Of the many plans submitted, one stood out -- a daring and unorthodox solution to vaulting the largest dome (143 feet in diameter) in the world. It was offered not by a master mason or carpenter, but by a goldsmith and clock maker named Filippo Brunelleschi, then 41, who would dedicate the next 28 years to solving the puzzles of the dome's construction.
Brunelleschi's Dome is the story of how a Renaissance genius bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder.
Denounced at first as a madman, he was celebrated as a genius upon erecting the dome. He engineered the perfect placement of brick and stone and built ingenious hoists and cranes (some among the most renowned machines of the Renaissance) to carry an estimated 70 million pounds hundreds of feet into the air -- all the while defying those who said the dome would surely collapse and tackling personal obstacles that at times threatened to overwhelm him. This drama was played out amidst plagues, wars, political feuds, and theintellectual ferments of Renaissance Florence -- events Ross King weaves into the story to great effect, from Brunelleschi's bitter, ongoing rivalry with the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti to the near capture of Florence by the Duke of Milan. He also offers a wealth of fascinating detail that opens windows into fifteenth-century life: the celebrated traditions of the brickmaker's art, the daily routine of the artisans laboring hundreds of feet above the ground as the dome grew ever higher, the problems of transportation, and the power of the guilds.
Even today, in an age of soaring skyscrapers, the cathedral dome of Santa Maria del Fiore retains a rare power to astonish. Ross King brings its creation to life in a fifteenth-century chronicle with twenty-first-century resonance....Continua