Brunelleschi’s Dome

Brunelleschi’s Dome

The dome that crowns Florence’s great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo, is a towering masterpiece of Renaissance ingenuity and an enduring source of mystery. Still the largest masonry dome on earth after more than six centuries, it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and weighs as much as an average cruise ship. Historians and engineers have long debated how its secretive architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, managed to keep the dome perfectly aligned and symmetrical as the sides rose and converged toward the center, 40 stories above the cathedral floor. His laborers toiled without scaffolding or safety net, applying novel, untried methods. Over 4 million bricks might collapse at any moment—and we still don’t understand how Brunelleschi prevented it. To test the latest theories, a team of U.S. master bricklayers will help build a unique experimental model Duomo using period tools and techniques. Will it stay intact during the final precarious stages of closing over the top of the dome?

Find the complete article on: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/il-duomo/mueller-text

I had the fortune and great pleasure to get to know Professor Massimo Ricci, who has been studying the secrets of Brunelleschi’s Dome since 1975. He is an unconventional teacher with incredible sense of humor who dedicated his last 30 years to study the architecture of the Cupola.
I attended his specific lectures about the Renaissance, medieval masonry tecniques and of course, about the Florentine Duomo, which is considered one of the Renaissance marvels of the town.

I could have never expected he would accompany us into the Duomo back then, “during its completition” …..It was an most amazing trip back into history. Prof. Ricci took me and a few other pupils into a small scale Cupola which has been reproduced among the poplars of a public garden along the River Arno (the pictures above were taken by Florencewithflair on the spot during the lesson). Through a narrow passage (as you can see we literally had to enter lying on a cart pulled in and out from the structure) he introduced us to the real project that Brunelleschi had in mind. An intricated system of ropes and bricks above an imposing octagonal wooden platform suspended from the drum of the Cathedral let us understand how the architect calculated the pose of the two self supporting domes. This grand engineering experiment, led by Prof. Massimo Ricci reveals how Brunelleschi built his dome. His explaination will be on air on February 12, 2014 on NOVA/PBS, thanks to the 2013 survey conducted by the National Geographic in Florence.

Don’t miss the “Great Cathedral Mystery“…and above all don’t miss the VISIT ON THE SPOT WITH FLORENCEWITHFLAIR!

For deep focus visits to Brunelleschi’s Dome and to Prof. Ricci’s model please contact: info@florencewithflair.com




  1. John Vitale

    I enjoyed the program so much that I watched it twice. It is an amazing chronicle of the inspiration and genius it took to build this marvel.

  2. Diego Vazquez Mellado

    Do you know when or if this 1/5 scale model will be finished? Thanks!

    • Ciao Diego! The model is NOT going to be finished on purpose. The goal is to leave the structure open to see the double layer of the architecture. This is the great discovery of Massimo Ricci. He is the only architect who was able to show the structure in a practical way, beyond any ideal or mathematical reconstruction. This is the magic and the beauty of this unfinished model! Hasta luego en Florencia! 🙂

  3. Dan Flaxman

    I will be in florence, with my family next late June. We would like to see Ricci’s model of the dome. Can you tell me exactly where it is and how to get there from the city center please.

    Very much appreciated. Thanks you.
    Dan Flaxman


      Ciao Dan, I have replied to you per email. Enjoy a festive preparation to your trip! Ele

  4. Paul &a Brenda Gerolstein

    We spent 10 wonderful days in Florence, made all the more wonderful by Elena. We first met Elena in 2014 when we visited Florence on a cruise stop. After a way to brief afternoon with her we knew we had to return to really explore Florence. There are so many museums, architectural treasures and great restaurants you could spend a month here and not see it all. When we planned our return I contacted Elena right away. There is no better way to see all of the secret treasures than with Elena. Her in depth knowledge of the city and the stories of the buildings and paintings is very informative and entertaining. If you want to get the most out of your visit to Florence, team up with Elena and put yourself in her most capable hands. You will not be disappointed.