Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo, is the cathedral church of Florence, dedicated to the Madonna of Florence. The basilica is one of the largest churches in Italy and until the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. The church's three buildings form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic center of Florence.
The church was originally built in the 6th and 7th centuries and then reconstructed several times in the Romanesque period. In the 13th century, it was deemed necessary to build a larger cathedral to suit the city's growing population and to match the constructions of other Tuscan cities. Arnolfo di Cambio designed the new church which was finally completed around the 15th century.
The colorful exterior walls are made from marble; white from Carrara, green from Prato, and red from Maremma. The duomo is composed of the cathedral, the Battistero di San Giovanni and Giotto's bell tower. The majestic dome, the greatest of Brunellesci's woks, is considered a feat of unrivaled engineering skill. Weighing 37,000 tons and containing over 4 million bricks, the dome was the largest and highest of its time. 463 steps lead to the top of the dome, which offers a spectacular view of Florence.
There are several great works of art contained in the interior of the cathedral. Notable works include busts of Brunellesci, Giotto, and Michelin, Michelino's Dante, the Condottieri memorials, a sculpture of the prophet Joshua, and many more.
The baptistery is one of the oldest and most famous buildings in Florence, and its east door is the most celebrated work of Lorenzo Ghiberti. The door took almost Ghiberti's entire life to complete and Michelangelo is said to have called it "the Gate of Paradise."
The cathedral is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 3:30 pm the first Saturday each month, and from 1 pm to 5 pm on Sundays. There is no admission fee to tour the cathedral and there are free guided tours every 40 minutes. Entrance fee for the Santa Reparata excavations costs €3 and visiting the cupola costs €6. For further information visit http://www.operaduomo.firenze.it/