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December 18, 2019

The New Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of Florence

The great artists of the Renaissance, in one great museum

The new Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, house of the world's largest collection of medieval sculpture and Renaissance Florentine. 750 works including statues and reliefs in marble, bronze and silver, including masterpieces of the greatest artists of the time: Michelangelo, Donatello, Arnolfo di Cambio, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano, Antonio Pollaiuolo, Luca della Robbia, Andrea del Verrocchio and many more.

Over 200 works visible for the first time to the public after restoration, among them Mary Magdalene by Donatello, the North Gate of Lorenzo Ghiberti for the baptistery of Florence and twenty-seven panels embroidered in gold and polychrome silk designed by Antonio del Pollaiolo.

In the new museum are located also many works never before seen or kept in storage for decades, as the fourteenth and fifteen statues almost seventy fragments of medieval facade of the Duomo.

Founded in 1881, in the environments where Michelangelo sculpted David, to collect the works carried out over the centuries by the monuments of Florence Cathedral, the historic Cathedral Museum presented an insufficient space to house the extensive collection, mostly made up of monumental works.

Why in 1997 the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore bought a large building adjacent to the museum. The union of the two buildings was born the new Museo dell'Opera del Duomo which has nearly 6,000 square meters of exhibition space, more than doubled compared to the past, and 25 rooms on three floors, some of which are of enormous dimensions.

A spectacular new staging of the museum finally able to capitalize on the world masterpieces such as Michelangelo's Pieta, Mary Magdalene and the prophets of Donatello, the Choir of Luca della Robbia and Donatello, the legendary Heaven's Gate and North Gate of Lorenzo Ghiberti's Baptistery of Florence.

At the center of the museum the spectacular Hall of Ancient facade, where one side was made a colossal scale model 1:1 of the old façade of the Cathedral of Florence designed by Arnolfo di Cambio since 1296, never finished and destroyed in 1587. Faced with this titanic fifth, reconstructed on the basis of a sixteenth-century design, will be placed 40 statues originally made for the facade by artists like Arnolfo di Cambio, Donatello and Nanni di Banco.

Across the hall, the Gate of Paradise (1425-52) named by Michelangelo "that will return to occupy the front position than the old facade of the Duomo, rebuilding a relationship visual and iconographic lost more than 400 years ago," he says Timothy Verdon.

Next to the Heaven's Gate the famous North Gate of the Baptistery in Florence, and in the future also the South Gate of Andrea Pisano, which was restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure with exceptional results beyond all expectations: in the dirt and surface deposits re-emerged the beautiful original gilding, still present after six centuries, in sculptural reliefs of the 28 panels, the heads of the Prophets and Sibille and beautiful frieze with plant motifs teeming with small animals.

Next to the dining Ancient facade, the rooms that house the works of greater spiritual impact of the collection: the Penitent Magdalene by Donatello and Michelangelo's Pieta (1547-1555). The latter is one of the most mysterious of the great artist, perhaps intended for his tomb, Michelangelo in despair tried to destroy it with a hammer. La Maddalena (1453-55), a masterpiece by Donatello and early Renaissance Florence, is an old woman devoured by years and penance, so thin just to stand on his feet. At the same time the figure unleashes a great inner strength in her eyes full of tenderness and devotion.

Upstairs is the gallery of the Giotto's bell tower, 36 meters long, with 16 life-size statues - including overtime Donatello prophets Habakkuk, Jeremiah, the prophet Imberbe and The Sacrifice of Isaac - and the 54 panels that adorned the bell . This room, like the one on the top floor of the same size, has openings from which you see the impressive model of Arnolfo's facade of the Duomo, in a continuous visual dialogue.

A museum in the museum is the gallery of the dome by Brunelleschi (1418-1436), always on the first floor, with wooden models of the fifteenth century, including one attributed to Brunelleschi, materials and tools of the time used for the construction of the dome and the death mask of the great architect. The room is completed, two large wooden models of the Lantern and dome designed by the Franco Gizdulich.

A few steps and you enter the Gallery Choir by Donatello and Luca della Robbia with two big pulpits made between 1431 and 1439 for the cathedral; alongside an octagonal room with 25 reliefs from sixteenth-century choir built by Baccio Bandinelli and the room of the Altar Silver where are works that were part of the "Treasury of the Baptistery".

On the second floor of the museum, another gallery, the efforts of the Medici for "modernizing" the Cathedral: large wooden models for the new facade of the Duomo, to replace the dismantled in 1587, of Bernardo Buontalenti, Giovanni Antonio Dosio, Gherardo Silvani and ephemeral statues and paintings made for the wedding of Grand Duke Ferdinand I to Princess Cristina of Lorraine in 1589.

At the end of the tunnel a little room where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the dome by Brunelleschi, as the third floor, where you have a wonderful panoramic sun terrace, the rooftops of Florence.

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