Inside The Walls Of The Duomo: A Visit To The Great Clock Of Paolo Uccello In Florence, Restored By Officine Panerai

The Duomo (the word signifies “cathedral” and obviously in Florence, it’s constantly perceived to allude to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) has an amazingly long history. In spite of the fact that construction of the Duomo started in 1296, there has been a congregation on the site since in any event the fifth century; the Duomo supplanted an earlier cathedral. The Duomo is essential for a complex that includes the cathedral itself, the campanile (chime tower) to the right in the above picture, which was designed by Giotto and which is almost 280 feet tall, and the Baptistery, whose entryways are across the piazza from the Duomo’s passage. The Baptistery is the most seasoned of the three buildings and it’s guessed the site was originally that of a Roman watchman tower (Florence started as a little Etruscan town in around 200 BCE, which was annihilated by the Romans in 80 BCE; the Roman settlement of Florentia was established by Julius Caesar presently as a kind of retirement community for veterans).

The Duomo is obviously acclaimed for its gigantic vault, which was designed by the most renowned of Renaissance architects, Filippo Brunelleschi , who needed to invent various techniques and machines to develop it. It’s the biggest brick arch at any point made, even today, and must be built without an impermanent wooden inner structure (which would have been the favored strategy) on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient nearby timber to build one. You can easily spot it from the air, close to the banks of the Arno River, as you come in on final way to deal with Florence Airport. The Duomo, like most huge cathedrals, has a warren of hidden paths made to permit inspection and maintenance of the tremendous design. It required not many years, but rather centuries, to build; started in 1296, it wasn’t actually completed until 1887, when the current façade was finally finished. The cycle took such a long time that the original Gothic façade turned into an anachronism, and must be destroyed and supplanted (models from the original façade are presently housed in an exhibition hall behind the Duomo).

For a first time visitor to Florence the Duomo is overwhelming. The hued exterior (made of three different varieties of nearby marble, whose tones symbolize the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity) is dazzling, and the sheer scale appears to be intended to not just emphasize the spiritual authority of the congregation, yet in addition its worldly force. Indeed, even to present day eyes, the Duomo is breathtaking and one can just imagine what kind of impression it probably made to Gothic or Renaissance eyes seeing it interestingly. As our local escort (who procured her PhD. in Medieval craftsmanship and architecture and who does voyages through Florence in light of the fact that “in Italy, if you are an academic you would be advised to have the option to live on one serving of mixed greens a day”) said to us, the Duomo is not simply a congregation, it’s additionally “the business card of the city of Florence.”

Like the Duomo, the clock has a long history, and like Florence it has certainly had its high points and low points. The dial of the clock, painted by Paolo Uccello in 1433, is just about seven meters across; the original mechanism was finished in 1443 and was made by the clockmaker Angelo di Niccolò. There’s next to no information about the original development, however it appears to be entirely likely that a skirt escapement was utilized (the just one known at that point). The clock, as should be obvious, had a 24-hour dial, and the single massive hand turns counterclockwise, once each day. The four figures at each corner are fairly enigmatic. They may address the four evangelists, however the earliest surviving reference to them is in the celebrated Renaissance artist’s biographer Vasari’s Lives Of The Artists , and he simply alludes to them as “four heads in the corners, painted in fresco.” The Evangelists is a decent theory, yet whether that is the thing that Uccello had in mind is a bit of a secret. (The Lives was published in its first edition in 1550, 117 years after Uccello finished his work.)

In the alleged Italic arrangement of timekeeping, which this clock depends on, the 24th hour of the day wasn’t midnight, but instead nightfall, and the time for ringing the chimes in the campanile contiguous the Duomo was determined by the clock; at twilight the chimes would ring to inform all that they ought to be within the city entryways, which were bolted after dull. The clock has had its mechanism supplanted and redesigned on a few occasions (strikingly, the original escapement was supplanted with a pendulum mechanism in 1688) and the development still in use today was made by the Florentine clockmaker Giuseppe Borgiacchi, in 1761. At that time, the clock was refreshed to a 12-hour dial, however 40 years prior a restoration restored the mechanism to its original time-telling configuration, which requires the clock’s present attendants, Lucio Bigi and Mario Mureddu, to keep up the ancient tradition of re-setting the hand once every week so it generally shows twilight at the right time. The latest restoration, completed in 2014, and supported by Officine Panerai, involved extensive cleaning and refurbishing of the mechanism to guarantee its precise and smooth operation, and assurance its longevity.

