The founding father of Renaissance architecture, Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi, crowned Florence’s skyline forever when he built the dome for Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (St. Mary of the Flower Cathedral), commonly known as the Duomo. On Aug. 7, 1420, Brunelleschi began the incredible engineering feat of creating an octagonal dome about 108 feet high with no external support. On Aug. 30, 1436, the dome was complete, and a symbol of the Italian Renaissance spirit was forever set in stone.
“The Duomo,” a new documentary, focuses on how Brunelleschi came to imagine, design, and build Florence’s iconic cathedral dome. The recently released documentary, just under nine minutes, is the first in a planned series of inspiring short films by the New York-based team of filmmakers Inspired Original. The aim of each film is to honor the achievements of the world’s great artists who stayed true to traditional art and values.
The Inspired Original team cherishes the “universal values inherent in traditional art.” The team consists of filmmakers, producers, writers, artists, and designers dedicated to creating content that reinvigorates those virtues to support traditional arts, culture, and education. Inspired Original believes that creating such content can instill hope and faith for future generations.
Inspired Original has succeeded with this effort. The filmmakers have done just what the Renaissance masters did when they looked to ancient Rome: They have sought out the best examples of art to show to the world.
In this first documentary, American narrator Monsignor Timothy Verdon takes us into the heart of Brunelleschi’s Florence to the Duomo. Verdon is the perfect guide: Not only has he lived in Italy for some 50 years, but he’s also an art historian, Roman Catholic priest, and canon of the Florence cathedral. He also directs the diocesan office of sacred art and church cultural heritage, and the cathedral museum.
As he narrates, Verdon’s voice quietly commands us to contemplate the majesty of the great cathedral and look up to Brunelleschi’s greatest artistic achievement. Verdon’s impassioned storytelling is interspersed with beautiful shots of both the inside and outside of the Duomo as he walks through the cathedral or looks up in awe into the dome.
Brunelleschi’s story of making his glorious dome is a tale full of perseverance, confidence, and above all, faith in God. The documentary begins with the artist’s defeat: He decided to become an architect after he lost a sculpture competition to make the doors for Florence’s Baptistery. Brunelleschi lost to Lorenzo Ghiberti, and the pair became lifelong rivals.
Actors in Renaissance dress delightfully portray Brunelleschi and those in his life as he studies the buildings and monuments of ancient Rome, and show how he entered (and won) the biggest architectural competition with an egg—you’ll have to see the documentary to find out how!
The lessons Brunelleschi learns are not just about art but also life. Verdon says that Brunelleschi endured scathing criticism throughout his career and many times wanted to give up, but he kept going. Although not quoted in the film, Brunelleschi, in an exchange of sonnets, wrote: “When hope is given us by Heaven, . . . we rise above corruptible matter/and gain the strength of clearest sight. … “
“The Duomo” is a thoughtful and thought-provoking documentary, in which the beauty of Brunelleschi’s architecture is perfectly balanced with appropriate storytelling alongside stunning cinematography. It may just be a hymn to traditional architecture.
To watch “The Duomo,” or to find out more about Inspired Original, visit InspiredOriginal.org