The Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, maybe better know to those who visit as the Florence Dome, has a very long history.
Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the 11th century with the first stone to be laid in 1296, it was built on the site of another church; Santa Reparata which was not only falling apart from age after 900 years of life but was also becoming too small too hold the increasing population of Florence. At the time that the cathedral was completed, it was the largest in Europe able to hold up to 30,000 people and remains still today, one of the five largest churches in Italy. A remarkable fact about the church and its dome is that it took well over one hundred years to see its completion.
Its original creator, Arnolfo, di Cambio, died in 1302 and work nearly came to a halt up until 1334 when Giotto was appointed to continue Arnolfo's work assisted by Andrea Pisano. Giotto, who is accredited for the superb bell tower, died in 1337 and worked was stopped by Pisano as well, due to the black plague of 1348. One year later work continued again by a collective group of other talented artists and architects. Most of the church was completed by the beginning of 1400 leaving only the dome to be completed. A contest was held to see who would be best to design the new dome which eventually went to Filippo Brunelleschi.
Brunelleschi's architectural solutions were ingenious and without precedence. More than 4 million bricks were used for the dome which weighs nearly 41 tons and to fulfil his creation Brunellesch had to design machines and new masonry techniques which were in themselves a spectacular contribution to architecture.
Work was finally completed on the Dome in 1436 and it was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV. Construction of the lantern was begun a few months before Brunelleschi's death in 1446. For the next 25 years, little progress was made due to various alterations by other architects but the lantern was finally completed by Michelozzo, Brunelleschi's friend, in 1461.