Friday, April 25, 2003
I spent all of October 2002 backpacking solo through western Europe. My favorite city was Florence, and as most are, I became awestruck by its cathedral, the Santa Maria del Fiore. I just finished reading a great book by Ross King titled, Brunelleschi's Dome, about the architect of the cathedral's dome and its construction. I thoroughly enjoyed its combination of history, travel, and engineering -- all big interests of mine. The cathedral's design called for a massive dome. The problem was that the architects had no idea how to build one that large. The construction continued with the idea that once the builders reached that point, someone would hopefully have a solution. Thus, a big hole stood in the roof for fifty years until a man named Filippo Brunelleschi came along and developed an ingenious solution that allowed for them to construct the massive dome without interior supports -- an architectural marvel. Besides the architecture of the dome itself, Brunelleschi also had to design cranes and lifts that could raise 2000 pound loads hundreds of feet. And this was in the early 1400's. The book was fascinating. Of particular intrigue to me was of the time itself. During my trip I took a train ride from Milan to Florence, with a sidetrip to Pisa. Therefore I enjoyed reading how Milan and Florence were at war with one another and the methods of warfare, including the diversion of rivers to flood cities. It put into perspective how devastating the black plague was during this time as it decimated the populations of Florence and Rome. Also interesting was Brunelleschi's associations with Donatello and Michaelangelo. Again -- a great book -- and a wonderful way for me to regain and deepen my associations with Florence.