into being.During the 13C the prosperous Florence deemed that its small Cathedral neededthan justrepairs Santa Reparata was then demolished and a new and considerably larger building was commissioned to Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect who had already designed other pleasing churches in the city The new Cathedral would also drop its no longer suitable old name and take on the radiant designation of Santa Maria del Fiore Work began at the turn of the century but soon came to a halt when its designer passed away More unfortunate events followed and it was not until the very strong and wealthy Arte de la Lana the Guild of Wool Merchants undertook to give its completion a new push.That it would have to be such a guild the one who could spin stone out of yarn should be of no surprise The wealth of the city was based on the turning around and trading such golden fleece.During the calamitous 14C the fortunes of the Cathedral went throughups and downs Giotto and Pisano were there and helped the Black Death walked its scimitar other architects like Orcagna and Neri di Fioravante followed and considerably modified the original plan About one hundred years after it was begun, it was nearly finished Except for its Dome.When the design was altered the model proposed by Neri di Fioravante had won the day It was so very attractive because it seemed so very Italian It would have a huge Dome reminiscences of the glorious Roman past and would have no ugly external Gothic barbarian buttresses.What had not yet been resolved was how something of the sort could be built Its size and its elevation on relatively thin walls, were unprecedented A cross view comparing it to the also baffling Roman Pantheon speaks better than many words.Ross devotes this book to tracking how such a solution was forged And the story is fascinating He starts with the Competition that again the Arte de la Lana, who was still spinning the functioning of the city, opened up to the public He expands on the rivalry between the two geniuses who have become the most famous contenders of the Italian Renaissance Ghiberti and Brunelleschi had to measure each other up repeatedly during those years, first with the Baptistery doors and then with any new of the many commissions that were stemming out of that vibrant city These two had the required invective and dexterous mind.Ross then proceeds to tell us how Brunelleschi solved the problems similarly to the way Brunelleschi himself revealed them That is, gradually stone by stone, or chapter by chapter If Brunelleschi feared plagiarism, Ross seems concerned with losing the narrative interest.Ross then does not present the architectural scheme as it stands, and he prefers to unveil in installments about what made the dome possible the double shells the inadequacy of wood centering the octagonal crossings and ribs the pointed fifth arch the side chains as braces around the ribs variation in the density of materials the herringbone brickwork internal trusses, etc This approach has somewhat dampened a clear representation of how it all holds together But in so doing Ross succeeds in showing how each small advance was fraught with difficulty and considerable danger He engagingly elaborates on these temporary uncertainties, obstacles and technological problems and on the very many additional ingenious solutions that Brunelleschi devised For these were not just a few All the practicalities in the actual building, to the smallest detail, had to be contended by Brunelleschi, the capo maestro He devised his ox hoist the Castello or novel crane the lantern hoist the hidden staircase in between the double shell, amongst others Brunelleschi s training in clock making clearly helped him to keep his pace.For he finished it He also had time to design the Lantern as well, although he did not see its completion since he died soon after it was begun, in 1446 The ceremony of its consecration has also passed into history The population felt as if they were witnessing a miracle The heavenly motet that Guillaume Dufay composed especially for this occasion, Nupem Rosarum Flores, must have been conducive for the mystical reception in the congregation Later, the celestial frescoes designed by Giorgio Vasari completed the embellishment of such a realized impossibility.And even if Ross writing reminded me somewhat of the style of guidebooks, or had the taste of isolated research, or irritated at times for not givingof the original Italian names and adapting the material too much for an easy reading, he does succeed in bringing forth Brunelleschi s extraordinary achievement.Apart from all the technical details and all the circumstantial considerations, what this Dome by Brunelleschi proves to us is that there was new faith in the power of the individual who had a complete confidence in his own human capabilities.It was not just the Dome it was that conviction of himself and of his own ingenuity that was so very new And if any one feels like climbing up thethan 450 steps of the dome from his her armchair, there is is this fun video by someone who got inspired by this very bookhttps www.youtube.com watch v ohB1s Great book, fascinating history covering everything that went into the building of this amazing world landmark Architecture, art history, culture, Italian politics and drama, of course I learned a lot and was thoroughly enchanted by this book.