Construction of the Cathedral or Duomo of S. Maria del Fiore began in Florence in 1293/94, reached the stage of rising masonry by 1296, and had progressed so well by 1300 that the Florentine city council authorized a lifetime tax exemption for its founding architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. But at some moment after this auspicious start ill-fortune intervened: by 1310 Arnolfo was dead and work on his project suspended. Refounded as a new project in a series of committee decisions in the years 1357-1368, Florence Cathedral is generally regarded as anonymous or collective in authorship. Its fame rests not on Arnolfo's abandoned and unrecorded project but on the prodigious cupola erected by Filippo Brunelleschi from 1420 to 1436, Europe's first major dome since antiquity and chief harbinger of the Italian Renaissance. In 1978 the author presented excavation results that questioned the Brunelleschi-centered tradition and reinforced instead a persistent counter-tradition which attributes the basic features of the 1368 plan and of Brunelleschi's cupola to Arnolfo's original project of ca. 1293-1296. That preliminary hypothesis in favor of Arnolfo as conceptual author of Florence Cathedral is now strengthened by the results of a second Duomo excavation in 1980. The new findings, together with a reappraisal of the documentary evidence and a set of reconstruction drawings, are submitted here as a second and longer look at the project that changed the course of European architecture.
- Copyright 1983 The Society of Architectural Historians