In 1277, Bishop Guglielmo Ubertini promulgated a decree which stated the church's desire to build a cathedral "to honour God, the Blessed Virgin and the patron saint Donato". Pope Gregory X's visit in December 1275, on return from the council of Lyon, played a decisive role in the birth of Arezzo Cathedral. Seriously ill, the Pope died in Arezzo on January 10, leaving the sum of thirty gold florins for the construction of the new Cathedral.
In 1289, the already consecrated church presented a fully built apse and the first two bays. The same years saw the completion of the sculptural decoration of Opus signinum sculpted figures lodged in the lunette just above the architrave. Located at the very centre of the Cathedral, the Nursing Madonna is portrayed side by side with the bishop Donato and Pope Gregory X. After a long interruption, construction works resumed in 1471 and were concluded in 1511.
The exterior façade, barren and unfinished for centuries, was laid out as we see it today between the years 1900 and 1914. The interior is built on three naves, without a transept, it presents five bays punctuated by clustered columns and a characteristic polygonal apse. Painted in two phases between 1516-17 and 1522-24, the seven stained-glass windows by Marcillat are true masterpieces. Marcillat is also the one who authored the biblical stories in the first three bays of the central nave's vaults and the first bay of the left-side nave and the design of the stairs that lead to the basilica.
Probably one of the Duomo's most important works of art, the Mary Magdalen fresco by Piero della Francesca dates back to the 1460s and can be observed all along the left side of the basilica.
The high altar, documented since 1362, is quite a monumental sight. The wooden choir was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1554. The illustrious Arezzo-born architect also created the organ's pedestal along the left nave, where today we can admire the Madonna with Child, an exquisite mid-thirteenth century wooden sculpture. In the early seventeenth century, as a result of the new rules proclaimed by the Council of Trento, the Cathedral underwent a modernization process which entailed the renewal of its chapels and altars following the design of Teofilo Torri, a painter and architect from Arezzo.
In 1810, important changes were made to the Cathedral's original structure, with the intent of creating an "internal narration" able to embody the church's continuity in history, a path which culminates in the chapel of La Madonna del Conforto that today houses several precious terracottas by Andrea della Robbia, previously located in other churches around the city.
[For more information: www.diocesiarezzo.it ]