Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek
What is a Cathedral?
The word cathedral is derived from the Greed kata, meaning down, and hedra, meaning seat or chair. The term cathedral was originally used as an adjective describing a type of church. A "cathedral church" was a church that was the prominent church of a given diocese and the in which the head of that diocese resided.
Overview of Renaissance Architecture
Prior to the Renaissance, the common form of architecture was known as "Gothic Architecture." Characteristic features of Gothic architecture included:
- Asymmetrical arrangement of windows and doors
- Pointed arches
- Ribbed vaults
- Flying buttresses
- Extraordinary ornateness
During the Renaissance architects took their inspiration from classical Greek and Roman architectural styles. Features of Renaissance architecture include:
- Symmetrical arrangement of windows and doors
- Extensive use of Classical columns and pilasters
- Triangular pediments
- Square lintels
- Niches with sculptures
This return to the "classical" approach to architecture soon spread throughout Europe with the assistance of two books on the subject written by two Renaissance architects:
- The Five Orders of Architecture by Giacomo da Vignola
- The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio
Renaissance Cathedral Architecture
An interesting story relating to the birth of Renaissance cathedral architecture is that of the competition to plan the roof the unfinished Gothic Cathedral in Florence. The competition was won by the artist Filippo Brunelleschi. Brunelleschi, inspired by the Roman period domes he had seen on his travels throughout Italy, designed a huge dome. The resultant domed Cathedral, although basically Gothic in style, is generally considered the first building of the Renaissance period.
Brunelleschi led the way for other architects of the time, and soon it was the architectural norm for new Cathedrals to be built in the highly refined style of classical Roman architecture. This style was known for its with rows of cylindrical columns, Corinthian capitals, entablatures, semi-circular arches and apsidal chapels.
Examples of Renaissance Cathedrals
The best-known cathedral of the Renaissance is considered to be the rebuilt St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The finished product reflects the combined work of famed Renaissance architects and artists, including Bramante, Sangallo, Maderno, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Filippo Brunelleschi designed two of the best known examples of Renaissance architecture - the churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito, both in Florence. Brunelleschi is also known for the design for the great Florentine cathedral church of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.
Additional examples of Renaissance Cathedrals and churches include:
- St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England
- Cathedral of Granada, Spain (by Juan Gil de Hontañón, Enrigue Egas and Diego de Siloé)
- Cathedral of Jaén, Spain (by Andrés de Vandelvira)
- Cathedral of Baeza, Spain (by Vandelvira)
- New Cathedral of Salamanca, Spain (by Juan de Álava and others)
- Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin
- Dome of Khairo-Italian Scilia
- Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (by Filippo Brunelleschi)
- Ospedale degli Innocenti (by Filippo Brunelleschi)
- Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze (by Filippo Brunelleschi)
- Pazzi Chapel at Basilica di Santa Croce (by Filippo Brunelleschi)