Opera del Duomo Museum
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history and art at the Opera del Duomo Museum.
The Museum was founded in 1891 but was completely renovated in 2015.
Located in the heart of a cultural epicenter, this museum offers a journey through time, unveiling an exquisite collection of masterpieces that have shaped the artistic legacy of generations.
It is designed as an educational path to discover the places and artists who gave life to the monumental complex of the Opera, the cradle of the Renaissance.
It is now one of the world’s most important museums.
From stunning sculptures and intricate reliefs to mesmerizing paintings, each artifact tells a story of creativity and devotion.
The Opera del Duomo Museum is a sanctuary for art enthusiasts and curious minds.
The striking facade of polychrome panels of green, pink, and white marble, the impressive Bell Tower designed by Giotto, and the self-supporting dome of Brunelleschi are all must-sees.
It is the place to go if you want to see all of the artworks that once adorned the interior of the duomo.
Six thousand square meters of surface is divided into 28 rooms on three floors.
A spectacular setting capable of enhancing unique masterpieces in the world that are presented for the first time adequately and faithfully in the sense for which they were created.
Step into a realm where craftsmanship and spirituality converge, inviting you to explore the intricate threads that have woven Florence’s artistic identity.
Opera del Duomo Museum Hours
The Opening hours of the Museum from Monday to Sunday is from 8.30 am to 7 pm.
The Museum is closed on the first Tuesday of every month.
Also, select your preferred Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets today for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to this famous wonder!
What’s inside the Opera del Duomo Museum
The original masterpieces of art that have decorated its monuments over seven centuries have been preserved here: from Michelangelo to Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Ghiberti.
Over 750 works of art spanning 720 years of history are on display.
The world’s largest concentration of Florentine monumental sculpture includes medieval and Renaissance statues and marble, bronze, and silver reliefs by the era’s leading artists.
Artists crafted most of the masterpieces showcased to adorn the interiors or exteriors of the religious statues that continue to grace the museum’s doorstep – including the Pisa Baptistery, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the “Duomo”), and Giotto’s Bell Tower.
The Museo dell’Opera provides the best setting for the works of art made for these buildings, which today form a single group known as the “Great Museum of the Cathedral.”
Here are some top things at the Opera del Duomo Museum Florence that one should not miss.
Room of the First Façade
The Room of the First Facade is the heart of the Museum, with a life-size model (36x20x20 meters) of the lower part of the Cathedral facade rebuilt using resin and marble dust.
This version of the church front was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296 but was never completed.
It was dismantled in 1587 under Grand Duke Francesco I, who intended to finish it, but he failed.
A temporary painting made for Prince Ferdinando’s wedding in 1689 stayed for centuries until it was finally redone in the 19th century (1876 for ten years by the design of Emilio de Fabris).
The Hall of Paradise in Florence’s Duomo Museum
The Sala del Paradiso / Hall of Paradise takes its name from the space between the Baptistery and the Church, traditionally called paradise.
Visitors can see the original sculptures of the Gothic western facade of the cathedral and the original bronze doors of the Baptistery in this hall.
The three sets of bronze baptistery doors and the original sculptures above these doors are on display here.
All three sets are art-historical highlights for their eras. Still, among Western art’s masterpieces, Ghiberti’s Renaissance doors of Old Testament scenes described by Michelangelo as fit to be the gates to paradise.
The restoration team recreated the original Gothic facade on the opposite wall, including the original statues.
This facade was never finished and was only built to about a third of its original height, as shown here.
This facade was demolished in the late 16th century and rebuilt in 1887. The majority of the statues date from the 14th or early 15th centuries.
The highlights are Donatello’s early 15th-century evangelist statues, Mark by Niccolo di Pietro Lamberti, Luke by Nanni di Banco, and Matthew by Bernardo Ciuffagni: Lamberti and Tedesco’s doctors of the church date from the same era.
Mary Magdalene, Carved in Wood by Donatello
The statue depicts the penitent Saint Mary Magdalene, carved in wood with additions in tow and plaster, partially colored and gilded.
The piece is one of Donatello’s masterpieces, completed around 1455, possibly for the Baptistery.
Although she is only mentioned a few times in the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is one of Jesus’ most essential disciples because she witnessed his Crucifixion.
More importantly, she was the first person to whom he appeared after his resurrection.
Over the centuries, Christian tradition has associated Mary Magdalene with the evangelical figure of the “sinner” (prostitute) saved and converted by Jesus.
She would have lived in solitude in her final years, leading an ascetic life. In this sculpture, Donatello emphasizes the woman’s long hair, almost covering her like a feral and “penitential” fur over her macerated and hollowed-out body.
