Orvieto Cathedral - Construction

Construction

The construction of the cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Santa Maria Assunta), lasted almost three centuries with the design and style evolving from Romanesque to Gothic as construction progressed. The flagstone of the cathedral was laid on 13 November 1290 by Pope Nicholas IV, and construction was entrusted to chief-mason (capomastro) Fra Bevignate di Perugia (also called Fra Bevignate da Gubbio) using a design by Arnolfo di Cambio (the architect of the cathedral of Florence). The cathedral was initially designed as a Romanesque basilica with a nave and two side aisles. But when Giovanni di Uguccione succeeded Fra Bevignate, the design was transformed into Italian Gothic forms.

Construction continued slowly until in 1309 the Sienese sculptor and architect Lorenzo Maitani (universalis caput magister) was commissioned to work on the church and solve several issues concerning the load-bearing capabilities of the building, especially of the choir. He substantially changed the design and construction of the building, increasing the similarity of the building to Siena Cathedral. The architecture of both buildings sometimes is classified as a substyle of Gothic architecture - Siennese Gothic style.

Maitani strengthened the external walls with flying buttresses, which proved later to be useless. These buttresses were eventually included in the walls of the newly built transept chapels. He rebuilt the apse into a rectangular shape and added a large stained-glass quadrifore window. Starting in 1310 he created the current façade up to the level of the bronze statues of the symbols of the Evangelists.. He also added much of the interior. He died in 1330, shortly before the completion of the duomo, succeeded by his sons. In 1347 Andrea Pisano, the former Master of the Works of the Florence Cathedral, was appointed the new Master of the Works. He was followed in 1359 by Andrea di Cione, better known as Orcagna.The beautiful mosaic decoration and the rose window are attributed to him. The Sienese architect Antonio Federighi continued the decoration of the façade between 1451 and 1456, adding some Renaissance modules. In 1503 Michele Sanmicheli finished the central gable and added the right spire, which was finished by Antonio da Sangallo junior in 1534. Final touches to the façade were made by Ippolito Scalza by adding the right pinnacle in 1590 and the left in 1605-1607. All in all, the succeeding architects kept a stylistic unity to the façade.

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