Goodreads: Brunelleschi’s Dome
Summary: King chronicles Filippo Brunelleschi’s role in building the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy.
Review: King provides an intriguing look at the building of the famed dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Though the cover blurb suggests that King focuses on the personalities behind the construction of the church, he actually covers a wide range of subjects. From brick making to warring factions, the book makes the Renaissance come alive through lively prose that blends technical detail with historical fact.
The dual intent of the book to cover both Brunelleschi and his achievements makes the book a bit difficult to categorize. Those interested in Brunelleschi’s life, his world, and the obstacles facing him as he attempted to build the largest dome in history will find the first half of the book to their taste. However, as the book progresses, it focuses increasingly on Brunelleschi’s inventions. Although King attempts to make the technical aspects of machinery and architecture accessible to the layman, I suspect most readers will not understand the bulk of his language. He provides some diagrams, but they lack the kind of detail that would have helped me to follow his explanations. As a result, I found myself lost toward the end of the book—a fact which greatly disappointed me as I found the subject interesting and longed to understand the science behind the building of the dome.
Even so, Brunelleschi’s Dome delighted me with its account of one of the world’s great architectural achievements. I felt with King’s characters the excitement of pushing the boundaries of known science, the disappointment of failure, the wonder of man’s capacity. King has that rare gift for making history seem both accessible and relevant, and I look forward to reading more of his work.