Perhaps the most famous building in Florence, Italy, the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori, or duomo, is a unique building with green, white and pink marble. The enormous dome set against the skyline is one of the famous images of Florence for good reason.
Walking around the outside of the building does tend to more of an exciting experience than actually touring the inside. The interior is somewhat sparse, as the majority of the emphasis behind building the massive structure was upon outdoing the neighboring towns of Siena and Pisa. At the time, in the 13th century, both Siena and Pisa had built enormous new cathedrals with impressive works of art decorating the interiors. The Florentines decided that they needed a structure to compete with their neighbors and set upon the construction of their own cathedral. During this process the previous structure of Santa Reparata was left in place so that the locals maintained a place of worship and the current structure was built around it. You can still tour down to view the excavations of the old building, but there is not a lot to see.
Directly outside the doors of the Duomo is the baptistry, which matches the facade of the Duomo with it’s greem white and pink marble. Following a contest put on by the wool merchant’s guild, where he beat out contenders like Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti spent 21 years casting the bronze panels that adorn the North Doors of the Baptistry. So impressed were the public and the guild, Ghiberti was then asked to craft the panels to decorate the East Doors, which face the massive Duomo. The actual panels are now housed in Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, but the replications that are currently on the doors are great copies. The doors are currently known as the Gates of Paradise because of Michaelangelo’s comment when asked what he thought of the doors: “They are so beautiful that they would grace the entrance to Paradise.” Unlike the Duomo, the interior of the Baptistry is quite exquisite, including an effigy designed by Michaelangelo and Donatello that adorns the tomb of Antipope John XXIII.