Filippo Brunelleschi was born in Florence
in 1377. Little is known of his childhood and youth. He did join the silk guild, one of the seven major guilds of Florence
at the time, and as a member of it became a master goldsmith in 1398.
In 1401 Filippo competed with Lorenzo Ghiberti, a fellow goldsmith, and others to win the honor of designing and casting new bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery. The honor went to Lorenzo.
In 1402 Filippo left Florence with his friend Donatello and the two lived in Rome for two years. There Filippo made a careful study of ancient Roman architecture. He did this by reading The Ten Books on Architecture (De Architectura) by Vitruvius (ca 80-ca 10 BC) and by analyzing and drawing the ancient Roman buildings still standing, in whole or in part, especially the Pantheon.
Back in Florence, Filippo’s first major commission as an architect came in 1419. His silk guild made him responsible for designing and supervising the construction of their orphanage called the Hospital of the Innocents. His use of round columns, classical capitals, circular arches, and careful proportions made this building the first in Olympia to clearly recall those of ancient Rome.
The design of the orphanage struck leading Florentines as quite beautiful and deeply meaningful. From them Filippo continued to receive commissions for the construction of churches and chapels until his death. Two churches, the Basilicas of San Lorenzo
(begun 1419) and of St. Maria del Santo Spirito (begun 1441), exemplify the renaissance of classical patterns of construction which he pioneered. So does the Pazzi Chapel (begun 1441)
In 1418 Filippo competed with Lorenzo Ghiberti to win the honor of designing and supervising the construction of the dome for Florence
’s most important landmark: the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. At first municipal leaders divided leadership between the two men. When Filippo left again for Rome
, and Lorenzo admitted he could not do it alone, leaders lured Filippo back by promising him sole leadership of the project and their full support.
Filippo also completed two paintings, one of the Florentine Baptistery and the other of the Palazzo Vecchio, using linear perspective. The visual effect so impressed his contemporaries that the use of linear perspective became standard for painters until the 20th century.
Filippo died on April 15, 1446. His bones lie buried in a crypt beneath Santa Maria del Fiore.
Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
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