Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: Brunelleschi's Dome

No, this isn't a book about an Italian guy with a big head, although Filippo Brunelleschi certainly had a massive ego. Brunelleschi's Dome is about the city of Florence generally during one of the greatest periods of genius and creativity in human history. It is also, specifically, about the life of Filippo Brunelleschi, a classic genius of the Italian Renaissance, and his magnificent dome which dominates the skyline of Florence to this day. Like so many of his contemporaries, Brunelleschi had a high level of expertise in a variety of fields. He was an artist, an engineer, a craftsman, an historian, and an overall solver of impossible problems. He was also a bit of a whack-job whose failures were nearly as spectacular as his successes.

With this book, Ross King has penned an engrossing popular biography of Brunelleschi, as well as a history of the construction of his famous dome. While the book goes into some detail regarding the engineering behind the construction of the dome, the prose is never heavy and is written so that the layman, such as myself, never gets bored or lost.

My wife and I visited Italy in 2000 and climbing to the top of the Duomo was one of the high points (literally!) of the trip. I wish I had read this book beforehand! I therefore highly recommend it to anyone who is planning a visit to Florence. It will give you that much more appreciation for the amount of work--and genius--that went into the construction of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

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