Not only pigeons, doves, and owls, but also cats, foxes, and deer left their mark in the sky of the Tuscan capital
The monumental cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore designed by Filippo Brunelleschi was completed in 1436. Nevertheless, with its 114.5 meters of height, it still remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. And its incredible structure is a testament to the genius of the Florentine engineer. Recently, during the restoration work in preparation for the celebrations for the 600th anniversary, workers found about a hundred sets of animal prints on the terracotta tiles at the top of the Duomo.
The tracks emerged at varying heights, up to 90 meters from the underlying square. Several are signs of birds: doves, pigeons, hawks, owls, and ancient birds of prey. However, to the north, on one of the oldest tiles, there is the footprint of a cat. To the west, there are traces of a fox and a dog. While further to the east, the marks on the tiles were left by a deer. Another track, a few meters away, reminds us of a weasel tracks.
Recently, during the restoration work in preparation for the celebrations for the 600th anniversary, workers found about a hundred sets of animal prints on the terracotta tiles at the top of the Duomo
The workers of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the institution that preserves the monuments of Piazza del Duomo in Florence, were initially surprised by the permanent reminders of this zoo. The mystery was unraveled going back to the handicraft production of the terracotta cover. Brunelleschi turned to the famous artisans in Impruneta, on the hills out of town, to commission them the tiles to be used as roofing. These were dried in the open air and, thus, subject to the transit of animals that, walking on them, left their prints. Architect Samuele Caciagli, head of the technical area of the Opera, explained: “They are imprints that animals made on the terracotta tiles left to dry in the sun before being cooked in the kilns of Impruneta. Where Filippo Brunelleschi had chosen the material to cover his dome.”
However, on the tiles up in the Florentine sky, there are not only animal footprints but also small crosses, whose meaning is still to be deciphered, hearts, to testify the eternal romance of centuries-old loves. It is also possible to see the trademarks of the ancient furnaces as well as the fingerprints of the skillful hands that kneaded the clay.
The original terracotta tiles date back to 1419, “Certainly, there are ancient animal tracks on some of the original tiles, but there are traces from all periods because the terracotta drying process is still basically the same today as it was 600 years ago,” said Caciagli.
Ilona Catani Scarlett