Filippo Brunelleschi


By Courtney McNeal

          Filippo Brunelleschi designed many of the most influential architectural feats of the Renaissance.  Filippo was born in Florence in 1377.  He was the second of three sons of Ser Brunellesco de Lippi Lapi and Giuliana Spini.  Brunelleschi received his early training as an apprentice in silver and gold smithing.  Only six years after his apprenticeship, he passed his examination and became a master goldsmith. Filippo would also become an accomplished sculpture, painter, and later became interested in architecture.  Filippo Brunelleschi first began his career in 1401 by competing with Gilberti for the commission of the great bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery. He lost the competition and then traveled to Rome to study ancient Roman architecture and sculpture.

A Model of the cupola of the
Cathedral of Florence

          In 1418, Filippo Brunelleschi received the commission to design and build the dome of the unfinished Cathedral of Florence. Where the dome of the Cathedral had been planned a gapping hole of almost 46 meter in diameter had existed for years.  Arnolfiodi Camio had started building the Cathedral over 50 years before Filippo Brunelleschi had been given the commission.  When originally designed, the dome called for a low cupola. In the end the cathedral was so enormous that scaffolding could not be used, and it seemed impossible for a roof to be built over the 46 meters without some kind of support.

Detailed Cross-section
Drawing of the Cupola

          Brunelleschi's design of the dome was a revolutionary double shell of masonry, consisting of two octagonal vaults, one inside the other. The shape of the dome was designed to compensate for the emormous structural weight, and is one of the first examples of architectural functionalism. The eight supporting ribs of the vault are built on the exterior of the dome.  His plan allowed the dome to be completed without scaffolding or supporting columns. Brunelleschi's decorative elements include architectural relieves, circular windows, and a beautifully proportioned cupola.  The final structure consisted of a double cupola of brick laid herringbone fashion, 91 meters high and completely self-supporting. The exterior gave the illusion of being much larger than the interior. But it produced the same pointed arch profile perfectly.

The Lantern of the
Cathedral of Florence

           Brunelleschi started the construction of the cupola in 1420 and although he spent the rest of his life working on it,  he also designed many other monuments at the same time.  The cupola of the Cathedral of Florence was completed in 1434. Two years later the lantern was placed in position making the cupola 114.5 meters in total height. The dome of the Cathedral of Florence was a source of immense local pride from the moment of its completion. This epitaph was found inside the Cathedral of Florence's entrance.

Both the magnificent dome of this
famous church and many other devices,
invented by Filippo the architect,
bare witness to his superb skill.

Therefore, in tribute to his exceptional talents,
a grateful country that will always remember
buries him here in the soil below.

The Cupola of the
Cathedral of Florence

          Filippo Brunelleschi died on April 16, 1446, at about 70 years of age.  He was buried in the Cathedral of Florence in honor of his talent and ability.  Along with building the Cathedral of Florence, Filippo Brunelleschi also built the Church of San Lorenzo, the Church of San Spirito, the Pazzi Chaple, Santa Maria delgi Angeli, the Pitti Palace, the Palazzo Quartatesi, and the Loggia at San Pero a Granda.   Not only was Brunelleschi one of the most influential architects of the Renaissance, but he also is said to have been one of the first people to paint a perspective painting.  Filippo Brunelleschi is the perfect example of the Renaissance artist and engineer, with his new ideas and skills he started a whole new way of construction and design.

A side view of the
Cathedral of Florence


Filippo Brunelleschi: Sculptor and Architect @, 12-29-99

The Cupola @, 12-29-99.

Mechanical Marvels . Brunelleschi @, 12-29-99.

Filippo Brunelleschi @, 12-29-99.

Filippo Brunelleschi, Sculptor and Architect of Florence. @, 12-29-99.

Picture Credit:

"Filippo Brunelleschi" from:

"Model of the Cupola"

"Detailed Cross Section drawing of the Cupola" from:

"The Lantern on top of the Cupola" from:

"The Copula of Florence Cathedral from:

"Side view of the Cathedral" from: