Mystery of the Cathedral


Architects and engineers are investigating methods probably used by Renaissance artists to create the iconic dome—the Duomo—of Florence, Italy’s cathedral. (National Geographic/NOVA)

Use our resources to better understand the Duomo.

Discussion Ideas

  • Why do you think Brunelleschi and his Florentine bosses wanted a dome on their cathedral? (Reading our media spotlight on the Duomo might help.)
    • According to the spotlight, “[a]rchitects and engineers of the budding Renaissance were determined not to use flamboyant Gothic style or flying buttresses—they wanted to look back to the simple, clean lines of their Roman past.”
  • Brunelleschi (basing his plans on those of an earlier architect, Neri di Fioravante) could not use scaffolding or interior supports to construct his dome. Why?
    • The cathedral was too big. There simply was not enough timber in Tuscany to provide the scaffolding necessary to construct the Duomo. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Confession: I could talk about this stuff all. day. long.

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