The dome of the magnificent Florence Cathedral is a sight to behold. It towers over 140 meters into the sky and comprises over four million bricks, enough to build nearly 500 houses – making it the current world’s largest masonry dome. However, its designer Filippo Brunelleschi was initially ridiculed for this idea. Brunelleschi started off not as an architect or engineer, but a goldsmith. The engineering challenge of his idea was also intimidating even by modern standards, with none of the traditional support structures available to him back then.
However, Brunelleschi persevered, building a scale model to convince his distractors, but left it unfinished to prevent his secrets from being leaked. The construction of this massive dome also required new technology to be invented with many innovative ideas coming from the master himself. An example is the herringbone arrangement of the bricks, preventing them from falling off the wall as the sides became steeper. He also invented amphibious carts to transport the marble required so it would not be damaged during transportation.
In total, this masterpiece took 16 years to build and was the largest dome in the world for many years before eventually being surpassed in the 1900s. Brunelleschi died ten years after the dome was completed, and was interred inside the building he helped create. The plaque beside him celebrates his intellect, and he is honored today throughout Italy and the world as an architectural icon.