Santa Maria del Fiore (also known simply as the Duomo) is the cathedral of Florence known for its distinctive Renaissance dome. Its name (“Saint Mary of the Flower”) refers to the lily, the symbol of Florence. The impressive Gothic cathedral complex includes the Duomo, the famous Baptistery and a Campanile. Construction started in 1296 and it took 150 years to build and is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.




The cathedral is made


from white, green, and pink

marble. The red dome is visible


almost anywhere in Florence.




The front of the colorful

pink and green marble



Main Portal Mosaic is

Christ enthroned with

Mary and John the


We decided to climb the stairs inside the dome to the very top to see the spectacular view of the city from there. Since the stairs were very narrow and winding, I thought I could make the 463 stairs. It made me dizzy going around in the winding, twisting stairs that went straight upwards. After about 50 steps I was second guessing my decision to do this! The concrete steps were so small and narrow that only one person could barely fit. I don’t know how the people of the Renaissance did this every day. They must have been very small! The steps got narrower the higher we went. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

About half way up we stepped out onto a landing to a spectacular view of the church below. It was also here that you could see a close-up of the paintings inside the dome.


Looking down into the church from one of the landings



Looking up at the ceiling


Painted between 1572 and 1579 the frescoes in the dome depict the Last Judgment. High up near the top, hovers a temple with the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse; followed by choirs of angels with the instruments of the Passion, then groups of saints, then personifications of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and finally the regions of hell with various deadly sins.





There were two walkways where we could step out into the dome and look at the frescoes while continuing around on a ledge and into the next stairwell to continue our climb. But after the second walkout, we found ourselves walking back down, and could not find any stairway leading up to the top. Oh well, I guess it was meant to be that we only made it half way up !

We did not have time to go into either Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower) or the Baptistry, but we admired them both from the outside as they were right there next to the Duomo.


Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di San Giovanni)

The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence although it is impossible to exactly determine the period. In the Middle Ages, it was believed to be a Roman pagan temple dedicated to Mars. It’s covered inside and out with splendid medieval and Renaissance decorations, including Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors dubbed the “Gates of Paradise” which features exquisitely carved depictions of scenes from the Bible.



Its octagonal structure has a strong symbolic value – the octagon represents the eighth day, the one outside human life’s earthly cycle in which Christ rises and lives eternally and is an image associated with the rite of baptism since Early Christian times.

Between 1330 and 1336, Andrea Pisano had created a first door in bronze. Later in 1401, a competition was held for a second door (which seems to be the first public competition in the history of art) and was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

But when in 1424 Ghiberti, having been assigned the project for the third door, presented his idea, it was clear to all concerned that this was something very different to what had been done before. Ghiberti had exceeded himself in what was then called the ‘Gates of Paradise’ and his masterpiece conquered a place of honor on the portal in front of the Cathedral.




Above the

Bronze doors

are three

figures –

Jesus being

baptized by

John the Baptist








Close up of the











Close up of one

of the door

panels – The

Creation of

Adam of Eve





Giotto’s Campanile is a free-standing bell tower that is part of the complex of three buildings that make up the Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo. Construction began in 1334. The Campanile is often called Giotto’s Bell Tower, even though the famous Renaissance artist only lived to see the completion of its lower story.

Like the cathedral, the bell tower is sumptuously decorated in white, green, and pink Tuscan marble. But where the Duomo is expansive, the Campanile is slender and symmetrical. The top story features seven bells and a viewing platform. After the Duomo, the Campanile is one of the most recognizable buildings in Florence. It is 278 feet high and offers spectacular views of the Duomo and of Florence if you can walk the 414 steps to the top!




If you didn’t visit this complex while in Florence, it means that you didn’t really complete your journey in this beautiful city!


Open my heart and you will see,
Graved inside of it, Italy.”

(Robert Browning (1812-1889)


@ Patty