Inside the Baptistery, on the left side of the main altar, in its most likely original location.
According to Catholic tradition, Mary Magdalene spent years as a hermit in the desert, and the sculpture depicts her as deformed by fasting but peaceful through prayer.
Mary is 185 cm tall and bony. The sculpture was initially painted or gilded in some way. Until the 1960s, the sculpture was housed in the baptistry.
Michelangelo’s Pieta Bandini
The marble sculptural group depicts the Pietà and is one of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s final works, completed between 1547 and 1555 and left unfinished.
The inscription on the plaque, made by Florentine artisans, commemorates the work transfer from the Basilica of San Lorenzo to the Duomo.
Conceived by Michelangelo as a monument for his burial, the work was owned by the Bandini family in Rome for a time before being purchased by Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici in 1671.
It was initially located in San Lorenzo and was relocated to the Duomo in 1722, behind the high altar.
Again it was relocated in 1933 to the Chapel of Sant’Andrea. It has been on display at the Opera Museum since 1981.
The Pietà depicts the dead body of Jesus, supported by Nicodemus, one of the men who carried the Lord down from the cross and lying in the arms of his mother, Mary, with the assistance of another woman, Mary Magdalene.
Michelangelo, now seventy years old, depicted his self-portrait in the face of the elderly character, whom Christian tradition believed to be a sculptor, as if to identify himself in Nicodemus, in his loving care of Jesus’ body.
Galleria del Campanile
The decorative program of the Bell Tower reaffirmed the use of sculpture as a means of communication, which had already been used in the Duomo and the Baptistery in the early fourteenth century.
Andrea Pisano and various assistants, including his son Nino, created the first and most visible part of the series of sixteen monumental statues and fifty-four reliefs displayed in the adjacent gallery beginning in 1334.
The themes are divinely inspired prophecy, as evoked by the figures of Israel’s prophets and pagan sibyls, and human creativity, as depicted in reliefs depicting biblical inventors of agriculture, animal husbandry, the arts, and professions.
Other reliefs depict astrological influences, theological and cardinal virtues, liberal arts, and the Church’s seven sacraments.
The reliefs are displayed in their original order, beginning on the west side of the bell tower and progressing south, east, and north.
The hexagonal reliefs depicting the arts are placed beneath the lozenge-shaped reliefs depicting the systems that govern human existence.
On the other hand, the order of the statues follows the grouping on each side of the tower, though they are arranged so that the famous fifteenth-century figures are positioned in the center of the gallery.
Galleria della Cupola
This gallery depicts the conceptual and symbolic process by Filippo Brunelleschi, the brilliant architect of Duomo’s Cupola.
He applied engineering and mechanics to create the basilica’s final structural component, the tribunal maggiore, between 1418 and 1436.
The architect’s death mask, fifteenth-century wooden models of the Cupola and Lanterna, and a selection of period tools are also preserved here.
There are also large modern models and a theater area where visitors can watch a short introductory film.
The gallery also has late fifteenth and early sixteenth-century models for the drum’s covering, which was left unfinished when Brunelleschi died in 1446.
Other models and educational slides depict various projects associated with the dome’s completion.
The choir was built beneath it to a design by Brunelleschi in 1436; the stained glass windows were designed in 1436 by Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccello, and Andrea del Castagno.
The massive cornice was built experimentally on the southeast side of the drum by Baccio d’Agnolo in 1515.
The Duomo Museum’s Treasury in Florence
The monumental cross and altar from the Baptistery made with 250 kg of silver highlight the Sala del Tesoro.
The altar was created by several generations of artists between 1366 and 1483.
Although the artistic level is uneven, the recently restored panels are fascinating.
As the main altar for the Baptistery, it depicts scenes from John the Baptist’s life.
It traces his entire biblical life, from the annunciation to Zacharias and the visitation to the gruesome end.
Andrea del Verrocchio’s beheading of John shows intricate detailing in the soldiers’ armor, while the executioner works inexplicably naked except for a tight pair of hot pants.
The scene of Antonio di Salvi Salvucci’s presentation of the head on a platter at Herod’s banquet also has fine details and a better understanding of perspective rules than the previous panels.
Michelozzo, a pupil of Ghiberti and later collaborator of Donatello created the sculpture of John the Baptist in the center of the altar.
Several historic liturgical vestments are also on display.
Take special note of Antonio del Pallaiolo’s embroideries on the vestment, which features 27 panels depicting scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
Sala della Maddalena
This gallery houses Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene and paintings and sculptures depicting saints, some of which include the donors in prayerful poses.
