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Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  20,128 Ratings  ·  713 Reviews
Brunelleschi's Dome is the story of how a Renaissance man bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder. Not a master mason or carpenter, Filippo Brunelleschi was a goldsmith and clock maker. Over twenty-eight years, he would dedicate himself to solving puzzles of the dome's construction. In the process, he did nothing less than reinve ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2000)
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Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing

I read this book about a year before six of us traveled to Italy. A fantastic book from engineering, history of the Renaissance, and history of architecture viewpoints. Having read the book, I knew we had to visit Florence and climb up to the top of il Duomo. I spent many weeks before we left walking up and down two flights of stairs in our house to prepare myself. It was a wonderful experience, a great view from up there (the Duomo that is, not the top of my stairs).

If you ever visit Italy, do
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, monographies, 2014

This is an account of how the monument that human ingenuity could build to itself came into being.

During the 13C the prosperous Florence deemed that its small Cathedral needed more than just more repairs. Santa Reparata was then demolished and a new and considerably larger building was commissioned to Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect who had already designed other pleasing churches in the city. The new Cathedral would also drop its no longer suitable old name and take on the radiant designation
Will Byrnes
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Updated July 17, 2013 - added image and links

At the height of the Renaissance in Florence a competition was announced. The cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore had been under construction for more than a century, but no one knew how to construct the massive dome that was called for in the original design, a design from which the city rulers were loathe to depart. The task was widely considered impossible, but Filippo Brunelleschi, a goldsmith and clockmaker, submitted a construction plan that was br
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture was a fascinating look at the personal struggles and brilliance of Brunelleschi in his engineering, design and erection of the dome over the beautiful new cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in the heart of Florence. However, it had already been under construction for a century when, in 1418, a contest was announced for designs to be submitted for the construction of a dome that would vault over the cathedral.

"However, of the man
Lewis Weinstein
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
When you stand in the Duomo in Florence and look up, even though you know the dome has been there for over 5 centuries, it's still hard to believe it stays in place. It's even harder to imagine how it was constructed - without supporting scaffolding. Read this book and you will understand, not only the construction but also the nature of the Renaissance civilization that encouraged and financed such a miracle.

Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great book, fascinating history covering everything that went into the building of this amazing world landmark. Architecture, art history, culture, Italian politics and drama, of course. I learned a lot and was thoroughly enchanted by this book.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
Even the original planners of the dome had been unable to advise how their project might be completed: they merely expressed a touching faith that at some point in the future God might provide a solution, and architects with a more advanced knowledge would be found.

I was in Florence a couple of weeks ago, and although I hadn't really noted the omission at the time, it's now oddly sad to me that at the Accademia we were told, “This is Michelangelo's Statue of David”, and at the Uffizi we were t
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Gee, when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be an architect. I didn't pursue it because I knew I was terrible at math. What I didn't take into account was my complete lack of physics knowledge. After reading this book, I know I made the right decision.
There is A LOT of description of pulleys, machines, construction, etc.. I didn't understand most of it. I felt like an idiot. I was determined to persevere and finish slogging through this book. I did it, but not without falling asleep MANY time
Jason Golomb
I'm no engineer and I only vaguely understand the basic tenets of architecture. But I'm a great admirer of history and have tremendous appreciation for the significance of milestone art and architecture. So in advance of an upcoming trip to Florence, I picked up Ross King's "Brunelleschi's Dome", assuming that King would do as good a job with this seminal Renaissance creation as he did with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in "Michelangelo & The Pope's Ceiling". The book is thorough and enjoyab ...more
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monica by: Francesca
Shelves: history
(Nov '08)-Have to put this aside, have to cram on South America...Dec. '10-- Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King, was scholarly, yet had a lighter touch than most art history dissertations. It was even a best seller. Extremely well researched, it details the competition and execution of the building of the dome of the cathedral in Florence, an architectural and artistic accomplishment few understand. The scope King gives us, although at times heavi ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dof-didnotfinish, art
This one's going back to the library unfinished. I'd heard so often that it was good. Though my MFA is in Painting, I did teach a year long Art History survey course, so I've even lectured on the darn dome. And I've always been interested in architecture.

But I am 75 years old and I don't have time to waste on books I'm not enjoying. This one is so poorly written I can't believe it got the good reviews it did.

The writing is plodding and awkward. The author introduces technical/architectural terms
Sep 03, 2007 rated it liked it
I found the first half of the book much more interesting than the second half: the innovation in the architecture of the dome held much more narrative interest in than the chapters on the various machines invented in order to construct the thing. Although it has been several years since I read the book, I do also recall being vaguely disappointed with the ending: The Dome Goes Up! Still, an incredibly interesting portrait of the convergence of many sciences in this beautiful masterpiece.
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book about the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. It talks about Filippo Brunelleschi, and his absolute genius in constructing a dome that spans 140 feet, without any sort of supporting framework. He solved each problem as it arose, and even invented a lot of the machinery and equipment he needed.

