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Travel Talk

Local hosts share their insights

Florence Cathedral: Piazza del Duomo

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

The original structure of Santa Reparata was probably built around 500 when military danger forced the Florentines to locate their cathedral inside rather than outside the city walls.

Plans to renovate and enlarge Santa Reparata had begun as early as 1285, but by the middle of the 1290s civic leaders decided to build an entirely new structure. As shown in the picture below, the portico, two bays, and the façade of Santa Reparata, together with the adjacent Hospital of San Giovanni Evangelista, north of Santa Reparata, were probably the first sections of the old structure to be dismantled as the construction project slowly proceeded eastwards. By 1375, Santa Reparata had been completely torn down and the entire character of this section of the medieval city had fundamentally changed to make place for a new cathedral, five times the size of Santa Reparata, as illustrated by picture below.

In front of the cathedral steps, you will notice a number of white rectangles in the pavement. It has long been held that these remnants indicated the position of the columns that once supported the portico of the church. Recently, this hypothesis has been called into question. In any case, Santa Reparata, with its two Romanesque side chapels that formed a vast transept, was about fifty feet narrower than the present Duomo.

Picture a Piazza del Duomo densely packed with buildings and tombs. Indeed, tombs, since the cemetery of the cathedral chapter and the canonry was to be found in-between the baptistry and cathedral, as shown in the picture above. It was used until the early-fourteenth century.

Learn more about Piazza del Duomo and Medieval Florence with David Napolitano and his FREE tour on the GlobeTrott Travel app.

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