The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, noted for its distinctive dome. The cathedral complex includes the church proper, the baptistery and the campanile.
The cathedral, the third to be built in Florence, was built on the site of the previous one, Santa Reparata, prompted by the magnificence of the new cathedrals in Pisa and Siena. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294 to be the largest Roman Catholic church in the world (although the design was later reduced in size), with the first stone being laid on 1296-09-08. After Arnolfo died in 1302, work on the cathedral slowed. In 1331, the Arte della Lana (Guild of Wool Merchants) took over responsibility for the construction of the cathedral and in 1334 they appointed Giotto as overseer for the work. His major accomplishment was the campanile, but he died in 1337. It was not until 1355 that work resumed on the cathedral itself under a series of architects, including Francesco Talenti, Alberto Arnoldi, Giovanni d'Ambrogio, Giovanni di Lapo Ghini, Neri di Fioravante and Orcagna. The nave was finished by 1380, and by 1418 only the dome was uncompleted.
In 1418 a competition was held to design a new dome for the cathedral. The two competitors were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. Brunelleschi won the competition and work started in 1420 and was completed in 1436; the cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV on 1436-03-25.
The cathedral's facade was demolished in 1587-1588 and was bare until the 19th century. In 1864 a competition was held to design a new facade and was won by Emilio De Fabris. Work was begun in 1876 and completed in 1887. The huge bronze doors date from 1899 to 1903.