The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo Cathedral of Florence, is the largest masonry dome in the world, making it one of the must-see tourist attractions near me. Construction of the gothic revival church began in 1296 and was not completed until 1436.
The cathedral was built during the Renaissance, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, and has four main wings shaping it like a cross with a large dome in the center spanning 140 feet. The cupola or dome was designed by Brunelleschi, the founding father of Renaissance architecture. He was able to design the dome so that it was structurally supported enough that it would not collapse. This required inventing new styles and systems in the process, and relying heavily on mathematical equations to distribute the 40,000 tons of weight. The resulting Duomo stands at over 10 stories high. A statue of Brunelleschi remains outside of the church, looking up at his masterpiece.
The façade of the church, made of pink, green, and white marble, was not completed until 1887. The inside is decorated with frescos designed by Giorgio Vasari, and they depict scenes like the Last Judgement and scense from Dante’s Divine Comedy. The church was built on the site of a 7th-century church, which you can still see the remains of if you visit the crypt under the church.
The bronze doors, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti, were nicknamed the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo for their beauty.
The Duomo has a total of 414 steps, and if you climb them you can view the Florence cityscape in its full glory. Be sure to wear clothes that cover your chest, shoulders, and knees, as the Duomo is a consecrated church with a strict dress code. Entrance to the Duomo is free, though you can rent the audio guides for a nominal 2 euro.