The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was completed in 1471. Its fundations were put in 1296, in 1436 the Cathedral had the main building done and covered. The project was to build the biggest cathedral of Christianity, and it succeeded. The octagon at the basement of the Dome was created large enough to virtually contain the Baptistery. This meant a basement too large to be coverd with building technologies of that time. The internal diameter is 45,5 meters and the total diameter is 54,8 meters.
It took several years to solve the covering problem. To be honest, not even modern engineers can explain how it was possible to build it: two layers, mainly independent, built in a “fishbone” self-supporting wall of bricks, thus not needing cages or scaffolds. A brand new technique that Brunelleschi genius worked out in Rome studying antique roman exemple, the Pantheon above all.
Brunelleschi’s project left the city breathless under the shadow of the great Dome. It was since roman age that mankind did not undertake a monument like this.
It could represent a problem for Rome to be overcome by another town greatness. Florence’s Dome arose such a fashination that the pope Giulio II asked to build another majestic church for Saint Peter in Rome at the beginning of 1500. A n old Michelangelo was asked to complete the Basilica and to project the new dome in 1546. He worked on it untill his death in 1564.
Rome’s stunning dome is still one of the biggest cover in the world with its 42 meters of diameter and 130m heigh.
Michelangelo could not forget his tuscan origins and the amazing Dome created by Brunelleschi in Florence, the most incredible monument at that moment for dimentions and building technique. He was proud to be from Florence and it should not be easy to create a monument with the specific aim to overcome his hometown competitor.
It is commonly known in Florence that Michelangelo was aware of the detriment. Someone says he left Florence addressing these words to the Dome:
“Vado a Roma a far la tua sorella, più grande sì, ma non più bella”
“I’m going to Rome to make your sister, not prettier, just bigger”.