Santa Maria del Fiore, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century. It is 153 metres long, 90 metres wide at the crossing, and 90 metres high from the floor to the bottom of the lantern. The third and last cathedral of Florence, it was dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, the Virgin of the Flower, in 1412, a clear allusion to the lily, the symbol of the city of Florence.
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The Baptistry of San Giovanni, one of the most ancient churches in Florence, sits opposite the city's cathedral, the church of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Octagonal in plan, it is totally clad in slabs of white Carrara and green Prato marble. It is covered by a dome of eight segments resting on perimetral walls, but the dome cannot be detected from the outside because it is concealed by the walls being raised above the arcade on the second level and crowned by a flattened pyramidal roof.
This fascinating structure, combining faith, history and art, has given scholars much food for thought with regard to its dating.
Giotto's bell tower is one of the four principal monuments on the Piazza del Duomo.
84.7 metres tall and approximately 15 metres in breadth, it is the most eloquent example of 14th century Gothic architecture in Florence, combining a strong vertical thrust with the principle of sound solidity, its corner buttresses rising the full length of the tower to the projecting terrace at the top.
Clad in white, red and green marble like the cathedral adjacent to it, the majestic square bell tower, considered to be the most beautiful campanile in Italy and probably designed more for decorative than for functional purposes, was begun by Giotto in 1334.
A major archaeological dig beneath the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore from 1965 to 1973 brought to light the remains of the old basilica of Santa Reparata, the most tangible evidence of early Christianity in Florence after the disappointing results from a dig in Santa Felicita and the difficulty in finding documentary references to the city's first cathedral of San Lorenzo.
Now just over two and a half metres separate us from the ancient early Christian basilica of Florence, which was restored on more than one occasion and also used as a meeting hall by the Parliament of the Republic before the construction of Palazzo Vecchio.
The Museum of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore houses the second most extensive collection of sacred art in the world after the Vatican Museums with masterpieces by such artists as Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, Antonio Pollaiuolo and Michelangelo. Its collections consist of statues and paintings produced for the baptistry, the bell tower and the cathedral of Florence that have been removed from their original position and taken out of daily liturgical use either for purposes of conservation or in the course of alterations and modernisation programmes.