Tag Archives: John Adams

Our Trip to Italy~Part 6

10 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites




After leaving Verona, we drove over to Vicenza where we saw the Olympic Theater, which was designed by the famous Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and constructed between 1580-1585.  The theatre was inaugurated on March 3, 1585, with a production of Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King.”



Then we toured the Monticello shaped residence, “Villa Capra La Rotonda” which was also designed by Andrea Palladio.  President George Washington selected the site for the future “President’s House” in 1791.  And then, interestingly, Thomas Jefferson anonymously submitted a design as part of the 1792 competition for the project, that was a variation on the Villa Rotonda.  That design was selected, and ultimately would become what we now know as the White House.   The first President to use the President’s House as his residence was President John Adams, and his wife Abigail, who moved into the  unfinished house in 1800.


On the last day of January, Marcia and Erika joined us for a 2½-hour first class train trip to the beautiful city of Florence.  With its many art galleries and museums, this ancient and beautiful city is known as the cradle of the Renaissance.  Founded around 50 BC, the city soon became an important trade center.  As the city grew, Byzantine walls were added to the Roman walls around 540 AD for protection.  Additional walls were also added from the 1st to the 13th centuries for additional protection of the inhabitants and commerce of the city.   Lorenzo the Magnificent ruled from 1469-1492, at the time considered to be Italy’s artistic highpoint.  In 1494 Florence surrendered to Charles VIII of France at Sarzana.  1865 Florence is made the capital of the newly united Kingdom of Italy, with King Vittorio Emmanuele being installed in Palazzo Pitti.


The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) was magnificent.  Originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, construction began in 1296 AD.  During the next 140 years it took to complete the basic structure of the cathedral, many designers and architects added their inputs to the basic design.  When completed and consecrated, in 1436, the cathedral still had no dome.  Because of the many opinions at the time about the best dome design, it would be another 10 years before designer Filippo Brunelleschi won the design competition and began construction of the dome.  The conical roof was crowned with a gilt copper ball and cross, containing holy relics, by Verricchio in 1469.  The decorations of the drum gallery by Baccio d’Agnolo were never finished after being disapproved by none other than Michelangelo.



As can be seen in the picture above, across the piazza from the Duomo was the Baptistery of St. John, one of the oldest buildings in Florence, thought to have been built between 1059 & 1128 AD.  The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were done by Andrea Pisano, the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti.  The east pair of doors were dubbed by Michelangelo as “The Gates of Paradise.”


The bronze-casting and gilding on the main entry doors was done by the Venetian Leonardo d’Avanzano, widely recognized as one of the best bronze smiths in Europe. It took him six years, with the doors being completed in 1336.  These proto-Renaissance doors consist of 28 quatrefoil panels, with the twenty top panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist.  The eight lower panels depict the eight virtues of Hope, faith, charity, humility, fortitude, temperance, Justice and prudence.



—–To Be Continued—–

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