Renaissance Architecture

Review :

I thought it was a fascinating look at a wonder of architecture and at the always interesting Middle Ages.

Filippo is generally recognized as the one who discovered (or rediscovered) the mathematical laws of perspective. For example, he worked out the principle of the vanishing point, which was known to the Greeks and Romans, but, like so much other knowledge, had long since been lost. Plato had actually condemned perspective as a deceit. He praised the flat Egyptian art for showing figures in their "true" proportions. This prejudice against "dishonesty" in art was adopted in Christian art as well. Only in the first decades of the 14th century did the ancient methods of perspective reappear when Giotto began using chiaroscuro to create realistic three-dimensional effects.

A giant hoist had to be made to lift heavy timbers and other products. The rope makers were taxed to manufacture a 600 foot long rope weighing over a thousand pounds. Before the dome was completed the hoist would raise aloft marble, brick, stone, and mortar weighing an estimated 70 million pounds.

The last act of the dome's construction was the placement of an eight foot high bronze sphere that sits atop the lantern. The commission for the ball went to the sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio. One of his young apprentices was Leonardo da Vinci. Because Leonardo did some drawings of the hoist, he is often wrongly given credit for their invention.

The whole idea of building such an enormous dome is so difficult for me to fathom. I don't think I will ever understand it fully. Filippo was a master of illusion. From outside, the dome looks perfectly octagonal. It was actually built "circle by circle." Filippo was a scholar of Dante, so the dome is often compared to Dante's Heaven. However, a comparison to Dante's nine circles of Hell is also apt.

The Florentines were inept in a battle against the duke of Milan. Clergymen blamed homosexuality. They thought it was destroying the city. Florence was so famous for homosexuality that the German slang for "sodomite" at that time was Florenzer. Efforts were made to identify and prosecute homosexuals. One way to end the "problem" was to make more female prostitutes. Brothels were set up everywhere. The prostitutes were required to wear distinctive garb: gloves, high-heeled shoes, and a bell on the head. But none of this helped the men in battle.

One way for the Pope to march safely through the streets was to have coins thrown in order to scatter the people and keep them from pressing too closely to the Holy Father.

It took over 16 years to complete the dome.

Ancient Romans had a dubious method of protecting their buildings from lightning: believing that eagles and sea-calves were never struck, they buried the corpses of these creatures within the walls to ward off disaster.

The dome is an amazing feat. I will never visit Florence and visit, but I enjoyed my vicarious visit through this book.

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