Today in World History: August 7th

Il Duomo, or the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Flower began construction on this day in 1296, in Florence. With a dome designed by the architectural genius Filippo Brunelleschi and the main cathedral designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, the cathedral became a symbol of the city, home to world-renowned artists and one of the centers of the Renaissance Era. Although the main cathedral was built in the late thirteenth to early fourteenth century, it was incomplete. Ideas on how to finish the cathedral and to make it unique were hard to come by, as potential designs had to overcome several major engineering problems, the largest of which was the support for the dome. As it was a cathedral, columns could not be placed to support the dome, and so the problem of how to support the massive structure remained. Eventually, Brunelleschi came up with the ingenious idea to use scaffolding and to connect the parts of the dome together during construction allowed him and the workers, funded by the Catholic Church, to finish the dome, and upon completion in 1436 it became the largest dome in the world, overtaking its inspiration, the Roman Pantheon, and remaining so for more than 400 years, until the construction of the Devonshire Royal Hospital in England in 1881.

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