For this post, I’ve chosen Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence, Italy. Why this artist/piece? Honestly, I owe it all to a video game. Yes indeed, Assassin’s Creed II is set in Florence during the very time period we’ve been studying, and even incorporates real events into it’s fiction. While playing the game, I was struck by the beauty of the building in general, and the size of the dome; especially as I knew it was modeled after the real thing.
Started in 1420, the dome was finally completed in 1436. A massive achievement both in prestige for Brunelleschi, and his patron Cosimo de Medici, but also for Florence. This was also a major engineering feat, as it was (and still is) the largest masonry dome in the world.
This piece of art/engineering appealed to me mostly because of the skill involved in it’s creation. Not only the dome itself, but also the ingenious devices and planning that Brunelleschi thought up. The unique herringbone design, the lifting mechanisms, even him having his workers bring their own lunch, so that they could stay up near the construction, and wouldn’t tire themselves out climbing back up from their break; these were all ideas coming from what I would call a true genius. To me, genius is not just book smarts… it’s the ability to put those smarts to practical use. So for Brunelleschi to apply his studies and knowledge to build this dome, means that I will sit back and take notice.
An interest note about Brunelleschi and his now well-established “greatness”, was that his success can be directly linked to one of the most powerful individuals, and families, in Renaissance Italy. Cosimo de Medici, as mentioned above, was the man that gave this “crazy person” his chance. Everywhere else, Brunelleschi was rejected, as his ideas were too advanced, and people thought he was just crazy. The following video is one from our class lesson, an episode of PBS’s Empires. I tried to clip just the part I needed, but as I cannot upload photos here, and it’s technically copyrighted so my own youTube channel was out of the question; I’ll just say the clip is from the appriximate 12min mark, and is about 10mins long. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the whole video, so if you have time, give it a go!