The work that gives the first room its name is a wooden statue sculpted by Donatello around 1455.
It depicts a woman mentioned several times in the New Testament: Mary of Magdalene, whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons (Luke 8.2) and who, in popular piety, was confused with the unnamed sinner who Christ forgave because she had loved much (Luke 7.47).
Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ on Easter morning (John 20.11-18), and legend has it that after Christ ascended to heaven, she became a hermit and converted many to the faith through the example of her ascetic life.
Donatello weaves the story’s threads into a single image of a penitent Mary Magdalene, her face and body deformed by fasting and vigils but at prayer and in peace.
A bust in painted terracotta depicting her when she was still young and attractive is also on display, as is a relief in glazed terracotta depicting her in prayer in the desert.
Most likely, Donatello created the statue for the Baptistery, where it remained from the late fifteenth century until 1996.
A marble plaque installed beneath the figure in the eighteenth century attests to Florence’s unwavering devotion to the saint.
Sala delle Cantorie
This is the Sala delle Cantorie, and the new layout is meant to evoke the Duomo sanctuary, where priests and other holy ministers congregate.
The musicians and choir usually have a spot close to the sanctuary.
The two cantoria by Luca della Robbia and Donatello, as well as precious liturgical accessories and holy objects, are displayed here.
The singing galleries were once located above the high altar, above the northeast and southeast pilasters of the Duomo crossing.
These galleries for the singers and organs were commissioned in the early 1430s when the Cupola was nearly finished.
The Opera del Duomo began considering arranging the area beneath for liturgical celebrations.
The depiction of children in both galleries attests to the Florentines’ joy at completing the Cathedral works that had begun in 1296.
You can find the same joy in the Biblical text engraved beneath Luca della Robbia’s figures: Psalm 150, which describes a concert in which various musical instruments are used to honor God.
Sala del coro bandinelliano
This room displays elements from the new marble enclosure of the sanctuary or ‘choir’ of the Duomo, which Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned from Baccio Bandinelli in 1547 and completed in 1572.
This was the first of operations to modernize Santa Maria del Fiore following current Mannerist tastes.
A 1:25 scale model depicts Baccio’s original richness, which was then simplified in the nineteenth century.
The room’s layout is intended to reflect Bandinelli’s re-use of the octagonal shape given to the choir by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1436.
Bandinelli and his assistants created eighty-six reliefs for the choir, twenty-four displayed here.
The reliefs depict male figures dressed in antique costumes.
Although their identity is unknown, they most likely represent Israel patriarchs, prophets, and Greek and Roman heroes.
They are similar to the figures painted by Michelangelo forty years earlier on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The significance of the choir sculptures was completed by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari’s massive fresco of the Last Judgment painted inside the Cupola between 1572 and 1579.
The model projects several fresco details above it. Baccio Bandinelli died in 1560 before completing his most excellent work.
The self-portrait he used as a signature on the altar is also displayed here. Above the reliefs, showcases display liturgical vestments dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
These serve as a reminder that the faithful attending Mass in the Duomo would have seen the figures carved on the choir parapet and the priests in their magnificent vestments.
Galleria dei modelli
The main gallery displays the designs commissioned by the Medici Grand Dukes to modernize the Cathedral’s facade.
Seven large wooden models depict the proposals for a Renaissance facade to replace the demolished medieval one in 1587.
At the same time, the reconstructed medieval facade is always visible through the gallery’s large windows, inviting visitors to assess the disparity between the medieval appearance and the proposals of Mannerism and early Baroque architects.
Two paintings executed in 1589 for the wedding of Grand Duke Ferdinando are copies of some of the colossal statues placed upon an imitation facade erected especially for the occasion.
The originals can be found in the Duomo’s northwest tribune, leading to the ascent to the Cupola.
How much time do you need at the Duomo Museum?
Allow about an hour to see the Duomo. This includes looking around the inside, climbing the stairs, and admiring the view from the top.
Is the Opera del Duomo Museum worth it?
The stunning 360-degree views of the city, including famous landmarks such as the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio, make it worthwhile to climb to the top of the Duomo.
It’s also a great way to appreciate Florence’s beauty differently.
What is the dress code for the Duomo Museum?
Access to the museum is only possible while dressed appropriately. This means no bare shoulders, sandals, headgear, sunglasses, and covered knees.
Can you take pictures in the Duomo?
Yes, taking photographs is permitted.
Photographs, except during cathedral celebrations, may be taken for personal use only and not for publication, study, profit, or any other purpose.