Verrocchio’s golden sphere

Written by

For 550 years the golden sphere has dominated Brunelleschi’s dome

The lantern, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and built after his death, was completed with a two and a half meter diameter copper sphere covered with gold, designed by Andrea Verrocchio and made in his workshop. To be able to find the necessary copper, Verrocchio went to Venice to find it of excellent quality.

As soon as he found the material, he sent it to Florence in two distinct loads: a load of six pieces in August 1469 and the remaining two pieces in October.

As Vasari reports, the ball was placed

Placing it on a button, and chaining it in such a way as to be able to safely place the cross on it”.

A complex operation, the result of extraordinary manual dexterity and incredible technical skills, which was also attended by a young student of Verrocchio’s workshop with a passion for physics and geometry: Leonardo da Vinci.

May 28, 1471

the ball was put in place

and on Thursday 30 at around 20.30,

the cross was put on and the “Te Deum” was sung

All that metal up there on the dome turned out to be a perfect lightning-puller, so much so that on April 5th of 1492 a thunderbolt struck the lantern, ruining it and causing tiles to collapse to the ground in five different points of the dome. That lightning was interpreted as a sign announcing who knows what misfortunes… three days later Lorenzo the Magnificent died.

From that event on, many lightning strikes hit the ball and the skylight, as the night between 26 and 27 January 1601 was hit with such violence that it fell down, ending up on the right side of the pavement of Piazza del Duomo.

Such was the fear of the Florentines that the end of the world seemed to have come for them.

No one was hit, but the roar spread throughout the city and some fragments were even found in via de ‘Servi. On the pavement of the square a white marble disk recalls the exact point of the fall.

Verrocchio’s golden sphere, secured and protected by a powerful lightning rod, today dominates Florence and can be reached by climbing 463 steps, 116 meters above the ground.