Architecture of Renaissance Florence

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Architecture of Renaissance Florence
Architecture of Renaissance Florence

Renaissance architecture first emerged in Florence in the 15th century and was a conscious revival of classical styles. The architectural style originated in Florence not as a slow evolution from previous styles, but rather as a development set in motion by architects seeking to revive the golden age of classical antiquity.

This style avoided the complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of Gothic structures and emphasized symmetry, proportion, geometry and regularity of detail.


The architecture of 15th century Florence was notable for its use of classical elements such as the orderly arrangement of columns, pilasters, lintels, semicircular arches and hemispherical domes. Filippo Brunelleschi was the first to develop true Renaissance architecture.

While the huge brick dome that covers the central space of Florence Cathedral used Gothic technology, it was the first dome built sinceclassical Rome, and became a ubiquitous feature in Renaissance churches.

Medici palace


This term refers to the 1400s, which can also be called the Italian Renaissance period of the 15th century.

It was marked by the development of the Florentine Renaissance style of architecture, which was a revival and development of ancient Greek and Roman architectural elements. The rules of Renaissance architecture were first formulated and put into practice in 15th-century Florence, and the buildings subsequently inspired architects throughout Italy and Western Europe.


The Renaissance architecture of Florence was the vision of Philippe Brunelleschi, whose ability to invent and interpret Renaissance ideals in architecture made him the leading architect of the era. He was responsible for early Renaissance projects (until 1446, the time of his death) and consequently laid the foundation for the development of architecture in the remainder of the period and beyond. His most famous work is the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.

One of the goals of Renaissance Florence architecture was to rethink the ingenuity of Greek and Roman art some 1500 years ago. Brunelleschi traveled to Rome early and studied Roman architecture extensively. His designs broke away from the medieval tradition of pointed arches, the use of gold and mosaics. Instead, he used simple classical designs based on basic geometric shapes. His work and influence can be seen throughoutFlorence, but the Pazzi Chapel and Santo Spirito are two of his greatest achievements.

The architects of this period were sponsored by we althy patrons, including the powerful Medici family and the Silk Guild. They approached their craft from an organized and scientific point of view, which coincided with a general revival of classical learning. The Renaissance style consciously avoided the complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of Gothic structures. Instead, Renaissance architects emphasized symmetry, proportion, geometry, and regularity of detail, as demonstrated in classical Roman architecture. They also made extensive use of classic antique pieces.

Florence Cathedral

dome of the cathedral

The dome of this cathedral was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446), who is usually credited with originating the style of Renaissance architecture. Known as the Duomo, it was designed to cover the shell of an already existing cathedral. The dome retains the gothic pointed arch and gothic ribs in its design.

It was inspired by similar elements of Ancient Rome such as the Pantheon and is often referred to as the first Renaissance building. The dome is made of red brick and is ingeniously built without supports, using a deep understanding of the laws of physics and mathematics. It remains the largest stone dome in the world.

Leon Battista Alberti (1402–1472)

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

This architect was differenta key figure in the history of Renaissance architecture in Florence. He was a humanist theorist and designer whose book on architecture, De reedicatoria, was the first architectural treatise of the Renaissance. Alberti designed two of Florence's most famous 15th-century buildings: Palazzo Rucellai and the façade of Santa Maria Novella.

Palazzo Rucellai, an opulent townhouse built between 1446-1451, embodied the new features of Renaissance architecture, including the classical ordering of columns on three levels and the use of pilasters and entablaturas in proportion to each other.

Alberti, Palazzo Rucellai

The façade of Santa Maria Novella (1456–1470) also showed similar Renaissance innovations based on classical Roman architecture. Alberti tried to bring the ideals of humanistic architecture and proportion to the already existing structure, creating harmony with the existing medieval façade.

His contribution included a classical frieze adorned with squares, four green and white pilasters and a round window topped by a pediment bearing the Dominican solar emblem and flanked on either side by S-scrolls.

While the pediment and frieze were inspired by classical architecture, the scrolls were new and without precedent in antiquity, eventually becoming a very popular architectural feature in churches throughout Italy.

In general, the architecture of Renaissance Florence expressed a new sense of light, clarity and space, which reflected enlightenment and clarity of mind,renowned for the philosophy of humanism.

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