National Geographic : 1967 Jul
Florence Rises From the Flood Christendom, crowns the cathedral that all Florence calls Duomo, from the Latin domus, house. To the devout Italian, the word has a special meaning: "House of God." On three of its eight sides the Baptistery wears famous doors, but without question the most famous and beautiful doors anywhere are those of the east side. When sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti finished them in 1452 after 27 years of labor, Florence stood in awe. Michelangelo in later years remarked that they were worthy to be the Doors of Paradise - and so they have been called ever since. The 10 bronze panels, depicting scenes from the Old Testament, seem painted in molten metal, so perfect is their detail and perspective. As the three torrents spilled into the piazza, the thunder and vibration could be heard and felt blocks away. Sometime after 10 a.m. the black-crested tide crawled up the Doors of Paradise and began pounding them against the stone jamb. The beautiful panels loosened, first one, then another. Finally five plunged into the swirling muck, but a protective gate kept them from being swept away (pages 36 7). Inside, Donatello's wooden Magdalene stood hip-deep in water. Breaking into the cathedral, the Arno rose buildings, waters here rose to a depth of 20 feet-deepest inundation in the city. Michel angelo, while working in Rome in 1545, wrote a nephew about buying a house near Santa Croce and cautioned that "every year there the cellars flood." rnnAr uc nMF RY DANIELEPETTINARI:EKTACHROME(OPPOSITE)FROMMONDADORIPRESS( N.G.S.