Woodworking Inspirations of Italy #3: Santa Maria del Fiore...Duomo Cathedral of Florence, Italy

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Blog entry by Bob Simmons posted 05-30-2011 04:33 PM 4235 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: How Venice Italy was Built on a Foundation of Wood Part 3 of Woodworking Inspirations of Italy series Part 4: Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays »

The Cathedral of Florence, Italy...Santa Maria Del Fiore

“All truths are easily understood once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei
...Italian philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician…(1564-1642)

The Santa Maria Fiore in Florence, Italy is an impressive sight. It is unlike anything that I have seen before because of its sheer size, its wonderful architecture, and its amazing detail. I first saw the Duomo (Cathedral Church) on a late afternoon in early April. The sky was pure blue and the low angled sun was shining on the front entrance of the church as hundreds of people were sitting on the various rows of steps which led to the cathedral. Most of the people seated on the steps were quite young and it was as if they were a part of something very unique and special. I have a feeling that many generations of people have been sitting on these steps all along for a number of centuries.

The first stone of the Duomo was laid in 1296. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the octagonal dome that began construction in 1420 and was completed in 1436. (Brunelleschi's dome was a first of its kind.) Work on the facade started in 1871 and was finished in 1887.
Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy...looking towards the dome

One can not help but be attracted to the Cathedral of Florence Italy and I immediately had the urge to go up close and touch the facade of this building. I needed to see the detail of the marble sculptings and to feel them. There is so much design detail from afar and the same applies when taking a close look. You have to see this structure to truly appreciate what it offers and even then it is hard to take it all in at one time. However, you quickly become resigned and accept the fact that you will simply absorb as much as you possibly can given the time you have available.

The building is enormous. It is 502 ft. long by 295 ft. wide. It is 295 ft. tall from the pavement to the opening of the lantern in the dome. It is 375 ft. from the pavement to the top of the lantern.

The Dome of Santa Maria del fiore in Florence, Italy

The complete exterior facade of the Duomo de Florence is wrapped in a veneer of marble. There is white marble from Carrara, red marble from Siena, and green marble from Prato. Moreover, the amount of marble used for the exterior finish is mind boggling when one considers the processes involved from the initial quarrying the stone to the final installation. Think about this. The marble is dug out of the ground, it has to be cut and dimensioned, and it has to be polished. Now it has to be transported to Florence (Firenze) where it will be fit and installed on the exterior walls at varying elevations. Just imagine the scaffolding involved, the hoisting apparatus used, and the skilled workforce to apply the marble facing. What we today witness is the finished product, however there was obviously a great deal more involved with the construction than what we are able to see today. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding as attention is given to every detail.

As someone who has had a career in the trades as a finish carpenter and is a lifelong woodworker, I truly admire and respect the craftsmanship of the men who made Duomo de Florence possible. It is simply a masterpiece as everyone sitting in the sunshine on the front steps knows.

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-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

14 comments so far

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2721 days

#1 posted 05-30-2011 04:44 PM

It’s a very powerful image; surely gets you thinking. Thanks for this.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10123 posts in 4080 days

#2 posted 05-30-2011 06:08 PM

Looks like you are or just have been on a very nice trip Italy!

That’s GREAT! A LIFE’s experience…

Thank you…

Happy Memorial Day!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Napoleon's profile


788 posts in 2837 days

#3 posted 05-30-2011 10:06 PM

What a great blog :)

I am going to Italy this summer. I am going to a little island called Ischia :D

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3042 days

#4 posted 05-30-2011 10:59 PM


You’re right. It is a powerful image that stays with you along with powerful thoughts. Thanks for taking a look.


Always great to see you! As you well know Italy is a wonderful experience with memories that last a lifetime. Happy Memorial Day to you as well.


Thanks! What a beautiful place Ischia looks to be! It must be heavenly. Have fun.

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3045 days

#5 posted 05-31-2011 05:08 AM

My wife and I have been there to that very church and you are right, it is aweinspiring! We visited a lot of churches on our trip to Italy and would love one day to return. Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3353 days

#6 posted 05-31-2011 01:01 PM

Nice blog – thanks for posting this.

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3850 days

#7 posted 05-31-2011 10:15 PM

Just a note, that the Carrara marble use on this Cathedral in 1296 is still being mind today. It was a favorite marble of all the greats from Filippo Brunelleschi to one Michelangelo.

View Skylark53's profile


2671 posts in 3088 days

#8 posted 06-01-2011 05:52 AM

My mom grew up less than a mile from the church. We visited there in 1995; I’ve been back twice since. It is an incredible peice of work. Nice job on the blog. Thank you for sharing.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3042 days

#9 posted 06-01-2011 04:14 PM


Thanks for adding the lasting memories that you and your wife share. You’re absolutely right…the Santa Maria del Fiore is awe-inspiring. We also look forward to a return visit.


Thanks for your interest! Look for more in the future.


Thanks for your insights! An example of the Carrara marble would be Michelangelo’s David (which is available to be seen in Florence.) It’s a beautiful white marble. (Speaking of Filippo Brunelleschi…what a magnificent dome he designed for the Santa Maria del Fiore.)


I can only imagine what it would be for your Mom growing up in Florence near the Cathedral (Duomo.) Visiting this church is definitely an experience to remember and it is certainly understandable to return time and again.
It’s an amazing work created by very talented men. Thanks for taking a look!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View Napoleon's profile


788 posts in 2837 days

#10 posted 06-02-2011 02:49 PM

Thanks Bob i am really looking forward to the trip :) i just gonna start on a repair on 43nordship boat and the owner is italian. He had a lot of import to Denmark and he said that he easily can get me some wood from his homeland so i am so exited to see what i can get of olive wood :)

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2998 days

#11 posted 06-02-2011 03:32 PM

And they did that without a single CAD drawing I bet.

I can’t build a saw horse without making a drawing to go by first.

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3042 days

#12 posted 06-11-2011 04:57 PM


Your trip sounds like a trip of a lifetime. I had never heard of Ischia prior to you mentioning it. It certainly has caught my curiosity. I’m curious about the characteristics of olive wood. Hope you enjoy it!


“And they did that without a single CAD drawing I bet.” This same thought crossed my mind. The overall design is totally amazing from a distance. When you get up close to check it out, the fine details are even more incredibly amazing. The design has a sense of grace to it. My hat is off to the architects for this job.

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3703 days

#13 posted 06-13-2011 02:44 AM

Another master blog!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3042 days

#14 posted 06-13-2011 03:56 AM


Thanks for taking a look! You would love this place.

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

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