Duomo Tour Guide Training
Today was my first day of training for my community engagement activity, Ars et Fides, which involves serving as a volunteer to give tours of the Duomo to visitors of Florence.
We met with the Ars et Fides director outside of the Duomo and our special name tags served as our ticket to bypass the perpetually long line of tourists waiting to enter the Duomo. As tour guides, these name tags would allow us to always skip the lines and enter the cathedral directly, and would also grant us free access to the other churches of Florence.
The director gave us a tour of the Duomo, detailing the history behind some of the art pieces and the frescos that decorate the famed cathedral. One of the main important points is that the Duomo was commissioned by the city of Florence, not by the Catholic Church, since the city wanted to create an impressive centerpiece of a building that would outshine the nearby cathedrals in Milan and Siena. The massive dome of the Duomo was thought to be impossible, which is why it attracted so much attention at the time of its building and still attracts visitors from all around the world today.
Going all around the cathedral, the director informed us about the different organizations that helped fund the cathedral, the artists that contributed to the paintings and architecture of the Duomo itself, and the interesting historical facts about the cathedral. The aspect that stood out to me the most was the fact that the clock in the Duomo is calibrated to a 24 hour scale and it reaches the “end of the day” when sun sets, not when it’s midnight. This is because back in the Renaissance, they would count a new day as soon as the sun went down because they couldn’t tell the difference between one day and another when it was just dark outside, so sunset was used to differentiate one day from the next. The Duomo bells ring an hour before sunset, at sunset, and an hour after sunset, to help signify this passing into a new “day.” Someone who works in the Cathedral has to recalibrate the time of sunset each week as the sun sets at later and later times.
We had a lot of time to hear the extensive description about the famed painting on the dome itself, but I’ll spare this post the long explanation and substitute with a picture.
Another thing happened today that made me feel engaged with the Florentine community: a woman on the street asked me, in Italian, for directions to Piazza Della Libertà and I actually knew where it was and how to help direct her, in Italian! Being able to communicate and direct her all in Italian made me feel like a real local and gave me a bit of hometown pride in knowing that that I know Florence better than Italians from other cities within this country.