THE feast of St. John Baptist, on the 24th of June, was the chief religious festival of Florence, and was celebrated with special solemnity and splendor. Every year, fifteen days before the feast, proclamation was made through the city that all those who in past time had been accustomed to make offering on St. John’s Day should be ready with their offerings as usual. On the evening of the vigil of the feast the whole city was astir. The podestà and the captain of the people with their attendants, the consuls, notaries, and chamberlain of the Art of Calimala, accompanied by the: chief and best men from each warehouse and shop of the guild, together with the consuls of all the other Arts, went in solemn procession to the church, every man bearing a candle of prescribed weight to be offered at the altar for the fabric and adornment of the edifice. The procession, representing the dignity and wealth of the city, was increased by deputations from the villages and towns of the territory of the state, each under its respective banner, and by the nobles who came from their outlying castles and strongholds, with bands of retainers, to add their offerings to those of the citizens, and to manifest their devotion to the saint. Two merchants of the Calimala were deputed to receive the offerings, to keep a list of the places represented and the persons present at the altar, and in case of the absence of any of those accustomed to make offering to take measures that the default should afterward be made good. (Arts, v., x., xxvii.) The offering was regarded as a debt, and the whole transaction was conducted on a basis of established rules. It was provided, moreover, by the statute of the commune, that a portion of the salaries of the podestà and the captain of the people should be annually set aside for the work. Another source of income, however small, arose from the custom of release by the commune of a certain number of criminals annually on St. John’s Day, who were presented at the altar of his church, their pardon being thus granted not only as an act of mercy pleasing to the Saint, but also as involving a pledge on their part thenceforth to live without offense, for which the most sacred sanction was required. Every criminal thus released and presented at the altar was obliged to make an offering of six pence (sei danari) for the use of the church.1 (Art. xxvii) Many were the bequests of the pious, and most careful provision was made in the statute for the proper administration of the houses and lands that might thus come into possession of the opera.
Two of the best merchants of the Art were annually appointed by the consuls under the title of Officers of the Mosaic Work of St. John Baptist (Officiali dell’ Opera Moyse di santo Giovanni Battista), whose duty it was to provide for the doing of whatever in the way of building, repair, or ornament might appear to them for the good and honor of the beautiful fabric. The work was to be “ the best and most beautiful that can be done for the honor of God and the blessed St. John.” (Art. xii.) Two good men were also appointed each year to have charge of the banners which were hung within the church, as well as of the triumphant carroccio, or ear of war, of Florence, which was under the especial protection and guardianship of St. John Baptist. They were to see to maintaining the carroccio in good order, with all its due appurtenances, and were to provide a suitable place for its safe keeping, its masts only being kept within the church itself. (Art. xxii.) The sentiment which the carroccio inspired, and the honor done to it as the symbol of the warlike power of the free commune, are well indicated by these provisions. To the Florentines the ear and its banner were sacred; to defend it at all hazards was the highest duty, to die for its safety was the noblest sacrifice to the genius of the dear and reverend city, for whom no sacrifice could be too costly.
As a portion of their duty as guardians of the church of St. John, and trustees of its property, with that of the other institutions of religion and charity committed to their charge, the Art of Calimala undertook to defend it against the encroachments of the clergy, who, it would appear from numerous provisions, set up claims or sought to obtain papal privileges or concessions interfering with the rights of the Art. The consuls of the Art were instructed to resist such pretensions by every means in their power, and if need arose were authorized to spend a thousand marks of the money of the Art, or more if they saw fit, to secure “ that the said works should remain free and quiet under their guard and protection.” And in order that the rights of the said works may be preserved entire, “ the consuls shall be represented by a procurator at the court of Rome, who shall zealously appear in audience to oppose whoever may attempt to obtain any brief or privilege contrary to these rights.” (Art. xvii.) It was still further ordered, that the consuls of the Art should summon before them the chief and best men of the following companies of merchants, namely, the Bardi, Peruzzi, Acciaiuoli, Bonacorsi, Biliotti,2 and all others that have dealings in the court of Rome, and should order each, under oath, and under fitting penalty, without fail to see to it that the partners of their companies who dwell in and follow the court of Rome studiously adopt the needful measures with their friends that the church and board of works of St. John Baptist may be exempt and free from every impost, procuration, or levy of whatever nature of the clergy of Florence. ‘‘ And that messer the Bishop of Florence, or the clergy of the cathedral church of Florence, or any one else, whether in their name, or his own, or that of any other person, shall in no wise intermeddle with or interfere in any matter concerning the said church or opera, except in so far as permitted by the consuls of the merchants of Calimala, and the other men of the said Art, under whose guard and protection the said church and opera are directed, maintained, and governed with pure faith.”
“ And the said consuls are further required, every year, in the mouth of January, to elect and depute four of the best and most sensible merchants of Calimala, with every general and special power and authority to inquire, discourse, treat, and arrange with all and singular men, persons, nobles, places, congregations, and communities of whatever condition or dignity they may be, how, and by what way, mode, and order the opera and the church of St. John may be best maintained in honor, beautiful, free, and exempt, and be watched over, in perpetuo, honorably, to the reverence of Almighty God, and of his mother, and of the said St. John, and to the good state of the commune of Florence and of the most pure Art of the merchants of Calimala.” (Art. xxiv.)
