The Dome of Florence: art, sayings and curiosities

728 years have passed since the foundation of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the body responsible for the construction of the new “Ecclesia Maior”, the new Dome of Florence dedicated to the Madonna.

The artists who worked on the construction and decoration of the Cathedral of Florence were among the greatest in history, it would be enough to mention Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno, Pollaiolo, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, Jacopo Sansovino, Vasari. But also Leonardo da Vinci, who in Verrocchio’s workshop had the opportunity to study the machines invented by Brunelleschi to lift the Dome: levers, gears, weights and counterweights. And it was in Verrocchio’s workshop when his master used those machines to set up the enormous Golden Ball of the Cupola of the Dome (1472).

Water to the ropes and wine to the men!

It was during the construction of the Dome (one of the largest ever built in masonry) that the workers, aided by oxen, donkeys and horses, pulled huge ropes and sturdy ropes, lifted heavy loads.

In a moment of stalemate and great effort, someone, to encourage and help those who were pulling the ropes, shouted: “Water on the ropes!”, because wetting them meant making them withdraw and therefore helping in the effort. And another voice from the people who attended shouted: “And wine to the men! ” and it wasn’t just a joke, but a goad to help the men who worked.

A UFO, real and fake seals

In Tuscany the expression was born as an acronym for Ad Usum Florentinae Operae: the materials purchased by the works for the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore were thus marked to benefit from a preferential tax regime. But the “crafty” people of the Middle Ages began to put a fake “UFO” mark on their carts to avoid paying taxes when entering the city.

And so, “A UFO” has become synonymous with not paying for something that should instead be paid and is found, in the more generic meaning of wasting time or money, both in Collodi’s Pinocchio and in Manzoni’s “Promessi Sposi”.


As long as the works for making the Dome

There are many sayings born during the years of its construction around the Dome, one of which is still used today is the saying “as long as the works for making the Dome, to point out a work that has lasted too long and which has not yet been sees the end. In fact, the construction of the Dome lasted more than two centuries, from 1296 to the beginning of the 1500s!