Building the Italian Renaissance
eBook - ePub

Building the Italian Renaissance

Brunelleschi's Dome and the Florence Cathedral

Paula Kay Lazrus

  1. 82 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

Building the Italian Renaissance

Brunelleschi's Dome and the Florence Cathedral

Paula Kay Lazrus

Detalles del libro
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Índice
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Información del libro

Building the Italian Renaissance focuses on the competition to select a team to execute the final architectural challenge of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore--the erection of its dome. Although the model for the dome was widely known, the question of how this was to be accomplished was the great challenge of the age. This dome would be the largest ever built. This is foremost a technical challenge but it is also a philosophical one. The project takes place at an important time for Florence. The city is transitioning from a High Medieval world view into the new dynamics and ideas and will lead to the full flowering of what we know as the Renaissance. Thus the competition at the heart of this game plays out against the background of new ideas about citizenship, aesthetics, history (and its application to the present), and new technology. The central challenge is to expose players to complex and multifaceted situations and to individuals that animated life in Florence in the early 1400s. Humanism as a guiding philosophy is taking root and scholars are looking for ways to link the mercantile city to the glories of Rome and to the wisdom of the ancients across many fields. The aesthetics of the classical world (buildings, plastic arts and intellectual pursuits) inspired wonder, perhaps even envy, but the new approaches to the past by scholars such as Petrarch suggested that perhaps the creative classes are not simply crafts people, but men of ideas. Three teams compete for the honor to construct the dome, a project overseen by the Arte Della Lana (wool workers guild) and judged by them and a group of Florentine citizens who are merchants, aristocrats, learned men, and laborers. Their goal is to make the case for the building to live up to the ideals of Florence. The game gives students a chance to enter into the world of Florence in the early 1400s to develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of such a major artistic and technical undertaking while providing an opportunity to grasp the interdisciplinary nature of major public works.