Similar provisions to those of this statute in regard to the administration of the trust reposed in the Art by the commune undoubtedly existed in those of the other chief Arts. The share that the Arts took in the erection, decoration, and preservation of the sacred and beautiful buildings of the city trained and disciplined the perceptions of the citizens, and quickened their sympathies for the works of their artists and artisans. Every new structure was a school of the eye and the taste of the Florentines, and the effect was to make them competent in judgment and quick in interest in matters of art as no other modern community has been, while “ (be chief and best merchants” formed a body of patrons and employers of artists unmatched in intelligence except by the merchant nobles of Venice. No wonder that the fine arts flourished under such conditions, and that the city secured for three centuries such expression of her sentiment, her creed, and her life as no no other city ever enjoyed for an equal length of time.
The Art of Wool, on receiving charge of the structure of the Duomo, at once proceeded to make provision for the work, ordering that in every warehouse and shop of the craftsmen of Florence a box should be kept wherein a certain sum — the pence of the Lord — should be put on occasion of every sale or purchase. “In the beginning,” says Villani, “ this amounted to two thousand lire a year.”
The records of the work now undertaken on the Duomo are lost, but on the 12th of April, 1334, a vote memorable in the history of the building was passed by the magistracy of the republic, appointing the most famous artist of all Italy, Giotto, as chief master of the work of the cathedral, and as overseer of the construction of the walls and of the other works of the commune; since, so ran the preamble, “ in the whole world no one more competent for these and many other things can be found than master Giotto di Bondone of Florence, painter, and to the end that he may be received in his own land as a great master, and one held dear in the above-named state, and that he may have reason for making his abode continually in it, by which very many may profit from his knowledge and teaching, and no slight honor result to the city.” 3 Florence showed her wisdom in thus choosing the most original and imaginative of her artists for the master of her works. he justified her selection, and the judgment of posterity has approved it. A hundred years later, Lorenzo Ghiberti, the maker of the bronze doors of San Giovanni, which were esteemed beautiful enough to be the doors of paradise, writing his Commentaries on Art, said, “ Giotto saw that in art whereto others had not attained; he brought nature into art, and grace therewith, not overpassing just limits. He was most skillful in every art. He was the finder and discoverer of the great learning that had lain buried for about six hundred years. When nature has the will to concede anything, she concedes it without stint. And this man abounded in all things.” 4
Giotto gave himself to his new office with the effectual ardor of genius. He accomplished, indeed, so far as can be learned, little on the Duomo itself, but in spite of engagements on other work within and without the city, he speedily designed and began the construction of the most exquisite building of modern times, the one in which the doctrine of the ancients is most completely and beautifully harmonized with the spirit and fancy of the modern times, — the unsurpassed bell tower of the Duomo, known anti admired of all men as the Campanile of Giotto, the most splendid memorial of the arts of Florence.
On the 18th of July, 1334, scarcely more than three months after his appointment, the foundations of the campanile were laid with great pomp and religious ceremony.5
The tower so quickly begun was rapidly pushed forward, and it may have reached somewhat more than a third of its proposed height when, in January, 1337, Giotto, “ who in life,” says Vasari, “had made so many and such beautiful works, and bad been not less good Christian than excellent painter, gave back his soul to God, to the great grief of all his fellow citizens, not only of those who had known him, but also of those who had only heard of him; and he was buried, as his virtues deserved, with honor, having been during his life loved by every one, and especially by men excellent in all the arts,” — by Dante, for example, and by Petrarch. He was buried in Santa Maria del Fiore, on the side nearest the campanile, which is his enduring monument.
After his death there is a wide gap in the annals of the Duomo.6 To his godson and pupil, the noted painter, Taddeo Gaddi, and to the sculptor, Neri di Fioravante, was intrusted the oversight of the work on the campanile. But there is no evidence concerning its progress or as to the date of its completion.7
The plague of 1348 desolated Florence and, indeed, all Tuscany. Boccaccio, whose famous narrative gives a most impressive picture of the horrors of the pestilence, declares that between March and July more than one hundred thousand persons, as is believed, died within the walls of Florence. The number may he exaggerated, but the mortality was frightful in its amount and terrible in its effect. However, the spring of vitality in Florence was unexhausted by it, and after a period of confusion, dismay, depravity, and recklessness, the city regained its self-control, and recovered more rapidly than its weaker neighbors from the blow which had checked but had not destroyed the sources of its prosperity.8 The plague had been accompanied, as one of its natural consequences, by a sudden outbreak of religious superstition. Immense sums had been given and bequeathed by dying men to the church and to public charities, to purchase salvation. And, when the regular order of life was once more reestablished, the church found itself richer than ever before. This, together with the increase of the devotional temper among the people, and the desire of the community by works of piety to secure exemption from future calamity, may serve to account for the fact that a few years after the plague, in 1357, we find record of the adoption of a new design for the Duomo on a grander scale than that of the building planned by Arnolfo, and involving in its execution the remodeling and in part the entire destruction of the work hitherto accomplished.9 Francesco Talenti, an architect of great ability, was now the chief master of the works, and the new plan seems to have been mainly due to him. The authorities in charge of the building, however, not merely took council in regard to the proposed changes with the most skilled masters and the most intelligent laymen, but submitted their designs to popular inspection and criticism.10
How far the main features of Arnolfo's original plan may have been preserved in the. new design, it is impossible to say. The scale was so altered that the proportions of the building were changed. The general character of the existing work bears the stamp rather of the middle of the fourteenth than of the close of the thirteenth century, but there are many anomalies and irregularities of design which give evidence of the difficulty experienced by Talenti in fitting his new design to the old work. His genius was not equal to the solution of the problem by modifications and adaptations which should give no sign of being makeshift expedients, but he succeeded in giving to the building such a general disposition of parts, and on a scale of such magnitude, as to secure the impression of power and grandeur, and thus atone for the defects and irregularities of special details.
