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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Medici, Brunelleschi and the Cathedral in Florence

Il Duomo di Firenze
We've been watching the Medici: Masters of Florence series on Netflix. It's not the greatest show, the portrayal of the characters is a little heavy handed, but given the amount of story they are trying to cram into the allotted time, understandable. You could stuff all the information into a dry, tedious documentary, but we want an entertaining story, so we take some shortcuts. The history portrayed is compelling.

How an Amateur Built the World's Biggest Dome

All this happens in the 1400's, which seems to be lost in time, but when Cosimo visits Rome, he is entranced by the Pantheon, which was built over a thousand years before that. At this time, the Florence Cathedral is unfinished, it lacks its dome. Cosimo commissions Brunelleschi to finish it. The techniques used to finish the dome are amazing, especially since the math that modern engineers would use to guide them in their design did not yet exist. James Gillick has an interesting story On the Economics of a Cathedral.

Some things are a little unsettling, like riding horses on the polished interior marble floors of buildings, but why not? Marble floors are easy to clean, the doors are big enough, and why should I have to walk outside to get my horse?

We also have all the standard elements of a good drama: love, hate, intrigue, betrayal, conflict, disaster and successes. We also have some words of wisdom that are truly at odds with our modern, secular, the individual-is-king philosophy. Reminds me of the old saw about how the poor save for Saturday night, the rich save for four generations.

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