Giotto's Bell Tower

Giotto's Bell Tower

Giotto's Bell Tower

Published : 10/24/2017 09:35:55
Categories : Fine ART Rss feed

The bell tower of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most beautiful in Italy, is a brilliant (and extremely expensive...) invention by Giotto, created more as a decorative monument than a functional one.

Tradition has it that the Emperor Charles V of Habsburg, on seeing the bell tower, found the work so precious that it deserved to be preserved under a glass bell.

In 1334, with work on the new cathedral languishing for over thirty years, the great artist was appointed foreman of the factory tasked with carrying out its construction. But rather than engage in the continuation of Arnolfo di Cambio’s Cathedral project, Giotto preferred one of his own: the bell. The master worked on this new architectural element that would enrich the square from 1334 to 1337, the year of his death, but he only saw completion of the first area, where the cuspidate entrance is. His taste as a painter in fact leads to the advancement of the outer decorations at the same time as its construction, slowing progress. The white marble from Carrara, the green from Prato and the red from Siena give the space colour and at the same time imbue it with a classical rigour, while the four sides show a figurative "narrative", essential expression for a painter, thanks to a series of octagonal relief panels by Andrea Pisano (who completed the South Door of the Baptistery in 1336) also partly designed by Giotto.

It was Andrea Pisano who replaced Giotto on his death, and he in turn was replaced by Francesco Talenti in 1348, who would finally finish the work in 1359, delivering it to the city as we see it today, with some modifications on Giotto’s project.

The slender and elegant structure (84.70m high by 14.45m wide), has a square floorplan and is supported at the corners by polygonal buttress columns that rise to the top. These four vertical and four horizontal lines divide it into five floors, giving continuity to a building passed from hand to hand between three different artists.

The top three floors of the bell tower are by Francesco Talenti, and the final part is his design: putting aside Giotto’s original plan (the spire typical of Gothic bell towers), Talenti created a large terrace leaning outwards which acts as a panoramic roof from which to admire all the wonders below.