Talenti's design involved the lengthening of the church by more than one third, the increase of the height of the aisles, and a great increase in the diameter of the octagon at the intersection of nave and transept.
The first stone of the new building was laid with ceremony on the 5th of duly, 135 7. From that time for another term of sixty years the work continued in progress, sometimes pushed forward with zeal, sometimes allowed to drag along with but slack and remiss effort at completion. The nave with its four enormous bays was first constructed. The building of the choir advanced but slowly, and the commune from time to time turned the funds intended for the work to other ends of public utility. Thus in 1368 they were applied to the construction of facing walls on the batik of the Arno, and in 1376 to the building of the Loggia de Lanzi, from Orcagna’s beautiful design, as the site for the ceremony attending the induction into office of the chief magistrates,11 But as the century came near its close the main groundwork of the building, as it now exists, was drawing toward completion, and a commission was appointed in 1393 to consider the difficult question of how the cupola and dome, which should close the central space, should be constructed.
The plan of the building was peculiar. It was alike novel and powerful in conception. The central nave and the two aisles are not crossed by a transept, but are stopped upon a vast octagonal central space, from which at the east, the north, and the south are built out three pentagonal tribunes or apses, which, as seen on the outside, give to the church the common cruciform shape. The proportions of the interior are on an enormous scale, by which the apparent size of the building is diminished rather than increased. There is nothing either in die general conception or in the working out of the details which corresponds with that principle, characteristic of (lie best, Northern Gothic, of complex organization in which each minor part contributes to the vital unity of the whole edifice. The Duomo presents, on the contrary, an assemblage of separate vast features arbitrarily associated, rather than united by any law of mutual relation into a completely harmonious whole. Nor does it display that lavish wealth of fancy in ever changing variety and abundance of detail which gives inexhaustible charm to a true Gothic edifice. But it is impressive within from its mighty breadths of space, and from the stately and simple, though barren, grandeur of its piers and vaults and walls.
The effect of the building from without is imposing from its mass, but in a near view it is only on the east that the lines compose into forms of beauty. The front remains still without an ornamental facade, but the rest of the walls is encrusted, after the old Tuscan style, with simple rectangular patterns of white and red marble, interrupted by the rich decoration of gable and pinnacle over the doors and windows. It is all gay and exquisite and rich, but without as within there is a lack of fancy, and even the delicate refinement of the inlaying and the carving does not compensate for the absence of noble controlling decorative motives, and of harmonious concord of line.12
It is when seen from a distance that the full worth and power of the great cathedral force themselves upon the beholder. Looking down upon Florence from one of the neighboring heights, the beautiful city seems to he gathered under the shelter of its mighty Duomo. The vast stretch of wall is ample for the house in which the whole people shall gather, and lifting itself above clustering towers and belfries of palaces and churches, the unrivaled dome crowns the edifice, and with its noble elliptic lines not merely concentrates the scattered forms of the buildings beneath and around it far and near, but to the inward eye seems equally to concentrate all the divergent energies of the historic life of Florence, and lift them along its curves to the foot of the cross upon its heaven-reaching summit. It seems of equal date with the mountains that close the background to the landscape of which it forms the central interest; and they may well look upon this work of man as one not unworthy of their guardianship.
There is no part of the story of the Duomo more interesting than that which relates to the building of the dome that Brunelleschi’s bold hand lifted over the city. It was one of those feats of art which mark an age, and remain forever memorable and admirable. “ Megliodi te non posso ” (“ Better than thee I cannot’), said Michelangelo; considering how the dome of St. Peter’s should rise, — and the glorious dome of St. Peter’s is in truth not better than the dome of St. Mary of the Flower. The world had never seen such a dome before. It was not merely a tour de force; it was not merely larger, it was more beautiful, than any dome the Romans or the Byzantines had built.
In his most entertaining life of Brunelleschi, Vasari gives a long and animated account of the work. The story is full of picturesque circumstance and detail, and has long been current as the accepted tradition. But Vasari is not the most trustworthy of narrators, and the original documents relating to the work that have been recently published show that much of his account is little more than a lively fancy piece. The general impression to be got from it of Brunelleschi's character, and of the conditions under which he did his work, is very likely correct enough. It conforms in the main to that made by an anonymous biography of Brunelleschi, written by a contemporary, from whose narrative Vasari, indeed, drew largely, and it is confirmed in many respects by the conclusive evidence of the works themselves.
