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Fillipo Brunelleschi was born in 1377 in Florence, Italy to Brunellesco di Lippo, a notary and lawyer, and to Giuliana Spini, during the Renaissance. Trained as a goldsmith and sculptor, he was thrust into art at an early age. Little did he know that he would plan the finish of one of the greatest architectural mysteries of his time.
Fillipo first pursued a career in sculpting, but after losing the contest to design the doors for the new Florence Bapistery doors to Ghiberti, he turned his mind towards plan B: architecture. And Florence is so lucky that he did.
Before Fillipo, the city was baffled by how exactly to finish the Dome for the Florence Cathedral. Work on the Dome had originally begun in 1294, but the builders only got so far. They created a base of 138 ft across, and that was how they left it. They couldn't plan, let alone finish, the dome. The reason for the bewilderment was this: Medieval architecture used a support system made up of heavy logs or boards, to support a high building such as the dome, while it was being built. With such a colossal dome as this one, no such planks of great enough size could be found, so they left the unfinished base to loom over Florence until a worthy architect and mason could be found. The original recipe for the Pantheon, a building used to worship the gods, was lost after the crusades and Viking invasions. The Pantheon was the pride of the Roman age. Built by Emperor Hadrian, (76-138 A.D,) it was not supported by any columns inside! Hundreds of years later, the ingenious recipe lost in the wreckage, the people of Florence were thoroughly mystified on how to finish the Dome.
As Fillipo grew, he began to obsess over Ancient Rome's history. He would spend hours among the wreckage, sketching and deciphering their architectural brilliance. He cracked the make-up of many pieces of fine architecture, including the Pantheon. Fillipo was the first architect of the time to revive Roman architectural strategy with a new sense of mixing it with the architectural techniques of the Renaissance. This deeply influenced the architectural accomplishments of the time.
Fillipo was known for having quite a temper. He was also known to be very secretive about his plans for the Dome, and his work in general. Many people complained that if they couldn't know his plans, then why should he finish the Dome? Even though he dreaded the thought of the job of the completion being taken from him, he was more terrified of being copied, or his plans snatched. So he wrote all of his notes in a cryptic language, known only to him. When the officials and advisers complained, he challenged them to stand an egg on its head. When they all tried, (and failed,) they asked him how to do it. He broke the egg, and stood it on its head. They all said that it would've been so easy, if he had told them. And he replied: "Exactly so, as it would be for you to finish it if I told you my plans for the Dome." So, the people of Florence let him keep his secrecy, along with the job for the Dome.
Like other artists, architects, musicians, and singers
, Fillipo needed a patron, a supporter, and most importantly, a person that would PAY for his materials, his plans, and his brilliance. So, as most patron-needing people did at the time, he turned to the people with the political power, and the money. So those people at the time were the Medici family. Fillipo convinced his set patron to help almost immediately. The Medici were quite taken with his ideas of reviving Ancient Rome's architectural style, so they ignored his temper, and agreed to pay and sponsor for whatever he needed.
Now with a source of income, he set to work on the big finish.
Florentines had always thought that there city had an immense amount of history and artifacts from Ancient Rome. Actually, they were quite mistaken, there were many other places rich with Ancient history. But now that Brunelleschi was working on this dome, in the design of one of the most famous buildings of Ancient Rome, they had even MORE to brag about!
Brunelleschi eagerly began to plan for the big finish. With meticulous notes on everything from materials to sorts of workers, a plan began to form. His plan was finally revealed on the first day of work. Many people gathered in the small town square to watch him in action.
Fillipo had certain rules for his workers to follow. They must bring all food and drink for the day up with them to the scaffolding, because the trip back up would take to long for the men, and much work time would be lost. Also, if any part of the dome was finished, from a brick to a whole ring, he must thoroughly inspect it and approve it before it could dry, be used, or applied on the dome.
Brunelleschi's method was interesting. His work used no support whatsoever for the Dome while it was being constructed, and was light enough to not demolish the already existing walls. He built 8 vertically arched ribs then many horizontal ribs to knit the first 8 together. And the top, which everyone thought was just a decoration, but it actually was a stopper to hold the ribs of the Dome together.
The people of Florence gloated and bragged about their soon-to-be-finished dome and the soon-to-be-rich genius that was working on it. Florentines had never seen anything like it! It was new, it was strange, and different, but it was brilliant!
People of Florence,Italy, today know the Dome for the Florence Cathedral as Il Duomo. But actually, it was only after the dome was finished that it was called Il Duomo.
Brunelleschi's great accomplishment did not complete the Dome. Many people added little things after his death in 1446. But most of the glory was all his!
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