home CULTURE Commemorating Brunelleschi

Commemorating Brunelleschi

 

Florence celebrates one of its symbols on April 16

Will Hainsworth

 

A parade to commemorate Filippo Brunelleschi is taking place on April 16, on the occasion of the 570th anniversary of the artist’s death. Beginning in the Palagio di Parte Guelfa on via Pellicceria, the procession is bound for Piazza Repubblica and then to the Dome, where Brunelleschi rests and where two wreaths will be placed at his tomb.

 

The figure of Brunelleschi is an essential part of the cultural identity of the city.

 

After losing the commission of the doors of the Baptistry to Lorenzo Ghiberti, Brunelleschi secured the contract for the Dome. When meeting with a particularly skeptical commission, whose members were not convinced a Dome could be built without the use of scaffolding, he brought an egg with him and asked every member of the commission to try to balance the egg so it would be standing up, which they obiouvsly found impossible. Brunelleschi then took the egg and gently tapped it on the table until the bottom of the shell caved in, the egg standing up on the now flat base. Enraged, the commissioners replied that this was easy to do. With the contract in the right hands and with the correct plan and methods, the Dome could be built.

 

In the construction of the Cupola, Brunelleschi used a cohesive combination of sandstone and wooden braces placed at very specific intervals to hold the walls of the building in place. He located the exact centre of the Dome by utilizing eight metallic hooks and a complex series of chains embedded in the structure around the interior balustrade. As construction continued upward, the chains were simultaneously raised on one end to create a perfectly symmetrical shape all the way up to the structural opening.

 

To complete the job, Brunelleschi used a Herringbone brick system, which is almost as significant as the aforementioned integrated use of chains and hooks, and which required the measured and precise layering of horizontal and vertical bricks that lend support to one another, much like the physics behind the classical Roman arch. According to Professor Ricci, a major expert on the Cupola who has spent four decades researching the techniques used by Brunelleschi, construction of the Dome without the herringbone system would have been impossible.

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