As the body of the church approached nearer and nearer to completion, it, was plain to all men that the master question of the whole structure must now be attacked. How shall a cupola to cover the great octagonal central area be constructed V The space to be covered was enormous, the least diameter of the octagon being one hundred and thirty-five feet. The question had occupied attention for many years. It was matter of frequent discussion among the artists of Florence, so many of whom Combined the knowledge and even the practice of architecture with the practice of sculpture or of painting. Brunelleschi, who was born in 1377, and who from childhood gave himself to art, must have been all his life familiar with the problem, and Vasari reports that when, after the competition in 1401 for the bronze doors of the baptistery, in which Ghiberti had won the prize, Brunelleschi and Donatello determined to go to Rome to study, one object which Brunelleschi especially sought, but of which he said nothing even to his companion, “ was to find out a way, if he hut could, of vaulting the upola of S. Maria del Fiore.’ 13
This journey of Brunelleschi and Donatello to Rome at the very beginning of the fifteenth century, to study there the remains of ancient art, for the purpose of learning “the good ancient style,7’ is one of the capital dates in the history of the modern Renaissance. They were the men in all Florence of deepest nature and most original genius, and they were not spoiled by their admiration of antique models; but they opened a dangerous road for successors Of less native force, who, charmed with the perfected excellence of classic work, turned from the paths of nature and independence to those of artificiality and imitation.
For many years, if we may trust “Vasari, great part of Brunelleschi’s time was spent in Rome.. He had sold a little farm that he owned at Settignano, near Florence, to obtain the means of living, but falling short of money after a while at Rome, he turned to the business in winch he had served his apprenticeship and gained sufficient for his wants by work as a goldsmith, continuing the while his diligent study of all the remains of ancient architecture, and especially of such structures as the Pantheon and the Baths. From time to time he returned to Florence, and gave such proof of his quality that when the moment arrived at which a determination must be taken as to the cupola, he was sent for — such at. least is Vasari’s story — by the overseers of the work, to come to counsel with them concerning it. “ And when he had come, the board of works of Santa Maria del Fiore and the consuls of the Art of Wool being assembled, they told Philip all the difficulties in regard to the cupola, from the greatest to the least, which were made by the master builders who were there in his presence at the audience with the others. V hereupon Philip said these words: ‘Gentlemen, overseers of the works, doubtless great things are always difficult to accomplish; and, if ever anything were difficult, this affair of yours is more difficult perchance than you are aware; for I do not know that even the ancients ever vaulted a vault so terrible as this will be. And I, who have often thought on the armatures required within and without, and what means could be invented so that men could work on it with safety, have never succeeded in solving the difficulty, and I am dismayed not less by the breadth than the height of the building. If, indeed, it could be covered with a spherical dome, the mode might be adopted which the Romans employed in constructing the dome of the Pantheon at Rome; but here we must adopt an eight-sided design, with such joints and bindings of masonry as will be most difficult to execute. But remembering that this temple is dedicated to God and to the Virgin, I have confidence that we setting to work in memory of him, he will not fail to infuse knowledge where it falls short, and to supply strength and wisdom and intelligence to whomsoever he may be who shall undertake the task. But in what can I assist you, the work not being mine? ’ ”
Brunelleschi finished his address, according to Vasari’s report, by recommending that the best architects, not merely Tuscan and Italian, but German and French, or of whatever nation, should be summoned to meet at Florence to consider and advise how the work might best be accomplished. This counsel pleased the consuls and the board of works, and Vasari goes on to tell the story how the Florentine merchants who were established in France, in Germany, in England, and In Spain were commissioned to obtain from the rulers of those countries the most experienced and valiant geniuses in the land, and to spend whatever sum of money might be needed for sending them to Florence. Much time passed before this could be done, but at last, in 1420, all these masters from beyond the mountains were assembled in Florence, together with those of Tuscany, and all the ingenious architects of the city, among them Brunelleschi himself. On a certain day they all met at the works of Santa Maria del Fiore, together with the consuls and the hoard of works and a choice of the most intelligent, citizens, and then one after another spoke his mind as to the mode in which the dome might be built. “ It was a line thing to hear the strange and divers opinions on the matter.” Some advised to build up a structure from the ground to support the cupola while it was in process of building. Others for the same end proposed heaping up a high mound of earth, in which pieces of money should be buried, so that when the work was done the common people would carry away the earth for the sake of what they might find in it. Others again urged that the cupola be built of pumice stone for the sake of lightness. Only Philip Brunelleschi said that the dome could be built without any such support of timber or masonry or earth, and was laughed at by all for such a wild and impracticable notion, and growing hot in defense of his ideas, and being told to go, but not consenting, he was at last carried by main force from the assembly, all men holding him stark mad. But, at a subsequent meeting, the counsels still being confused and divided, Philip, as Vasari calls him, overcame all his adversaries by the force of his arguments. They urged him to show them the model he had made of the structure, but this he refused, and finally proposed to them that the man who could prove his capacity by making an egg stand on end on a smooth bit of marble should receive the commission to build the cupola. To this they assented. All tried in vain, and then Philip, taking the egg, played the trick which Columbus was not ashamed to repeat. “ And so,” says the simple biographer, “ it was resolved that he should have the work.” (Vasari, iii. 209.) In this account Vasari does injustice to the sense and judgment of the men in charge of the work, not less than to the tested ability of Brunelleschi. But his narrative is curious as an exhibition of his uncritical and unhistoric spirit, and of the growth in little more than a hundred years of a legend of Brunelleschi in which the real facts disappear under the transmuting touch of fancy.
