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  • Writer's pictureNora Studholme

The thing I’ll never forget about the top of the Duomo

It isn’t the delicate roof tiles, and how up close they are both massive and fragile, the scales of some lumbering dragon-bodied beast. How a row of replacements set up every few feet, a constant battle against the creeping brown moss and battering cold.

It isn’t the tight spiraling stairs, the smoothed pressure of foot on stone that dents the ancient steps, the feel of the rough walls on your hands, shoulders as you brush them on either side.

It isn’t the view from the inside balcony, looking down onto the mosaic floor that covered the ground like a carpet; endless decorations of Escher-like twists, Gordian swirls, sharp geometric rays.

Not the stained glass, glowing sharply with the meticulous devotion of the craftsmen who built these odes to their Madonna.

Not the demonic carnage of hell painted on the interior of the dome, the many headed serpents chasing naked souls, a man unzipping his skin and peeling it to the ground, a three mouthed demon crunching up a human body, blood oozing down its chin and eyes rolling in different directions in horrible pleasure.

I remember those things now, but the thing that I think I’ll always remember is the view from the top, looking down over the impossible architecture, the dream that was started before anyone had an idea of how to finish it. I’ll remember how the great stone supports of the dome curved away, silvery-white marble ridge against the terracotta scales of the roof, the ribs of a great creature.

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