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Información

Año
2019
ISBN
9781469653402
Categoría
History
Categoría
Italian History
1
Introduction
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE GAME
This game focuses on the competition to complete the final phase of construction on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence in 1418. It was the great challenge of a generation of workers to figure out how to execute the dome designed by Nero di Fioravanti, a project that consumed the lives of many of Florence’s citizens and that has provided food for thought and debate for many generations of Florentines, foreign scholars, and visitors. Throughout the nearly century and a quarter during which the cathedral was being built, Florence saw a period of enormous economic growth and prosperity, and with that came a desire to thank God for those riches through the construction of churches, chapels, hospitals, public civic buildings, and plazas filled with art. Sometimes these projects were little more than ways for the wealthy to display their power and intellectual bona fides. In other cases, works of art or buildings might demonstrate to the citizenship that a leader was grateful for his good fortune and/or to promote the ideals of the day. The distinctions we make today among disciplines as diverse as engineering and mathematics, philosophy and art were less acute during the period in question, one in which the basic concepts of what should be taught and what makes for a good citizen were in flux. The early Florentine projects represent the foundations leading to a flowering of art and culture that is known as the Renaissance, a period of intellectual and creative exploration that was grounded in an appreciation for human achievements, past and present, today referred to as humanism.1 The game will allow you to investigate the intersection of the creative ideas, practical skills, and ideas about applying past knowledge to current problem sets and their intersection with the newly articulated ideas about the development of a good society.
The early 1400s were a moment of scholarly ferment with new ideas emerging that were developed by intellectuals looking to understand how best to develop good citizens, citizens who are crucial to the healthy functioning of a republic that requires civic participation. Florence prided itself on the fact that it was an independent republic finding its roots in its original self-governing structure as a simple municipality in the twelfth century. It was proud of the fact that as it grew and prospered it did not fall to a prince or duke (at least until the sixteenth century), but rather remained independent, governed by its citizens even as it undertook to expand its territory to include other municipalities within the surrounding territory (such as Arezzo and Pisa).
This was also a time when many manuscripts from the Roman era once thought lost to common usage were beginning to come to light through chance discoveries in monastery libraries. They were being translated from Latin, Arabic, or Greek into Italian. Some of these challenged received wisdom from the past. Others provided information about methods and ideas that had vanished with time. In fact, several crucial ancient works had only just been rediscovered and made available for study at the time our game begins. A copy of Vitruvius’s De Architectura (On Architecture) was uncovered in 1414 in Saint Gallen, Switzerland. It contained instructions for building the kinds of monuments that people could see (some in ruins) and marvel at. How, Florentines and others of the early Renaissance wondered, could the ancients have built these amazing structures? What tools did they use? It seemed almost impossible to some that people living so long ago could have constructed the immense temples and other buildings still visible in towns and in the countryside, and yet, there they stood for all to see. Today, we look back on the monuments of the past and think much the same thing. On the other hand, the new thinking of the period encouraged people to value and exalt the skills and creativity of past individuals and try to apply it to current projects. Vitruvius not only wrote of the great ancient monuments and their proportions, decorations, and settings but provided information on the technologies used to build them. It is a key text for this game, as are the challenges facing those who wanted to see the dome completed. Those who would attempt to understand what Vitruvius was aiming for and apply it in their own work would be acting within the world of humanistic ideals.
The game is set in the period that the ideas that would become known as humanism were first being explored. Some people date the beginning of these ideas to the works of Petrarch in the 1330s. He wrote to convince people of the value of classical thinking as opposed to the then common reliance on the direction and faith of the church. This was quite contrary to the common way of thinking that did not look to the individual’s contributions and worth as something developed by the individual but rather given by God. Some of the texts written roughly within the time frame of the game (early 1400s) developed ideas concerning what made Florence unique, or what made for a good citizen or a good society. They questioned earlier interpretations and ideas about how Florence was founded and what made for a strong civic society and proposed new ones. This questioning of received knowledge becomes fundamental to humanist thinking. Works like those written by Leonardo Bruni and Petrus Paulus Vergerius, which are among the texts for this game, provide some of the fundamental ideas and mindsets of Florentines at this critical moment.
Florence also had citizens whom today we might consider more practical in nature, that is, the artisans and the merchants; yet they too wrote important works. They wrote about art and about perspective (how to give the illusion of space in a painting or building), and they wrote about business and trade and foreign relations. In fact, the things that concern them in some cases still concern us today. One significant difference is that Florentines in the early 1400s valued people with very broad skill sets. A businessman might also be a musician, or an artist, or if he were not so inclined, he might use his money to support the work of such people. Those who funded projects and commissioned art and architecture and music were patrons (supporters) of those fields. The artists themselves sought out these people in order to make a living. In sum, this idea that humans can contribute to the well-being of society from its social and economic foundations to its cultural expressions without divine intervention was fundamental to the new way of thinking.
