A real treasure hunt in search of details, creativity and beauty
Giotto was born around 1267 CE at Colle di Vespignano in the Mugello valley (Florence) to a family of small landowners who later moved to Florence. According to tradition, he was sent to Cimabue’s workshop and, from the beginning, showed exceptional talent. Around 1287 he married and then had eight children, one of whom also became a painter. The first work attributed to him is dated 1290; by early 1300, he had opened a workshop. He used to set up compositions and then leave the secondary aspects to his pupils to conclude. Among the most appreciated features of his art are: the naturalness and realism, especially expressions and feelings, and the ability to organise scenes, especially space, to give the idea of depth.
Giotto’s Bell tower is a splendid example of 14th-century Florentine Gothic architecture.
In 1334 Giotto began building the bell tower of the present-day Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, flanking the church’s facade. Three years later, the artist died, and the construction of the Bell Tower was then carried on by Andrea Pisano, who finished the first two floors following Giotto’s design and finished in 1359 by Francesco Talenti after work was interrupted due to the spread of the Black Death in Florence. Talenti’s idea is also the large terrace that acts as a panoramic rooftop and is the highest reachable point of the Campanile.
Made with a square base, about 15 meters wide, the Campanile soars 84.70 meters high at the side of the Cathedral, with which it shares the characteristic facing, made of white, red and green marble.
The exterior sculptural decoration of the Bell Tower is extremely rich and vibrant: it features hexagonal tiles, lozenges, reliefs and life-size statues.
The tiles and lozenges represent the concept of universal ordering and the history of Redemption. At the same time, the reliefs narrate the Creation of Man and his activities, the influence of the Planets on man’s life, his Virtues, the Liberal Arts and the Sacraments. There are also 16 life-size statues placed in the niches and the work of several 14th- and 15th-century Florentine masters, including Andrea Pisano and Donatello.
Copies have replaced the works over time, but the originals are still displayed in the Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo.
The bell tower has seven bells. The largest bell is called Santa Reparata, in honour of the saint to whom the ancient cathedral is dedicated. The others are called the Misericordia, the Apostolica, the Assunta, the Mater Dei, the Annunziata and the Immacolata, all names related to the Madonna after whom the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is named.