Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is a museum located behind the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main cathedral (Duomo) of Florence. Although the title in Italian may at first seem to imply music, or more specifically opera, the word refers to works of art. The Museum of the Works of the Duomo, as it translates to English, is the place where all of the art from the cathedral was moved after the great flood of 1966. Many of the items in the church, including pieces of art, were either badly damaged or destroyed in the flood. Those that were not destroyed were moved to the building that is now the Duomo Museum.
Although it is free to tour the Florence Duomo, you will need to pay a fee to enter the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. This is an interesting case in Florence because of the fact that in many of the other churches in the city you can tour the facilities and witness the art for absolutely free. But because of the extenuating circumstances of the disastrous effects of the flood, and the priceless nature of many of the items that have been moved to the Museum of the Works of the Duomo, it was necessary to create a separate space. Once inside, you will quickly realize that it is well worth the price of admission to gaze upon some of the most important works ever created during the Italian Renaissance. The contents of the Duomo Museum rival that of the Accademia Gallery, the Uffizi, and the Vatican Museums in Rome, in terms of having masterworks by some of the greatest artists in history.
One of the main highlights of the Duomo Musuem is Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, which took 27 years for the artist complete. These bronze panels originally adorned the panels of the Duomo Baptistery. There are now fine replicas in place, but the originals stand enclosed in glass in an open-air courtyard at the museum. As you continue your tours of the facility, you will come across a Pieta by Michelangelo. This depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the crucified Christ is not the best known of this legend’s Pietas. The best known is housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Nonetheless, this is an absolutely stunning example of the genius of Michelangelo and one of the highlights of the museum.
The realistic portrayal of a penitent Mary Magdalene by the renowned fifteenth-century artist Donatello is amazing and on display here. This wooden sculpture speaks to the talents of Donatello. One could argue that, all at once, she looks as though she is both eternally perturbed and peaceful. Her long, matted hair appears to blend seamlessly with her torn garbs. The Death Mask of Brunelleschi, the architect in charge of the design and construction of Il Duomo, is also on display at the Museum of the Works of the Duomo.
The Museo dell’Opera dell Duomo is open from Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It costs under ten Euros for adults and kids six and under get in for free.