Another major force in our game and within Florentine society at this time was its guilds. Artisans in a wide variety of fields were organized into groups by the labor they engaged in. They had to pass a review of their skills to be admitted, and once a part of the guild they were also, to a degree, responsible for one another, and to their city. The members of the guilds were also more than just painters, or wool workers, or carpenters. They had to have basic business knowledge to stay afloat and know how much to produce and whom to sell to. Some might also have been “chemists” (although the term didn’t exist yet) because they needed to turn minerals into pigments for paints and dyes. Others might have been “architects” (although the term didn’t exist yet), using their mathematical and engineering skills to design and build a wide variety of structures. Members of all guilds needed to be conversant enough in what we would consider business and political skills to govern their organizations and if their turn came, to serve in public office. Guilds were also commissioned to work on civic projects such as building churches and hospitals, and by 1418 they were often doing this work on behalf of the Florentine government. As a result they can be seen as important players within the city, and their members were respected members of the community. Today we live in a world where people are sometimes hyperspecialized. There is a reason we use the term “Renaissance man” or “Renaissance woman” for someone with wide-ranging curiosity and talent. It reflects the multiple levels of knowledge that people back then regularly acquired, most often by self-study and hands-on, just-see-if-it-works experience.
In this game you will become one of the members of this Florentine society. You may have to do research into several different fields in order to understand the ideas and the talents that your character requires, or to be able to ask probing questions of the teams who will be proposing plans for the final construction phase of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the dome. The heart of this game revolves around the Wool Guild’s (Arte della Lana) search for a group that can propose how the dome might be constructed. The Wool Guild is one of the oldest and wealthiest of Florence’s guilds and has been guiding this project for more than 100 years. The guild announced a competition to complete this major project, and a committee of Florentine citizens is gathered to help advise the guild in making a choice. All of you will be engaged either in presenting proposals for completing the dome or in judging that the proposals meet both the physical requirements (as laid out in the announcement asking for proposals) and the intellectual and aesthetic ideals of your beloved city. This may include exploring the importance of relatively new artistic techniques for creating perspective in paintings and how well ancient techniques are reflected in the construction or in exploring how larger ideas of knowledge or governing make Florence unique. The competition is not in fact about what the dome will look like, because that is already known from an existing model created by Neri di Fioravanti that sits in an aisle of the uncompleted church. The question is how it will be executed.
In this activity you are either members of one of three teams vying for the commission to build the dome or among the citizens who are deciding what will work best both for the building and for Florence and its reputation. The challenge for those who are members of the competing teams is to suggest how the work can be accomplished. For the other citizens it is to be informed enough to make a good decision bringing to bear the knowledge from each person’s background as well as the greater ideas of the day. You will have to do research on what materials to use, how they might be standardized, how they might be hoisted into place, whether it is possible to work from multiple sides all at once, and so on. This may seem daunting, but as Tim Ingold has learned doing field work, “to know things you have to grow into them, and let them grow in you, so that they become a part of who you are.”2 His point is that what you learn through experience and action is deeper than what you learn by being told, and that experiential and active learning is at the heart of this activity. To figure out how this dome can be built and to advocate for your various positions, you will do research in order for you to feel confident either making a proposal or judging one. You can make models and test them out to see what stands or collapses. There are resources provided for you in the core texts for this game book, but you should feel inspired to go beyond and find more information. In this activity, as in much of life, Knowledge Is Power.
There is also the question of decoration and how the finished church and dome will fit in with the growing city’s ideas and architecture. What will the decorative program for the dome be, if there even is one? How will it fit in with the rest of the church as construction on it finishes or with the baptistry across the plaza? Is the project too big or too flamboyant, perhaps casting a negative light on Florence? Does it favor the ingenuity of human genius over the divine, and is that a problem? The technical, artistic, and philosophical issues are what drive the game and should influence your decisions in making your proposal or selecting the winning one for constructing the dome. For a better idea of where key buildings and public spaces are located in Florence, please see figure 1.3
PROLOGUE: HOW TO BUILD THE DOME
The sun is shining and the air is warm and humid as you make your way down the narrow Via dei Banchi toward the Baptistry of San Giovanni. You are grateful for the shade given by overhanging balconies. How beautiful Florence is! Even though you have lived here all your life, you are continually amazed at the beautiful churches and public buildings, how the city’s layout leads from cool streets to open sunny piazzas or even cooler churches where one can rest and admire the beautiful artwork that adorns them. The beauty you appreciate is the work of many local artisans and the foresight and hard work of your fellow citizens. It makes you feel good that Florence’s position as a republic means you are personally invested in your city.
As you come upon the baptistry, you note its octagonal shape and the beautiful black and white marbles used in its construction. You stop a moment to see if any more work has been done on the big...

Índice

  1. Cover
  2. Series Page
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright
  5. Contents
  6. List of Figures and Tables
  7. 1. Introduction
  8. 2. Historical Background
  9. 3. The Game
  10. 4. Roles and Factions
  11. 5. Core Texts
  12. Appendix
  13. Supplemental Documents
  14. Acknowledgments