Part A: Bibliography

Filippo Brunelleschi was born in Florence Italy in 1377. He was an innovative architect and engineer in the Italian Renaissance. Brunelleschi was originally trained as a goldsmith and sculptor; he enrolled at Arte della Seta, and was a respectful master goldsmith around the turn of the century. In 1401, Brunelleschi competed against Ghiberti for the commission of the bronze reliefs for the door of Florentine baptistery. Brunelleschi entered the “The Sacrifice of Isaac” was a high point in his sculptor career. Unfortunately, he lost to Ghiberti in the contest for the commission. His disappointment with his loss led him to explore more genres such as architecture. From 1402-1404, Brunelleschi traveled with Donatello to visit the ruins in Rome. The trips had significant effects on Brunelleschi and he mainly focused on architecture in the following decades.

Part B: Famous Artworks


  1. 1.       The Ospedale Degli Innocenti

    Ospedale degli Innocenti

    Ospedale degli Innocenti

This is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Brunelleschi received this commission in 1419. It is regarded as one of the examples of the early Italian Renaissance architecture. This building was originally a children’s orphanage, but later changed into a hospital. The clean and clear sense of proportion is reflected in the building. The height of the columns is the same width of the intercolumniation and the width of the arcade is equal to the height of the column, making each bay a cube. The simple proportions of the building reflect a new age, of secular education and a sense of great order and clarity. Also half the height of the column is the height of the entablature, which is appropriate for a clear-minded society.


  1. 2.       The Sacrifice of  Issac

    Sacrifice of Isaac

    Sacrifice of Isaac

In 1401, the guild of wool merchants called the Arte di Calimala announced a competition for the second set of doors.  This competition began one of the greatest artistic rivalries of all time and it fueled the creative genius of two of the Italian Renaissance’s greatest artists, Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti.  The competitors were to prepare a bronze panel depicting Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

The picture depicts Brunelleschi’s entry for this competition. The panel created by Brunelleschi depicts the strong Abraham holding his son, Isaac, by the throat with his left hand as he is about to slash his throat with a dagger held in his right hand.  The angel reaches out and grabs Abraham’s hand before the mortal slash is rendered.  The ram stuck in the thicket lies in front of Isaac.  In addition, two servants and a donkey are at the bottom of the panel.  Brunelleschi’s work is by far more dramatic and disturbing, all angles and movement and raw emotion. Ghiberti’s piece, on the other hand, is more elegant and beautiful. The judges declared a tie between the two artists and encouraged them to work on the door together. However, Brunelleschi’s ego was badly damaged and declared to withdraw. This experience led him to pursue a career in architecture.

  1. The Florence Cathedral

Brunelleschi designed the Dome for the Florence Cathedral, which is also known as Santa Maria de Fiore. In 1418, the Arte della Lana, the wool merchant’s guild, held a competition for the commission of the dome. Again, it was between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. This time, Brunelleschi won the commission and created this Duomo for the Florence Cathedral.

Part C: Work in Focus

Duomo - Santa Maria dei Fiori, Florence

Duomo – Santa Maria dei Fiori, Florence

Brunelleschi designed the Dome for the Florence Cathedral. Originally, the Dome was designed in a Gothic style by Giovanni di Lapo Ghini. The rejection to use traditional buttresses marked the break from medieval Gothic style and the start of Italian Renaissance.

The building of such a masonry dome posed many technical problems. Brunelleschi looked to the great dome of the Pantheon in Rome for solutions.  A wooden form had held the Pantheon dome aloft while its concrete set, but there was not enough timber in Tuscany to build the scaffolding and forms.[9] Brunelleschi chose to follow such design and employed a double shell, made of sandstone and marble. Brunelleschi would have to build the dome out of bricks, due to its light weight compared to stone and easier to form, and with nothing under it during construction.

Brunelleschi’s solutions were ingenious. The spreading problem was solved by a set of four internal horizontal stone and iron chains, serving as barrel hoops, embedded within the inner dome: one each at the top and bottom, with the remaining two evenly spaced between them. A fifth chain, made of wood, was placed between the first and second of the stone chains. Since the dome was octagonal rather than round, a simple chain, squeezing the dome like a barrel hoop, would have put all its pressure on the eight corners of the dome. The chains needed to be rigid octagons, stiff enough to hold their shape, so as not to deform the dome as they held it together.

A circular masonry dome can be built without supports, called centering, because each course of bricks is a horizontal arch that resists compression.

He was declared the winner over his competitors Lorenzo Ghiberti and Antonio Ciaccheri. His design was for an octagonal lantern with eight radiating buttresses and eight high arched windows.

The dome is a huge accomplishment in Brunelleschi’s career, it still dominates the panorama of Florence. It is still the largest masonry dome in the world.


“Filippo Brunelleschi Biography.” A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

King, Ross. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. New York: Walker &, 2000. Print.