From the two rooms that once made up the museum at the time of its first opening in May 1981, it’s been a long ride for the Opera del Duomo Museum in Florence! The subsequent expansion, even with the 18 final rooms, was still insufficient to exhibit the hundreds of works of the Opera del Duomo collection.
This is, in fact, the highest concentration of monumental Florentine sculptures in the world: Medieval and Renaissance statues and reliefs in marble, bronze and silver; works by artists such as Arnolfo di Cambio, Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Antonio Pollaiuolo, Andrea del Verrocchio, Michelangelo... and almost all works created for the exterior and interior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and Giotto’s Bell Tower.
A crucial step in the museum’s latest expansion and renovation was in 1997 with the Opera del Duomo’s acquisition of the eighteenth-century Teatro degli Intrepidi, an adjacent building of 3,000 square meters. Today the Opera del Duomo Museum reopens not only much larger, but also with an impressive modern and spectacular set-up, with works placed to be admired as originally designed: in the streets, from the distance, from below!
That explains the incredible and breathtaking Hall of the Ancient Facade (Hall of Paradise), a life-size reconstruction of the old façade of the Duomo (begun by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296, it was never finished, and then finally was dismantled in 1587), with more than 100 original pieces: 40 statues, some of monumental size, and about 60 decorative elements. This reconstruction was made possible by a drawing by Bernardino Poccetti at the time of the dismantling of the façade and thanks to the visionary minds of today’s architects!
As it was conceived, designed and built, the façade of the Cathedral is placed in front of the three monumental doors of the Baptistery, created between 1330 and 1452 by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti and now restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence (the third gate is still undergoing “treatment”). Even if this hall is already worth the ticket price, the wonder does not end here! In the other rooms of the museum, the journey continues.
Your head will spin in front of the 16 life-size statues made for the Bell Tower by Andrea Pisano, Donatello and others, and exposed in front of 54 sculptural reliefs from the same Bell. Or inside the large gallery dedicated to the construction of the dome by Brunelleschi. Or in the other gallery, which displays large wooden models with the plans for the new facade of the Cathedral. Or in front of the two monumental Cantorie (choirs) of the Cathedral, executed by Luca della Robbia and Donatello, the Penitent Mary Magdalene by Donatello and Michelangelo’s Pietà, all beautifully displayed and lit.
Throughout the three floors, it’s possible to keep admiring the Hall of the Façade, from different heights. Finally, on the top floor, a roof terrace allows a close-up view of the Dome. With the re-opening of the Opera del Duomo Museum, in Florence we’re experiencing Stendhal’s Syndrome all over again!
Info: Opera del Duomo Museums web site
The museum is fully accessible.
Original article by Leila Firusbakht
Cover image credit: Opera del Duomo Museum