Giotto's bell tower is one of the four principal components of the Piazza del Duomo.
84.70 meters in height and about 15 meters wide, it is the most eloquent testimony of fourteenth-century Florentine Gothic architecture which, though with a vertical momentum, does not abandon the principle of solidity.
It has angular reinforcements right up to the horizontally projecting coping.
Faced with white, red and green marbles like the Cathedral, the majestic square-base bell tower, considered the most beautiful in Italy – probably created more as a decorative rather than functional element – was begun by Giotto in 1334.
By his death in 1337, Giotto had only seen the realization of the first part of the project, up to the height of the hexagonal panels, a sort of figurative narration by Andrea Pisano on Giotto's drawings, and the reliefs, originally on blue fields, by Andrea Pisano and Luca Della Robbia.
Continued by Andrea Pisano who completed the first two levels respecting Giotto's project, the bell tower was embellished with the external lozenge-shaped decoration also with the intervention of Alberto Arnoldi.
The rich decorative apparatus of the hexagonal and lozenge panels expresses the concept of universal order and the story of Redemption.
The reliefs begin with the Creation of man and continue with the representation of his activities, the Planets that regulate the course of his existence, the Virtues that strengthen him, the Liberal Arts that educate him and the Sacraments that sanctify him.
The statues merit separate mention. They were conceived more as integrating elements of the edifice rather than as decorative components.
On the second level, instead of bas-reliefs, Andrea Pisano inserted sixteen niches destined to contain figures of Kings and Sibyls and statues of the Patriarchs and Prophets, the latter of which were also executed by Nanni di Banco and Donatello, including the beautiful sculptural group of the Sacrifice of Isaac by Donatello which represents one of the loftiest conquests of fifteenth-century naturalism in sculpture.
For conservational reasons, the originals of all of the sculptures are in the Museo dell'Opera. Above the second strip, Andrea Pisano made) sixteen more blind niches drawn on the marble.
Work was halted for two years, from 1348 to 1350, but the Campanile was completed in 1359, after the terrible years of the Black Death, by Francesco Talenti, ingenious creator of the large windows of the upper level, whose merits include the structure’s interaction with light, thanks to the Sienese style double mullioned windows and the large triple lancet windows, thus making the construction elegantly Gothic, though maintaining the classical composition of the whole.
A large terrace situated at the top of more than 400 stairs and projecting outwards, forming a panoramic roof, is the last element we owe to Talenti who thus rejects Giotto's project of the cuspidated spire roof.
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Opera del Duomo