The religious centre of the city is made up of the monumental complex the Cathedral and the Baptistery, and by the two squares which surround them. In Roman and late Mediaeval Florence this area was on the outskirts of the residential district, but from the eleventh century on, as the city extended outwards, it became a focal point within the urban area. The decisive moment came at the end of the thirteenth century when the city decided to rebuild the Cathedral of Santa Reparata (crypt) in a larger form, more suited to its increased importance.
The new proportions established by Arnolfo for the façade define the relationship between the Church and the Baptistry, and identify the space between the two as a real square within which the most important events of the city were to take place. The construction of the new Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and of the Campanile (Giotto's Bell Tower) continued throughout the fourteenth century and was completed only in the next century with the building of Brunelleschi's cupola (Dome). The transformations which occurred over the years were finally sanctioned by the nineteenth century modifications, resulting in the creation of the monumental façade of the Cathedral, and in a further extension of Piazza San Giovanni. In order to understand the entire complex, and admire many original works from it, visit the great Museo dell'Opera del Duomo! The interesting Museo della Misericordia (Mercy), one of the oldest charitable institutions in Italy, also overlooks the square, on the Bell Tower side.
This square has always been the perfect set to host the most emblematic events in the city and in fact, every year, some important ceremonies of the Florentine tradition are held just here. Among them, the spectacular Cavalcata dei Magi (Cavalcade of the Three Kings), on January 6th, and the impressive Scoppio del carro (Explosion of the cart), on Easter Sunday morning.
Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo, Firenze