One of the top Museums in Florence and among the highlights of the city, the Opera del Duomo Museum is the perfect place to discover all the secrets of the majestic Florence Cathedral.
The Opera del Duomo Museum was completely refurbished in 2015. Here you learn how Brunelleschi conceived his idea and built the famous Dome. You can see the statues destined for the church’s facade, reliefs from the Bell Tower, and the original doors for the Baptistry, including the ‘Porta del Paradiso‘ (Gates to Paradise). This museum is a full-immersion in the fascinating world of one of Italy’s top architectural masterpieces.
The museum has been created and curated with great attention to detail and puts the dramatic story of the Duomo in context. The Museum has 28 Rooms. Allow one to one and half hour for your visit.
Opera del Duomo Museum, Florence – Cathedral Museum
The three floors of the Opera del Duomo Museum offer the chance to learn about the history of Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in vivid detail. This architectural masterpiece is one of the symbols of the city, an extraordinary example of the great achievement of the Renaissance, and an endless source of fascination.
The beautiful staging and illumination in the various halls help to transport visitors to the heart of Renaissance Florence.
An interesting educational video (both in Italian and English) explains how Brunelleschi got the idea for the construction of his ingenious dome. His innovative design was self-supporting, requiring no scaffolding. The original machinery used for the building of the dome are on display.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OPERA DEL DUOMO MUSEUM
The Sala Paradiso is a grand and stunning hall that shows how the Cathedral’s earliest facade appeared before it was demolished in 1587. The reproduction of the original facade hosts the statues that used to embellish it, creating a dialogue between Mediaeval and Renaissance sculpture for which Florence was renowned.
Opposite you can admire three original Baptistery doors (the one that you see outside on the Baptistry are replicas). The most famous one is Ghiberti’s “Gates to Paradise”. Its 10 relief panels are one of the great works of Early Renaissance, and show how Florentine artists had mastered linear perspective.
It took Ghiberti 27 years to complete his work on the Eastern door of Florence Baptistry (from 1425 to 1452). The ten narrative panels represent stories from the Old Testament, with striking details. They were so beautiful that Michelangelo compared them to the ‘Gates of Paradise’.
The ‘Pietà Bandini’ by Michelangelo is the other artistic gem of the Opera del Duomo Museum. This highly dramatic sculpture reveals real psychological depth , and the unrivalled skills of Michelangelo. The hooded figure, Nicodemus, is most likely a self-portrait of the artist.
You also can admire some great works by Early Renaissance master Donatello, that brought modernity and realism to the world of sculpture. His representation of a dishevelled Mary Magdalene looks weirdly unsettling. You find her protected by a glass case at the centre of the Sala Maddalena.
The reliefs destined for the Bell Tower are displayed in their original order, showing scenes of professional activities and organisation of human daily life.
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BOOK YOUR VIPs GUIDED TOUR OF THE CATHEDRAL => Learn about the history of Brunelleschi’s red-roofed dome as you climb to its very top, stopping along the way to explore hidden terraces not open to the general public. Be rewarded by panoramic views of Florence. Skip-the-line admission includes a guided tour of the cathedral and crypt.
On the second flood the museum displays an interesting collection of designs and wooden models of the Cathedral’s facade. They were all proposal for the refurbishment of the facade, that remain unfinished until 1887, when it was built in Neo-Gothic style.
You also find religious artefacts, and a small (and quite macabre!) collection of reliquaries.
INSIDER’S TIP => Go up to the third floor to access the small roof terrace that looks to the Dome, surrounded by Florence’s red tiles roofs.
Tickets for the OPA Cathedral Museum
The tickets for the Cathedral Complex can be bought in Piazza del Duomo nr. 14 (a few steps the Opera del Duomo Museum),
From 1st March 2022 you have three options: the Brunelleschi pass allows you to visit all the monuments of Piazza del Duomo – Ghiberti pass (Opera del Duomo Museum + Baptistery + Santa Reparata crypt) – Giotto Pass (like the one before plus Giotto Bell’s tower)
All passes are valid for 3 days.
What is the Opera del Duomo? A brief history
Construction of the Florence Duomo complex started in 1296 when the first brick was laid. The Opera del Duomo (literally: Work of the Cathedral)- also known as OPA – was created to oversee the construction works of the Cathedral complex.
The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century, to house all the works of art that were removed from the Cathedral and the Baptistry, to keep them safe from the elements. Today, as in the past, the duties of the organisation are to protect, promote and enhance this extraordinary artistic heritage.