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A Project by Michelangelo for the Ambo(s) of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Piero Morselli
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Vol. 40, No. 2 (May, 1981), pp. 122-129
DOI: 10.2307/989725
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/989725
Page Count: 8
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A Project by Michelangelo for the Ambo(s) of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence
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Abstract

A group of Michelangelo's architectural drawings preserved in the Ashmolean and in the British Museum contains several detailed studies for a tall, semi-octagonal structure. Whereas the sketches have been dated ca. 1518, the nature of the building and its intended location are still a matter of debate. Recently, Wilde argued that the drawings show the ground plan and elevation of an ambo. This identification has been challenged on the basis that ambos had disappeared from liturgical use and had been replaced by pulpits centuries before Michelangelo. An examination of documents and sources reveals, however, that single and paired ambos had been built in the 15th century and that the 16th century marked a renewed liturgical interest in the Early Christian amboni tradition. Michelangelo's sketches in all probability reflect a project intended as part of the program for the embellishment of S. Maria del Fiore. This assumption is strengthened by the date of the drawings, executed after Michelangelo's return to Florence, by the contemporary decision of the operai to remodel the old choir of the church, and by the general architectural scheme of Michelangelo's ambo, which seems to have been conceived with the interior of this church in mind.

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