But Brunelleschi was a man of such force of originality, and his personal genius was so strictly sympathetic with the prevailing qualities of the spiritual life of Italy in his time, and so clearly representative of its tendencies, that the real facts concerning him are of more value and interest than any fiction, however entertaining. His anonymous biographer, who seems to have been well informed concerning him, says that Brunelleschi being in Florence in 1417 — lie, was then just forty years old — was much consulted, and to their great satisfaction, by the hoard of works and chief masters and other officials, in regard to the means to be adopted for building the cupola. And this is confirmed by the first entry on the books of the opera in which his name occurs. On May 19, 1417, it was voted to give to Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, pro bona gratuitate for his labor in making drawings, and for employing himself concerning the cupola, ten golden florins.14
On the 19th of August of the next year, 1418, notice was given by public proclamation through the city that whoever might, wish to make a design or model of the vault of the chief cupola, or of anything pertaining to the manner and perfection of its construction, he should do so within the next month; and during this time should he wish to speak with the authorities in charge of (he work, he should he well and graciously heard. And if any one should make a design or model that should be adopted, or in words give advice that should be afterward followed in the work, he should be recompensed with two hundred golden florins; and if any one should expend labor or make anything for the said cause, even though his model were not adopted, his work should be fairly paid for by the board of works. The term for the preparation of designs and models was afterwards extended to the 12th of December.15
On the next day a grand council assembled in the church to examine the models that had been presented. There were fifteen in all; among them one by Ghiberti, another by Andrea Oreagna, a third by Pesello, and one by Brunelleschi.16 The others were by men with names of less repute; but it is plain that the competition had called out the best ability of Florence. No immediate conclusion was arrived at. The various models required deliberate consideration. Toward the end of 1419 the Art of Wool, “ considering that the time is at hand for providing with all solicitude and diligence for the construction of the cupola, and considering the importance of the work and how much it concerns the honor of the commune and the aforesaid art,” appointed four citizens to act as solicitatores et conductores hedificii prelibati.
The four commissioners entered on their work with zeal; a new exhibition of designs and models seems to have been made in March, 1420, and the final result of the long discussion and deliberation was that the model offered by Brunelleschi was preferred to all others, while that of Ghiberti held the second place.17
Probably about this time Brunelleschi presented to the four citizens a written statement which has been preserved, in slightly different form, both by Vasari and by the anonymous biographer, descriptive of his model, and of the method of construction of the cupola, for on the 16th of April, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and the vice-chief master, Battista d’Antonio, were elected to oversee the construction of the cupola, each at a monthly salary of three golden florins.18 Full powers were given to them over the work. The Florentine men of business had long since learned the importance, first, of choosing capable and trustworthy agents, and then of leaving them unimpeded in the discharge of the duties committed to them. The whole course of procedure in regard to the construction of the cupola indicates the foresight and good judgment of the men who had it in charge. It is a splendid exhibition of the fine qualities of Florence, at a period when her streets were alive with the varied activities of flourishing commerce, when her people were still confident in their own powers, full of restless vivacity of mind, and when a group of Such artists as the modern world had never seen were ennobling her with the products of the emulous rivalry of their genius. In 1420, when the cupola began to rise, Donatello, the most imaginative of the earlier Florentine sculptors, was thirty-four years old, at the height of his power; Fra Angelico, the tenderest and most devout of her painters, was a year younger; Ghiberti, the most picturesque of sculptors, was forty-two ; Filippo Lippi, whose masculine genius could not be shut in by the cloister from the world, was an idle boy of twelve; Masaccio was an incomparable youth of nineteen; Luca della Robbia, who was to open new and delightful ways for sculpture, was a youth of twenty, beginning the practice of his art; Paolo Uccello, the inventor of perspective, was twenty-three; and Benozzo Gozzoli and Piero della Francesca were babies in arms.19 It was a wonderful assemblage. Each man was stimulated by the work of his fellows to his best achievement, and the community was quick to recognize and to reward. Vasari complains that in Florence every man made profession of knowing in matters of art as much as the skilled masters themselves. There was, doubtless, as in other times, ignorant and carping criticism, but there were also true delight and genuine interest among the people in the works with which every day their city was made more beautiful and more dear.
At the time of the appointment of Brunelleschi and his two associates, eight master builders were also chosen for the work. Preparations were actively made, the necessary frames and stagings were constructed, and on the 7th of August the work of masonry was actually begun, three lire, nine soldi, and four denari being spent for a cask of red wine, a flask of Trebiano, bread, and melons, for a collation to celebrate the event. Brunelleschi had at length reached the point of his desire, and from this time, for more than a quarter of a century, he gave his thought and Iris days, with little interruption, to the fulfillment of his immortal design. The skill, the boldness, the novelty of the work still awaken the admiration of professional architects. His dome alike in its design and in its construction is one of those commanding works of genius that, while they embody and express the modes of feeling and the disposition of an age, are yet so conceived and executed as to have always a fresh contemporaneousness, through all later time. There are few buildings in the world of which this can be truly said.
