The “Gabbia per Grilli” Of The Dome

Today, our curiosity concerns the famous Brunelleschi’s Cupola, monument everybody (Florentines and tourists) have seen thousands times live or in photography. Despite this, there is a macroscopic and high visible architectural detail nobody notices, because less known.

If you’ve never noticed, today you’ll discover that the “drum” of the Dome, i.e. the octagonal base that sustains the Brunelleschi’s Cupola, has a walkway only on one of the eight sides, the one overlooks on Via del Proconsolo. Most people doesn’t notice it because the only finished side is the most visible one and it is on the most busy street (the crowded crossroad “Canto de’ Bischeri”, the corner between via del Proconsolo and via dell’Oriolo).

This trunk of walkway would be “la gabbia per grilli” (crickets cage) of our today’s title. This name derives from a famous anecdote that tries to explain the reason why it remained incomplete.

The contract of the works for the construction of the Dome walkway was given to Baccio d’Agnolo, who designed the hanging corridor of which today we see the butt. According to tradition, Michelangelo, who participated in the competition with his “losing” project, “dug a stroke” to his antagonist, saying the gallery under construction seemed “a cricket cage”, similar to the ones used for this purpose during the feast of Rificolona.

In fact, if you look at the part built of the gallery from a distance, the sequence of thick columns that supports the arches can actually remember the small bars of a cage.

Moreover this anecdote tells Baccio d’Agnolo, a particularly sensitive and touchy artist, felt so sorry about the merciless comment of Michelangelo who abandoned the construction of his just begun work.

Of course, this is a wholly imaginary event: even if the story were true and Baccio d’Agnolo decided to abandon the project, the Opera del Duomo would still completed this work on basis of his project or another one. If the walkway has remained under construction, however, it’s clear there were more important reasons than a squabble between two rival artists, first of all some stability issues caused by the enormous weight of the walkway.

It’s historically true Michelangelo has a real opposition to the project by Baccio d’Agnolo, as shown by the drawings related to the project completion dating to 1516 (when the first part of it has already built) and preserved in the Museo Casa Buonarroti. There is also a wooden model of it, preserved in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo with the inventory number 144, though with identification doubts respect to this event.


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