Though most visitors to the Duomo snake through the nave in a tremendous line that begins to frame early every morning, it’s possible to really go inside the dividers of the Duomo and up a tight spiral stone staircase, and see the room that is housed the development of the clock since the mid-1400s.

It would be barely noticeable if you didn’t realize it was there, yet not long before you exit the cathedral, there’s a little wooden entryway on the left, admittance to which is obstructed by, for goodness’ sake, a huge wooden wastebasket. Our guide shifted this aside and afterward opened the entryway’s iron lock.

You go up the unpleasant advances, following in the strides of just about 600 years of horologists (and occasional curious tourists, like ourselves) lastly, you arrive at a limited corridor running between the inner and external dividers of the Duomo (the staircase is inside one of the pillars in the building’s façade).

After the tremendous space of the Duomo’s interior (whose ceilings appear to be high enough you wouldn’t be surprised if an occasional cloud passed overhead) the chamber housing the development appears to be tiny on the other hand. The room smells faintly of old, soggy stone, and machine oil. The development is housed in an iron casing over a wooden stage you remain on to service it, or to rewind the driving weight; it’s held set up by bars set directly into the masonry. 

The outline holding the development is held together by big iron cotter pins, not screws, and it’s actual simple: there is a wooden bar around which is wrapped the rope holding the stone weight that keeps the entire thing running; there’s simply the escapement (a fairly simple anchor escapement) and, obviously, there’s the stuff train that interprets the lethargic arrival of the weight by the escapement into the development of the hand.

The big wrench on the left is for re-winding the rope holding the weight that keeps the clock running, and simply over its shaft, you can see a duplicate of the clock’s dial. In this picture the exterior of the Duomo is on the left, and the interior on the right.

The dial is there in request to make it easier to tell where the genuine hand of the clock is, in request to make it easier to play out the normal errand of resetting the clock in order to keep the single hand coordinated with sunrise and nightfall. You can likewise see the suspension for the pendulum and the bolster – a two dimensional fork in the middle of whose tines the pendulum swings. As it swings, it pushes the bolster to and fro, causing the anchor to bolt and open the teeth of the departure wheel. 

Below, you can see the inner mass of the Duomo, with the opening through which runs the shaft holding the real hand.

Above, you can see the escapement, which resembles a supposed miscreant escapement. The lowlife escapement was designed for use in precision pendulum clocks, and, as it was invented in the late seventeenth century, it would have been a characteristic choice for this development, which was installed in 1761 and which has been running, pretty much, from that point onward. It appears to me this clock would be susceptible to temperature changes as there’s no obvious mechanism for temperature compensation, yet as it has just an hour hand and as it must be reset week after week for any situation, temperature compensation is presumably pointless.

Below, you can see the pendulum itself; the bar reaches out through an opening in the floor on which the development sits, and the pendulum swings to and fro in its own little chamber. I don’t know what the opening underneath that is for – maybe at one time, the clock had a more drawn out pendulum.

If you shine a solid light in the middle of the wooden stairs leading up to the stage the development sits on, you can simply make out the oval stone that goes about as the driving weight for the clock.

Along the restricted corridor running between the dividers of the Duomo, there is a break with discarded or unused parts from previous incarnations of the development, and there is likewise, in a more modest break at head height, a visitor book you can sign to show you’ve been there.

From the outside, there’s no sign of the mysterious stairway winding up to the clock (the clock is directly behind the relief carving of the Madonna, over the curve of the main entryways). The staircase is inside the segment that frames the right side of the entryway. It’s a fascinating and slightly eerie experience to mount the means and see the development, which gradually ticks away the hours in complete dimness, encased by centuries-old brick work, its solitary methods for communication with the outside world the giant hand making its daily round inside the congregation itself. On account of Panerai and the group of restorers at the Duomo, we can still see it doing how it has helped almost 600 years, and recall when authority of hours implied both expert of spiritual, and of daily life – and, indeed, a time when there was no difference between the two.

A extremely big thank you to Officine Panerai for arranging admittance to the Duomo Clock development chamber.

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