As the work went on it fell more and more into Brunelleschi’s hands. In 1425 his salary was increased to one hundred florins a year on condition that he should always be present at the works, while Ghiberti’s salary remained fixed at three florins a month with the condition that he should spend at the works at least one hour of every working day.20
There are many details in the records which, though not bearing directly upon the building, afford a lively impression of scenes and incidents connected with it. Vasari says that Filippo, finding the builders lost much time in going down for food and drink, owing to the vast height of the edifice, arranged a cook shop and room for sale of wine and refreshments in the cupola itself. We find among the records several instances of men killed by falling from the bridges and scaffolds, and in 1426 an order is issued by the board that, considering the dangers which daily threaten the master masons who are employed on the wall of the cupola, on account of the wine that is necessarily kept in the cupola, from this time forth the clerk of the works shall not allow any wine to he brought up which has not been diluted with at least one third of water.
In 1423 a wretched war began between Florence and Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. It was carried on by mercenary troops, and cost Florence far more in money and in honor than in the blood of her citizens.21
Such a war was at once sign and proof of a decline in public morality and in personal character. It was a forerunner of a long series of political calamities. The people were heavily taxed to meet the expenses of the war, which dragged on wastefully for five years. The funds devoted to public works were greatly curtailed. The means for pushing forward the building of the cupola fell short, and in 1426 twenty-five out of forty three master workmen were dismissed, and other economies were practiced. The war over, in 1428, the work was again resumed with spirit, and in 1132 had reached such a point that Brunelleschi, provisor cupole, was desired to make a model of the closing of the summit of the cupola, and of the lantern that was to stand upon it. Two years later a commission was given to Donatello and to Luca della Robbia to make, each of them, a head in clay, prout eis et ciiilihet eorum videbitur melius et pulcrius, to serve as a model for a head that should be cut in stone to form the central boss of the cupola.22
It was on the 12th of June, 1434, that the great cupola was closed over the central space of the Duomo. It had grown slowly, marvelous in the eyes of all beholders who saw its curves rise bending over the void without apparent support, with no centering or armature, but held suspended in the air as if by miracle. Brunelleschi may well have regarded his work with proud satisfaction. His fame was assured; henceforth his work was chief part of Florence. But though the cupola was closed, there was much work still to be done upon it, and two years yet were required for its completion.
At last, on the 30th of August, 1436, while all the hells of the city were ringing their peals of joy, a solemn service was held in the cathedral, the To Deum Lamlamns was sung, and the Bishop of Fiesole, attended by the clergy and a long procession of the people, mounted to the completed cupola to bestow upon it a formal benediction. Among the entries in the journal of expenses of the board of works is one for seventy-two lire, twelve soldi, and six denari spent on this day for trumpeters and fifers, and for wine and bread and meat and fruit and cheese and macaroni and other things given to the masters and workmen of the opera, and to the canons and priests of the church, to celebrate this festival and benediction.23
The deliberation and foresight of the overseers of the work were again exhibited in their conduct in respect to the lantern which the dome required at its summit. Although Brunelleschi had given a design, and might be expected to know better than any other man what sort of edifice was needed, and how it should be constructed, the board threw the field open to all comers, and in reply to their demand received six models, which they proceeded to examine with the aid of judges whom they called upon to assist them. No more judicious means could have been taken to secure approval of the design finally adopted, arid Brunelleschi had no reason to dread the competition. Besides a general council of masters in theology, of many learned men, of architects, goldsmiths, and masters of many other arts, and many citizens, other more private meetings for deliberation were held, in which two architects, two painters, two goldsmiths, one mathematician, and two intelligent citizens skilled in architecture took part. The result of all these and other councils was that Brunelleschi’s model was adopted by a unanimous vote, as the best in form, the strongest, the lightest, and the best designed to resist storm; and Philip was selected to put it in execution, but he was first to be urged to lay aside all ill feeling, to accept correction of his model in some slight respects, and to take whatever might be good and useful from the other models which had been presented. The whole procedure was conducted with admirable sense, tact, and discretion.24
The new commission to Brunelleschi was given on the last day of 143G. But the work on the lantern does not seem to have been speedily begun. There were great difficulties to be overcome, and there was much else to be done upon the church in order to render it fit for the daily services and the splendid ceremonies of holidays, “ quotl tolurn populum damat mat/no desiderio25
More than six years afterwards the consuls of the Art of Wool were still deliberating how the difficulty, which was very great, of raising stone and marble to the top of the dome and of supporting it there in sufficient quantity for the construction could be overcome. They found no other way but to appoint Philip, who said he could do the work, sole overseer for the term of his life, but no longer, adds the cautious scribe, (pro tempore et term in o duraturo eius vita durante et donee fixer!/, et nan ulterius), at a salary of a hundred florins.26
Brunelleschi had of course not designed a work which he could not execute. Ills plans were ready, the proper machines were made, and marble from the quarries of Campiglia and Carrara had already been abundantly provided. It would appear that the actual work of construction was not begun till 1445.27
Once begun it would go on rapidly. But. the master was not long to direct it. “ Finally,” says Vasari, “ Filippo, being now very old, that Is, sixty-nine years old, in the year 144G, on the 16th of April, went to a better life, after having toiled greatly in the performance of works which made him deserve on earth an honored name, and obtain in heaven an abode of peace. ”
His body was laid at first within the campanile, but in February of the next year order was taken that it should be buried within the cathedral, and that the marble slab in the pavement above his grave should bear the words FILIPPUS ARCHITECTOR.
