Florence’s Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo has nothing at all to do with opera. Instead, it is all about the work, or opera, involved in building, preserving and maintaining one of the most recognizable Renaissance buildings in the world—Florence’s Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
A spectacular view of Brunelleschi’s dome from Caffe La Terrazza.
If you’ve ever wanted to see how Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome was constructed, learn what the other options were for the Duomo’s facade, or see the remarkable art treasures once housed in the cathedral, this is the place to come.
Welcome to the recently reopened and reimagined Museo del’Opera del Duomo.
Soaring galleries give visitors a new perspective on the superb sculpture on display at the museum.
Re-opened in October 2015 after years of restoration and reconstruction, the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo has an exquisite collection of sculpture, paintings and other masterworks displayed on three floors in 6,000 square meters of exhibit space, all designed to showcase the art to its best visual and historical advantage.
A visitor gets an up close look at a statue in the museum.
Most of the works were at one time in, or outside the Duomo.
These sculptures once graced niches in Giotto’s bell tower.
Some of the treasures to be found include the original North Doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of San Giovanni along with the Doors of Paradise by Lorenzo and Vittorio Ghiberti. Replicas now hang on the Baptistry.
Ghiberti’s stunning Doors of Paradise and North Door once graced the Baptistry of San Giovanni but can now be found inside the museum.
Detail of door.
In all, the museum boasts 750 works of art covering 720 years of history.
Arnolfo di Cambio’s stunning Christ with the Soul of Mary
This exquisite silver alter features scenes from the life of John the Baptist and was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Betto di Geri, Bernardo Cennini, Antonio di Salvi, Francesco and Leonardo di Giovanni, Antonio del Pollaiolo and Andrea del Verrocchio.
Michelangelo’s poignant pieta, sculpture by Donatello including his magnificent Mary Magdalene as Penitent, and works by Andrea Pisano, Antonio Pollaiolo, Arnolfo di Cambio and other highly regarded Medieval and Renaissance artists are on display.
Michelangelo sculpted this pieta for his own tomb. He later destroyed it. It was reconstructed and acquired by Cosimo de Medici In 1671 and placed in the Duomo in 1722. It was the next to last sculpture Michelangelo ever created.
Donatello’s Mary Magdalene as Penitent draws many visitors.
Sacred items and iconography are part of the museum’s extensive collection.
In the Cappella Musicale, or music gallery, you will hear enchanting sacred music, and find works by Luca della Robbia and others, as well as rare illuminated music books.
Beautiful music fills this gallery where rare illustrated books, sacred objects and art treasures are displayed.
Brunelleschi’s dome, still considered a marvel of engineering, remains one of Florence’s most iconic monuments.
Models of Brunelleschi’s dome show how it was built and why it remains an engineering marvel.
In addition to the art treasures, the museum contains original building materials, equipment and tools, dating back to the Duomo’s 15th century construction.
Wooden pulleys, ropes and other original construction equipment used to build the Duomo can be seen at the museum.
Original 15th century tools and equipment used to build the Duomo are displayed near a continuously running film that explores the design and construction.
Also featured are drawings and models of the dome and Giotto’s bell tower, which was begun in 1334, after Giotto’s death. An outdoor terrace offers splendid views of the dome.
Brunelleschi’s wooden model of the dome fascinates visitors.
A detailed model of the bell tower designed by Giotto is on display near beautiful stained glass windows created by notables including Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccelli and Andrea del Castagno.
Visitors to the museum will learn about the history of this spectacular cathedral, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and dedicated in 1412. The name Santa Maria del Fiore means St. Mary of the Flowers or Virgin of the Flowers. Once the largest church in all of Europe, today it is third in size, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A film called Courage to Dare about Florence during the Renaissance and the creation and construction of the Duomo runs continuously in the museum.
A number of possibilities considered for the Duomo’s facade are on display, including this one.
Combination tickets can be purchased for the Duomo Museum, the Baptistery, the bell tower and the Crypt of Santa Reparta, named for the 7th century church that once stood on the site of the Duomo. There is no charge to enter the Duomo, but paid tickets are required for visitors who wish to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the bell tower.
The Baptistry of San Giovanni always draws crowds. Tickets are required to enter.
Appropriate clothing is essential for entry. In other words, no shorts, short skirts or skimpy, shoulder baring tops on women or men. Bulky bags and backpacks must be checked. Visit www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it for information on ticket prices, hours and tours.
Admission to the Duomo is free but take care to dress appropriately or you will be denied entry.
On our visit, we also had free access to a photographic exhibition called Opera di Viva by Michele Pecchioli, which paid tribute to the hundreds of men and women who have worked to preserve the artistic integrity and cultural heritage of the building and the art works within for more than 700 years.
Michele Pecchioli’s photographs pay tribute to the men and women who restore and preserve the art and cultural heritage of Florence’s iconic Duomo.
The photos feature the restorers, artists, employees and security guards who play a role in safeguarding these treasurers and ensuring public access to the works for years to come. Note: This was a temporary exhibition and may now longer be available for viewing.
A close up of a security guard charged with safeguarding the priceless treasures at the Duomo and its museum.
When the sun begins to set in Florence, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo for another perspective on the Duomo —and enjoy the gorgeous vista across the Arno over the city.
Some of the most spectacular views of Florence can be had from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful San Miniato al Monte across the street. It’s the oldest church in Florence, after the Baptistry.
Florence’s Duomo viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The department store La Rinescente has a terrace restaurant with fine views of the Duomo, as well as drinks and light fare.
If you crave an aperitivo with your sunset and Duomo views, go to La Rinascente, the department store on Piazza Repubblica. Go directly up to La Terrazza on the top floor and you’ll find a little rooftop café/bar with great views of the city and the iconic dome. It gets crowded so get there early or be prepared to wait.
Sensational sunset view over the Piazza della Repubblica from Caffe La Terrazza.