“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself.”
Galileo Galilei…Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher. (1564-1642)
In the article woodworkers can discover decorative woodworking patterns from the architectural millwork and custom moulding of the beautiful Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo in Florence, Italy. Upon seeing this cathedral, I instantly knew this was without question, the most breathtaking piece of architecture I have ever witnessed. Now, keep in mind that these stunning details from the church’s facade are of marble, however the same design layouts can be used in the woodworking shop to create similar millwork. The architectural design and the level of craftsmanship is simply awe-inspiring. It is for this reason I’d like to share it with my fellow woodworkers and finish carpenters.
Work on the facade started in 1871 and was finished in 1887. Take a minute to think about the amount of planning and effort that went into designing the facade. What means and equipment was used to gather the marble from the quarry? How did men shape the marble for the architectural millwork and what tools did they use to create the custom moulding? What type of scaffolding and hoisting apparatus was implemented to aid the craftsman as they worked on the church’s facade? While it is astonishing to witness the finished product, it is equally intriguing to imagine the Santa Maria del Fiore when it was a construction site in the middle of Florence.
It stands to reason that men were quite busy excavating the white marble in Carrara, Italy at this time. The marble would then need to be shaped by skilled craftsmen in their shops to the architect’s specifications and then transported into Florence. Once at the Cathedral, imagine the necessary care taken as the heavy marble was hoisted up the scaffolding with rope and wooden pulleys. What source of power was used to raise the marble millwork upwards? Was the material raised by oxen, horses, or did men use winches to pull up the marble? One’s imagination automatically takes over once in the presence of the Santa Maria del Fiore as it is overwhelmingly beautiful.
The architectural components are simply elegant and yet they are anything but simple. Check out the following: The dentil moulding is actually coved instead of being cut square. The spiraled marble columns are embellished with a repetitive design of cross shaped, green marble inlays. The finely sculpted floral millwork on the left adds a wonderfully tasteful element to the entire composition. The angel in the centerpiece is framed within an elongated hexagon. Notice how this feature adds a three dimensional element to the facade by creating negative space as does the framed box with carvings and mouldings below.
As a woodworker studies the architectural millwork and custom moulding of the Santa Maria del Fiore, he or she will naturally wonders how this work could be duplicated in the woodworking shop. The decorative woodworking patterns of the columns could be turned on a wood lathe, carved to the spiral design, and then the cross shaped wood inlay could then be inserted into place. The coved dentils seem easy enough to create and apply as does the framework of the moulding. Next it is simply a matter of sculpting the floral millwork and then the angel. Simple enough! (yeah…right!)
Keep in mind that this is just a sampling of the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore and yet there is plenty of detail and craftsmanship in these examples. Understanding that this work was done by hand gives a woodworker a great appreciation for the skills and the dedication of the men who worked on this project. The magnificent Duomo is a work of art and a testament to the skills of these men. The Santa Maria del Fiore along with the genius of these craftsmen will be visited often and appreciated for many years to come.
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