Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the Florence Cathedral, boasts having the record for the largest masonry dome ever built. In the fifteenth century, it was the largest church in the world and today it is the third largest in Europe. Its building began in 1296, on the ruins of the previous church of Santa Reparata and the Municipal authority was forced to purchase or expropriate the neighbouring buildings in order to have a large space at their disposal. It is precisely for this reason that the story regarding episode of the Bischeri family has been passed down, from which the famous Florentine name derives. The city government had offered a reasonable amount of money to purchase their properties and free up the area. The family rejected the offer as they wanted to raise the price but the Florentine government was impatient and decided to reduce the area of the building site and exclude many of the Bischeri family's properties, expropriating the ones that remained for just a few florins.
Opon completion of Brunelleschi's marvellous dome, Santa Maria del Fiore dominated Florence and descriptions of its magnificence spread throughout the world. The inside of the dome was later frescoed by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, making it the largest surface ever painted. On March 24, 1426 it was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV.
Some valuable knowledge is hidden inside the Cathedral. Astronomy has always been linked to architecture, ever since ancient times, and it is in this place that we can still see the largest gnomon, 90 metres high, on the lantern of the Cathedral. With this hole, the great astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli managed to establish the exact solstice, still visible today in the Cappella della Croce (Chapel of the Cross), and show Pope Gregory XII the alignment of the solar dates that were to create the Gregorian Calendar. Still inside, on the counter-facade of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful clock bearing the signature of Paolo Uccello: it is an unusual clock that marks time in reverse, moving counterclockwise, and it is adjusted with the last hour of the day upon sunset and not at midnight. It might seem like a great mystery, but instead, the artist wanted to copy the movement of the shadow of a sundial, in which the twenty-fourth hour is not midnight but sunset.
Externally, there are numerous curiosities linked to history and legend that can be admired. On the right side, you can see a bull's head: the chronicles of the period, the most humorous ones, narrate that the statue was a prank to be remembered for thousands of years. It is said that the master of the works had had an adulterous relationship with the baker's wife who, having discovered the affair, had decided to report both for adultery. The master of the works then decided to end the relationship, but took revenge by placing this bull's head (In Italy, saying that someone "has horns" means that their husband or wife has been adulterous) in the direction of the baker's house, so that he would remember his wife's betrayal every day. Apart from the pranks, we need to remember that animals contributed significantly to the construction of the great Cathedral, and that Saint Luke the Evangelist has the ox as his symbol.
The facade of the Cathedral was completed after many centuries by the architect De Fabris, who facing infinite financial difficulties, found Florentine, Italian and foreign benefactors, whose names and coats of arms were imprinted on the facade as decoration and recognition. On December 5 1883, the new facade was presented to the public, but the official inauguration did not take place with the authorities until May 12 1887.