With Brunelleschi’s death the interest in St. Mary of the Flower as a work of religious devotion, of civic pride, of artistic genius, comes to an end.
Begun at the close of the splendid revival of intelligence and invagination with which the Middle Ages end, it was finished during that less original and less vital Renaissance with which the modern epoch begins. The campanile is the last living word of the earlier time; the dome the first word of the later. The campanile is the fresh expression of native energies; the dome the not less fresh expression of energies that drew nurture from ancient times and foreign soil. The curves of the dome clasp the modern to the classic world. It was Brunelleschi’s chief desire, says Vasari, to bring back to light good architecture, the good old orders, in place of the German and barbarous style which was in vogue. And he succeeded. The first stone of Brunelleschi’s dome was the tombstone of Gothic architecture.
- This excellent custom prevailed in many of the Italian states. But in different cities criminals were presented at the altars of different saints. There is a sonnet by Guido Orlandi, a contemporary of Dante, in which, speaking of Dante's own party in the state, he says, for them,
“No pardon can be claimed,
Excepting they be offered to St. John.”
And those words are striking because this was the very condition attached to that, recall to Florence which Dante received with the other exiles in 1316, and which he rejected with the noblest scorn. There is not a manlier voice to be heard than Dante's in the letter in which he refuses terms which would imply that he was guilty toward his country : “ If Florence is not to be entered by the way of honor, I will never enter it.” “ Quidne ? Nonne solis astro rumque specula ubique conspiciam ? Nonne dulcissimas veritates potero speculare ubique sub coelo, ni prius in g lo riu m , irnrno ignom iniosum populo, Florentinasque civitati me reddam ? Quippe nec panis deficiet.’’ This offer of recall came to Dante at the court of Can Grande at Verona. Many of his companions in exile submitted to its ignominious terms, and on St. John's Day, the 24th of June, 1317, the Tosinghi, the Manelli, the Rinucci, and others walked as criminals and penitents in the procession, with mitres as the mark of their infamy upon their heads, with candles in their hands, and being presented at the altar, and having made the due offering, were relieved from the penalties that had been pronounced against them. This is said to have been the first time on which persons condemned for political offenses were thus freed from punishment. ↩
- These officers derived their name from the mosaics with which the tribune and cupola of the church, were encrusted, and which were the principal works of the kind of which Florence could boast. The earliest of them were designed and executed, as an inscription in the mosaic reports, by a Franciscan friar, Fra Jacopo by name, in 1225, and they still remain, almost as perfect ns when first set in place, interesting and instructive memorials of the practice of the arts at that date iu Florence, and of the types of representation of sacred subjects derived mainly from Byzantine tradition, but inspired with a new life. See Vasari, Vita di Andrea Tati, and in the Le Monnier edition of Vasari's Lives, Firenze, 1846, tlie commentary on the Life of Tali, vol. i. p. 287. The inscription referred to closes with these verses : —
“Sancti Francisi frater fuit hoc operatus Jacobus in tali pre cuntis arte probatus” ↩
- The Bardi, the Peruzzi, and the Acciaiuoli were at this time the leading bankers of Europe. Their establishments were very numerous, and their affairs as brokers and money lenders on a vast scale. Their wealth and credit gave them great power. They received the papal dues in all parts of Europe, transmitting them through their branch houses to the head firms in Florence and in Rome ↩
- Gaye, Carteggio, i. 481. ↩
- Secondo Comentario del Ghiberti, in Le Moiner's edition of Vasari, vol, i. p. 18. ↩
- Villani, Cronica, lib. xi., cap. 12. Vasari in his life of Giotto gives an interesting account of the masonry of the foundations, and of Giotto's designs and models for the tower, he states that Giotto's salary from the commune was one hundred golden florins annually. In the decree appointing him the amount of his salary is not fixed. ↩
- The design of the ornamental facade which partially covered the front of the building, and which was taken down in 14SS, was long ascribed by tradition to Giotto. But from documents first published in 1863, by Signor Cesaro Guasti, the keeper of the archives of the opera, it seems certain that he had no hand in it, and that its execution was not begun till at least twenty years after his death. See Opuscoli di Belle Arti di Cesare Guasti, Firenze, 1874, pp. 45, seqq. ↩
- It was not finished in 1355, as appears from a vote of new sums for its building. Gaye, Cartcggio i. 508. ↩
- One consequence of the plague has not been remarked us it deserves by the historians. In the confusion that followed the extinction of many important families and the enforced vacancy of many offices, vast numbers of documents were lost or wantonly destroyed. To this cause is doubtless due the dearth of records concerning the early history of the Duomo. ↩
