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Brunelleschi’s Cupola

Past and Present of an Architectural Masterpiece

20,00 €

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by G. Fanelli and M. Fanelli

publication year: 2004
170x240 mm; 288 pp.
300 colour and b&w illustrations

88-85957-91-9 English
88-85957-92-7 French
88-85957-94-3 German
88-85957-90-0 Italian
88-85957-93-5 Spanish

“Poring over the many details of the Cupola’s history, as well as of the internal articulation of its structural elements, one cannot avoid sensing the constant struggle of a genius against the limitations of the technology of his times. This is reminiscent of the attitude that would distinguish, a few years later, the work of another genius, Leonardo da Vinci. Studying Brunelleschi’s greatest building is still of the utmost interest today and can yield surprising discoveries, a testimony to the vitality of his genius. This can be fully appreciated by all ages, because although the reading code may change down the centuries, the fundamental essence of the language has remained unaltered.”

This two-part volume offers an innovative analysis and interpretation of Brunelleschi’s masterpiece.

Part One, which is richly illustrated with iconographic material, traces the design and construction phases of this magnificent building and explores its impact on figurative and literary culture down the ages.

With the aid of original charts and diagrams, Part Two provides a thorough analysis of the structure, construction and static equilibrium of the Cupola, including a description and assessment of the current state of the cracks. This provides a solid basis for predicting the likely future behaviour of the monument and for suggesting possible conservation measures.

Giovanni Fanelli is Professor of the History Architecture at the University of Florence. He is the author of many books about the history of architecture and urban development, the graphic arts and photography. His works on architectural and urban history include: Firenze (2002, 7th edition); Città antica in Toscana (1990, 3rd edition), with F. Trivisonno; Fin-de-siècle: la vita urbana in Europa (1991); Lucca: iconografia della città (1998), with G. Bedini; Lucca: iconografia fotografica della città (2002), with B. Mazza. For Mandragora he has published Giovanni Michelucci fotografo (2001), L’anima dei luoghi. La Toscana nella fotografia stereoscopica (2001), Firenze: architettura e città (2002), a reprint of a work first published in 1973, and Twenty-two vews of the Cupola (2005), a collection of his own drawings of the masterpiece.

Michele Fanelli is an engineer. He has served on the ministerial commission for the conservation of the Cupola, and in his role as director of the CRIS-ENEL (Centro di Ricerche Idrauliche e Strutturali of the Italian national power board), has conducted structural analyses of the building in conjuction with the ISMES (Istituto Sperimentale Modelli e Strutture). He has chaired various commissions on behalf of international hydraulic engineering bodies. He has published extensively in scientific journals on topics such as dam engineering and large-scale masonry and concrete structures. He has also contributed to civil engineering handbooks for Hoepli.



1. From the plan for the new cathedral to Brunelleschi’s plan for the Cupola
2. The building site: organisation, materials, schedule
3. The stages of construction
4. The form of the Cupola
5. The later history of the Cupola: critical reception and scientific studies
6. The image of the Cupola: mountain or living being


1. The geometric, functional and structural design of the Cupola
2. An interpretation of the static behaviour of the Cupola
3. The Cupola today: numerical analyses, monitoring and testing, conservation measures