Museum of the Opera del Duomo

Museum of the Opera del Duomo

Feb 8, 2024

A Piece of Florentine History…


• Paradise Room

• Magdalene Room

• Michelangelo's Tribune

• Bell Tower Gallery

• Dome Gallery

• Cantorie Room

• Treasure Room

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Giotto's Bell Tower in Florence, Italy

If you find yourself in Florence, just a 5-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella station, you absolutely cannot miss the Monumental Complex of Santa Maria del Fiore. This iconic spot for selfies and photos captivates many tourists with its imposing beauty, decorations, statues, and marble covering. It stands in Piazza Duomo-San Giovanni, one of Florence's most famous squares, the capital of Tuscany, considered the cradle of the Renaissance and home to great artistic geniuses. The complex consists of the spectacular Cathedral or Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore (designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296, a brilliant medieval architect) with its enormous self-supporting dome visible from everywhere. It's worth noting that it is the largest masonry dome in the world (designed by architect Filippo Brunelleschi from 1420 to 1436, another undisputed genius). Adjacent to the Duomo's facade stands Giotto's Campanile (designed by the famous painter in 1298). Another monument belonging to the Monumental Complex of Santa Maria del Fiore and also the oldest is the Baptistery. It was here, in 1265, that the great poet Dante Alighieri was baptized. Where the Duomo now stands, there was once a paleo-Christian church dedicated to Santa Reparata, whose crypt can still be admired today by visiting the cathedral.

Museum of the Opera del Duomo

Museum of the Opera del Duomo

A must-visit is the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, to understand and admire 7 centuries of history and art that have made this wonderful Monumental Complex (of Santa Maria del Fiore) possible. The museum has been open to the public since 1891 and was renovated in 2015. It's fascinating to think that during the Renaissance, the Museum of the Opera del Duomo was a workshop and headquarters where Filippo Brunelleschi constructed and designed the dome, and Michelangelo sculpted the David, a world-famous marble statue initially intended for the Duomo's buttress. The main entrance to the museum is still the historic one, featuring the Bust of Cosimo I, the first Grand Duke of the important Medici family, patrons of the arts, and supporters of the Renaissance, surrounded by the 6 balls of the Medici coat of arms and the golden fleece.

-> Learn more: MUSEO DELL' OPERA

Paradise Room

Paradise Room

Among the most important rooms in the museum is the "Paradise Room," where you can admire the original facade of the Florence Duomo reconstructed to scale 1:1. It was dismantled by the second Grand Duke, Francesco dei Medici, in 1587. The recovered original statues were repositioned on the facade in the same positions as before. Among these speaking statues stands out the "Madonna with Glass Eyes" by Arnolfo di Cambio, who besides being the architect of the Duomo, was also a great sculptor.

Photo of Madonna with Glass Eyes sculpture

Photo of Madonna with Glass Eyes sculpture

Also in the Paradise Room, you will be enchanted by the 3 original Bronze-Golden Doors of the Baptistery, now preserved in the museum as true masterpieces of art. The most famous and well-known is the so-called "Gates of Paradise" by Ghiberti (1425-1452). The external doors of the Baptistery are copies but very well made.

Magdalene Room

As you leave the Paradise Room, get ready to enter the Magdalene Room, where you will surely be amazed by a sculpture by the great Renaissance sculptor Donatello. Carved from poplar wood, the "Penitent Magdalene"approx.) was sculpted for the Florence Baptistery and is now preserved in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo. Donatello departs from the cold beauty of Renaissance classicism to offer us a sculpture of striking humanity and contemporaneity. Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Christ, dressed only in her long hair, barefoot, and gaunt in face, leads an ascetic life as a hermit.

Photo of Donatello's Magdalene

Photo of Donatello's Magdalene

Michelangelo's Tribune

Next to Donatello's sculpture, another divine artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti, created the "Bandini Pieta" (1547-1555). It depicts the dead body of Jesus supported by Nicodemus with the Madonna and Magdalene nearby. Nicodemus has the same face as Buonarroti, who conceived this work in his seventies for his tomb but never finished it, living to the age of 89. The Bandini family bought it, and later it was purchased by Cosimo III of the Medici family before being transferred from the cathedral to the Duomo Museum of Florence in 1981.

Photo of Michelangelo's Bandini Pieta

Photo of Michelangelo's Bandini Pieta

Bell Tower Gallery

Other very interesting rooms of the museum include the Bell Tower Gallery with original bas-reliefs and statues of Prophets and Sibyls sculpted by great artists such as Andrea Pisano, Nanni di Banco, and Donatello, among others. The ones you see on Giotto's Bell Tower today are just beautiful copies.

-> Check this: GIOTTO BELL TOWER

Dome Gallery

Next to the Bell Tower Gallery, you will find the Dome Gallery, with ancient and more recent models rich in detail and even antique machinery for its construction. Also preserved in this room is the death mask of the great architect Filippo Brunelleschi made by his adopted son Buggiano. Brunelleschi never wanted to marry. A very illustrative video about the various phases of the dome's construction is also shown in this room.

Cantorie Room

In other rooms of the museum, you can admire true masterpieces of the Renaissance, such as the Cantorie by Donatello and Luca della Robbia, originally placed on the cathedral's altar, featuring their musical and dancing angels.

Treasure Room

The true treasure of the Baptistery, now also preserved in the museum, is the silver altar, a masterpiece of Tuscan goldsmithing depicting the stories of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence (1467-1483). Great artists collaborated on its creation for over a century.

And if you're not satiated with so much art, you can also admire the projects, drawings, and models made to win the competition that was eventually won by the architect Emilio Fabris, who completed the current facade of the Florence Duomo in 1873. Before leaving the museum, it's worth climbing to the Brunelleschi terrace on the third floor to get a closer look at the majesty of the dome, which now, together with you, guards its secrets. We recommend a guided tour for descriptions of the works and their strong symbolism.

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