- This great change in plan has been overlooked till recently, most writers following the account given by Vasari, and supposing the present building to be essentially constructed on the original design of Arnolfo. A passage from the Istoria Fiorentina of Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, who died in 1385, published by the Padre Ildefouso di San Luigi in his Delizie degli Erudlti Tuscani, Firenze, 1781, vol. xiv, p. 30, in which the chronicler describes the under taking of the new building, seems to have lain unnoticed. The true facts were first brought out by the Cavalier Camillo Boito in his book entitled Francesco Talenti: Riccrche storiette sul Duomo (li Firenze dal 1294 al 1367, Milano, 1866. They have since been more fully illustrated with documentary evidence in a series of interesting communications by Signor C. I. Cavalncei, which appeared at Florence in the newspaper La Nazione in the course of 1871, under the title of Cenni Storied sulla editieazione della Cattedraie Fiorentina. ↩
- See, for curious illustration of this, the order for hanging tho design of the new facade on the front of the building on the day of St. John, 1867 Guasti, op cit. p, 60 ; and for other instances of desire to secure the expression of trained and popula opinion. Boito, op. cit. p. 30, and Cavalucci, Cenn Storici, 20 Marzo, 1871. ↩
- Gaye, Carteggio, i. 534, 536. ↩
- The horizontal hues of surface decoration break injuriously upon the vertical lilies of the windows, and the forms of the highly ornamented gables are curiously inorganic. ↩
- Vasari, Vite, etc., Le Mounter. T. iii. p. 202. ↩
- This entry is printed by Cesare Guasti in the useful and carefully edited collection of documents published under the title of La Cupola di Santa Maria dell Fiore, illustrata con i Documenti dell’ Archivio dell' Opera Socolare, Firenze, 1857, page 7 ↩
- Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 15. ↩
- See, for list, Guasti, page 192. ↩
- The documents relating to these transactions are scanty, and their tenor is not altogether clear. There is nothing in them to confirm Vasari’s story of the council in which foreign as well as native artists took part. The mimes of those who were paid for designs are all of Florentines, There is no shred of evidence that Brunelleschi’s plans were ever taxed with folly ; on the contrary, on the 24th of April, 1420, ten florins were voted to him “ for his labor and the time spent in having a model made according to the wish of the four citizens of the cupola, and for his trouble in frequently meeting others who had been summoned to consult respecting the said model from the 20th Nov’r to the present time.” (Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 27.) ↩
- The choice was made by the consuls of the Art of Wool, the board of works of the Duomo, and the four officers of the cupola. The decree appoints Brunelleschi and the others “ in provisores diet! oporis cupole construendi, et ad provideudnni, prdinandum, et construi, ordinari, fieri et hedificari faciendum, a principio usque ad iinem, ipsam raajorem cupolam et hedifitium, illis hedefitiis magisteriis muramentis modis. formis et condictionibus, et illis sunptibus, ct ahis quibnseunque, de quibua et prout et sieufc eisdem videbitur conveniro et expedite indicabunt, predicta cormn intelligentie atquo prudentie conmictentes nsque ad ipsius cupole perfectionem et complementum,” (Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 36.) ↩
- Beside these may be mentioned Jacopo della Quercia born 1374 ; Gentile da Fabbriano born about 1370; Michelozzo Michelozzi, who built the palace of Cosmo de' Medici, the Palazzo Riccardi, born 1391 ; Antonio Squarcialupi, the first musician of his time, born 1380. ↩
- Vasari reports Ghiberti as jealous and incompetent ; and indeed Ills own expressions concerning his share in the work are such as to awaken suspicion that his conceit led him to feel himself the rival of Brunelleschi; while his statement as to his salary is inconsistent with the evidence of the records of the opera, he says at the close of his Second Commentary, “ Few things of importance have been done in our land which were not designed or ordered by my hand. And specially in the building of the tribune [cupola] Filippo and I were partners [concorrenti] for eighteen years at the same salary whilst we were carrying on the raid tribune.” ‘Le Mourner's Vasari, vol. i. p. xxxvii.) Now there was a period of six months in 1425 when Ghiberti was dismissed from the works, and his salary was never more than three florins a month. It is not improbable that his retention on the works was a piece of policy on the pact of the board to prevent his active opposition, and to secure the voices of his numerous admirers anti friends. Vasari tells a pleasant story of Brunelleschi's humorous mode of forcing Ghiberti to show his incompetence. ↩
- The battle of Zagonara, in July, 1424, was almost bloodless, but its cost to Florence was estimated at 300,000 florins, a sum equivalent to at least 1,500,000 dollars. Cavalcante ; Storia, 1. iic. xiv Ammirato, lib. xviii. ↩
- Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 88. ↩
- Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 90 ↩
- Guasti, La Cupola, etc., pages 93-95; also La Metropolitana fiorentina illustrata, Firenze, Molini, 1820, pages 29-32. ↩
- Guasti, La Cupola, etc., page 89, doc 259. ↩
- Guasti. La Cupola, etc., pages 4S-50, docs. 93 and 95. ↩