The stone steps materialize one after another ascending a spiraling stairwell or around a tight corner and through a small wooden door darkened with time.Although the narrow passages are lit well enough to watch one's step, the twenty first century bulbs cast ominous shadows.My mind wanders from the workers of the 1400's, to the tourists of today, to my own heaving breath.It is hard for me to visualize and comprehend the individuals who positioned each brick so precisely, so tediously.However, not much emphasis is placed on the masses of men who contributed to the placement of each brick.In my opinion, not even the innovative Brunelleschi is commemorated sufficiently in the stops along the hike to the top.
To the layman, there is only one indication of the master's touch in the construction of the dome.As I came around one of the corners into a stone room the size of a bedroom, a conglomeration of old wooden contraptions, platforms, and tools lay, hung, stood and rested.An informative plaque hung on the wall that probably explained the intricacies of construction, and perhaps the role of Brunelleschi in the design of the items on display.However, I only skimmed the information, and I would imagine it has been passed over by many others as well.Of course it is called, "Brunelleschi's Dome," but many are unaware of the immense role he actually had in the raising of the innovative structure.
What Brunelleschi's memory lacks in commemoration is made up for in superb awe-inspiring execution.The next plateau in the hike up is a breath-taking view of the tremendous frescoes painted on the interior of the dome.Large-scale heavenly beings, skeletons, and ordinary people, are all interspersed with clouds, fire, and architecture.At this point I was reminded of Ross King's description of how Brunelleschi anticipated this colossal work of art and created openings for the artist to access the canvas that was laid out for them.Fear momentarily shot through my body as I imagined myself, an artist, taking on such an honorable commission.However, I was quickly drawn back to the fresco and the emphasis it creates on the structure that Brunelleschi mastered.
The next and final ascending stairs curve with the dome.I imagine that any individual who makes the trek can't help but think about how they are climbing up the side of the dome.It was a surreal feeling that was only surpassed when I finally reached the top.As with any awe-inspiring sight, the panoramic view of Florence appears just as described, but can't be fully understood until experienced.The terracotta rooftops, the lush green hills, the other landmarks, cathedrals, and piazze that entice the eye are placed into a perspective that only emphasizes the grandeur of the structure that viewer is currently on top of.For thirty minutes I explored Florence from my perch.I looked over the edge, looked up at the lantern, and took many pictures.Pockets of the city held clouds, while other clouds wrapped themselves around the hills.I felt wonder and admiration for thirty minutes at the cost of six euro and then I was done.
I think this is what strikes me the most in retrospect.I am a tourist.I pay my euro to an institution I don't necessarily agree with so that I can experience the intended awe set in place by a masterful genius that in his own time didn't get the credit he deserved by the institution that is now taking my money.However, I move on to the next monument, the next work of art, the next town, and I descend the steps of the Duomo.
On the way down, my friend and I joke about the potential haunted house theme park ride that could be based on the Duomo with it's small, suspicious, wooden doors and dead end stone passageways, seemingly great places for the ghost of Brunelleschi to linger.One more surprise waits in a stone room similar to that of the first with the wooden contraptions.Here, the ghostly marble figures that once adorned the façade of the cathedral sat in shadows, casting more shadows.Tall, thin, ominous depictions of religious figureheads stare and point with indications of damnation and a daunting mortality.It is a reminder of the ever-present Catholic institution in the Italian society, but also a prime example of the masterful works of the artists and architects of the Renaissance.