It is amazing to me that a good portion of the duomo had been built before there was even a call for plans to construct the dome. Still more amazing that Brunelleschi's a
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
What an unexpected little treat this was. An account of the building of the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Begun in 1296 and completed in 1436, the dome itself took nearly a quarter of a century to construct, and even when it was initially designed regarded as potentially impossible to construct, the original designers essentially shrugging their shoulders and hoping God would provide. Provision came in the form of bad-tempered genius Filippo Brunelleschi, master gol ...more
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Cool little book. Not exactly crucial to anything, but it gives some nice flavor of life in the early Renaissance, and of the return of architecture - and at 167 pages, it's only an afternoon's commitment anyway. David Macaulay's Cathedral would be an excellent companion read, and I found it useful to refer to this big-ass picture of the dome from time to time.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Filippo Brunelleschi is best known for his design of the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Apparently, he was an unkempt and cantankerous old goldsmith and sculptor, very paranoid and suspicious of his fellow artisans - even for fifteenth-century Florence. But it was not just the design for which he deserves accolades. The manner by which he proposed to erect the dome was so radical that he was labeled a madman. Even more startling was that he refused to reveal the deta ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Florence in the late 14th century was a fast developing state where the money essentially came from the wool merchants that held the Signoria. Florence giving a tough competition to other cities in Europe was in the lookout for a different style of architecture that represented their city. The gothic towering structures were looked down upon, not to forget thought to be ugly. When the master mason Arnolfo di Cambio designed the cathedral the important part of the structure remained unfinished: t ...more
Oct 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
The book centers on the construction of the "Duomo" - Santa Maria del Fiore and its engineering genius Filippo Brunelleschi. The architectural challenges and solutions, the politics and the competition surrounding the construction of this marvel makes for a good read. However, the best thing about this book, by far, is that it captures the spirit, creativeness, and problem-solving capability of the people of the Renaissance. "Pippo" Brunelleschi not only changed construction engineering forever, ...more
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dale
Recommended to Sandra by: Lew
Shelves: history
In addition to learning about dome building, (which I really hadn't considered the difficulties of previously,) the first several chapters continued to enlighten me on what it was like to live in the 14th and 15th centuries. The plague was a constant population thinner. You worked, if you were lucky, 14-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. No benefits. they did bury you for free if you fell to your death. Sorry for digressing, back to the focus of the booki..........The question still seems to be unan ...more
Florence Millo
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of the building of the dome on Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy over a period of 28 years by Filippo Brunelleschi.

In August, 1418 a competition was held to determine who would design and construct the dome on the cathedral which had been under construction for over a century. The dome was considered by many to be impossible because it would span 143 feet. It is still the largest dome in the world. The winner of that competition was the goldsmith and clockmaker, Filippo
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, architecture
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 01, 2010 rated it liked it
At first I found it seriously boring, but when I gave myself to read through the technical parts without worrying about understanding it all, I began to enjoy it more. The Dome was an incredible and extremely interesting project to read about, and Bruneslleschi was clearly a genius. King alluded to some kind of crisis and the downfall of our hero, but they all turned out to be minor setbacks in his career than actual downfalls. This was misleading and a bit annoying. But overall, because of the ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
A wonderful tale of how Florence became the pre-eminent city of the western world and dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages. Brunelleschi, an arrogant and easily dislikeable architect and artist, seeks to complete one of the greatest structures man had ever created - the Santa Maria del Fiore - which had lain roofless for decades awaiting just such a man. The politics, intrigue and personal rivalry between those who sought fame and riches by completing the project are magnificently woven together ...more
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I picked this up at a used bookstore. It is a historical account of the planning and execution of the dome in Florence. Lots of engineering details. I plan to climb to the top of that dome this summer and I will be able to see the innovative engineering skills of Brunelleschi from the inside stair well. Can't wait. Best of all this book is a good companion to the novel "Pillars of the Earth" since it has lots of references to building cathedrals. I plan to read Ross King's book about St. Peter's ...more
Mahmut Uyar
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okuyup sonrasında gezmek çok keyifli oldu, sadece dome değil, Dahi Brunelleschi'nin kısa hayat hikayesini öğrenmek için ideal bir kitap
I've heard so many good things about Ross King and his books on art and architecture that it's probably no surprise that this first foray into his work was a little disappointing. To begin with, though, I'd like to commend him on his style, which never descended into the sensational or emotional driven narrative that so many of his contemporaries do. King doesn't tease the reader by dropping hints of what's to come, highlight ironies only visible from our perspective, or try to inject tension by ...more
Matt McCormick
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I love the drawing of the dome provided by an earlier reviewer. I am using it as my phone's wallpaper - thank you. While some found the book very heavy on the mechanics of how Brunelleschi accomplished an unimaginable feet, I could have used a bit more. Maybe it's my poor grasp of physics - I sorta, almost, just about understood what he uniquely did to raise the dome so high without the traditional internal scaffolding. I appreciated the author calling out the small additions Brunelleschi ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
We read this for my book club, and there was a fair bit of technical information that I didn't understand. However, after the discussion, I appreciated the book so much more. There was a structural engineer in the group who was very animated about what the builders of the dome were able to accomplish. There was also a native of Italy in the group who had just visited the dome and talked a lot about how it was built, its place in Italian history, and Italians feelings about the dome.

I very much
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good short popular account of the building of the dome of Santa Maria dei Fiori in Florence. The book didn't get bogged down in the mechanics of his inventions, in my opinion (I note that some reviewers thought it did--but I am not bothered by understanding less than 100% of the technical aspects described).
Judit Szabo
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can you fall in love with a cupola? I fell in love with a cupola. And a dead architect. Tyvm, Ross King :)
I have just finished this book, instant 5-star from me. Having read two other books from Ross King before I had high expectations and the book definitely lived up to them. Pick up this book if you're looking for something informative, light but substantial, educational, interesting.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Ross King (born July 16, 1962) is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He began his career by writing two works of historical fiction in the 1990s, later turning to non-fiction, and has since written several critically acclaimed and best-selling historical works.

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“The Black Death was a faithful visitor to Florence. It arrived, on average, once every ten years, always in the summer.” 1 likes
“On August 19, 1418, a competition was announced in Florence, where the city's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, had been under construction for more than a century” 0 likes
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