Historical Studies of Church Building in the Middle Ages: Venice, Siena, Florence. Written by Charles Eliot Norton (November 16, 1827 – October 21, 1908) a leading American author, and published in New York in 1902. This is very a informative book about the building of Italy's magnificent churches. (360 pages)
I. CHURCH-BUILDING IN THE MIDDLE AGES.
II. VENICE AND ST. MARK'S.
III. SIENA, AND OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION
I. THE BEGINNING OF THE DUOMO, AND THE BATTLE OF MONTAPERTI.
II. THE STORY OF THE DUOMO AFTER 1260.
IV. FLORENCE, AND ST. MARY OF THE FLOWER.
I. THE CHURCH OF ARNOLFO.
II. THE DOME OF BRUNELLESCHI.
IRREGULARITIES OF CONSTRUCTION IN ITALIAN BUILDINGS OF THE MIDDLE AGES
.....In Italy the Church held a different position from that which it occupied in the Western nations of Europe. Great as had been its services to civilization in Italy, it had not been the sole ark of the higher interests of society. The imperial traditions of Rome had been here more than elsewhere a strong principle of order throughout the confusions of centuries In which the change from the ancient to the modern world had been going on. Something of Roman culture and of Roman institutions, at least in the suggestive form of memories of past achievements, had been saved for Italy from the wreck of the empire. This very predominance of Rome deprived the clergy in other cities of Italy of a portion of such authority as their brethren exercised in more remote localities. The new cathedral in an Italian city was the witness of civic as well as of religious devotion, of pride and of patriotism consecrated by piety. It was also the sign of the favor of Heaven in the bestowal of the prosperity of which it gave evidence.
.....During some months the deliberations and discussions of the Board of Works were frequent and earnest, and it was probably in the course of this time that Brunelleschi presented to the four ofificials of the cupola a description of the mode in which the dome was to be built according to his model, a paper of special interest in the history of architecture, preserved to us, fortunately, in the pages of the anonymous biographer. It is a brief, clear, and precise statement Brunelleschi's design, as set forth in it, was, in fact, to build two octagonal domes, or cupolas, as he termed them, separated by a space wide enough for passage and stairways. The outer dome was to be a shell covering the inner, protecting it from the inclemency of the weather, and, at the same time, securing to the construction more magnificent and swelling lines than would be possible with a single solid dome. The cupolas were to be united by eight strong ribs of masonry at each angle, and by sixteen similar but smaller and concealed ribs on the faces of the vault. Circles of solid masonry, fastened with clamps of tinned iron, and reinforced by iron chains, were to bind the domes at suitable intervals. The ribs and the lower part of each dome were to be made of heavy hewn stone, the upper parts of light stone or brick. The domes were to be built without armature — that is, without support from a framework of wood or iron. They were to diminish in thickness as they rose, and were to terminate at a central eye over which a lantern was to be constructed. The design had been carefully matured, and the paper ends with words of admirable good-sense which might well be inscribed in every architect's book as one of the aphorisms of building — "Above the height of thirty braccia (57.44 feet) let it be built in the way that shall be advised and resolved upon by the masters who shall then be in charge of it, for in building practice teaches the course to be pursued. No more characteristic or remarkable design was produced during the whole period of the Renaissance than this with which its great architectural achievements began. It was the manifesto of a revolution in architecture. It marks an epoch in the art. Such a dome as Brunelleschi proposed to erect had never been built. The great domes of former times — the dome of the Pantheon, the dome of Santa Sophia — had been designed solely for their interior effect; they were not impressive or noble structures from without. But Brunelleschi had conceived a dome which, grand in its interior aspect, should be even more superb from without than from within, and which in its stately dimensions and proportions, in its magnificent lift above all the other edifices of the city of which it formed the centre, should give the fullest satisfaction to the desire common in the Italian cities for a monumental expression of the political unity and the religious faith of their people. His work fulfilled the highest aim of architecture as a civic art, in being a political symbol, an image of the life of the State itself......