A cathedral is the main church of a diocese, which houses the seat of the bishop. The Italian Duomo refers to the principal church of a town, and the Duomo of a city may or may not be a cathedral. There are cities where the principal church is not the cathedral, and vice versa, as it happens, for example, in Bologna. Most of the time, however, these two terms overlap, meaning the same thing.
The facade is the most important architectural feature of a cathedral, and the first to impress you. Certainly, there are churches with plain facades that hide invaluable treasures inside, but we will not discuss about them in this article. Also, any kind of top is subjective, and if you do not entirely agree with this one, you can send us your opinion through comments.
10. CATHEDRAL OF SAINT AGATHA, CATANIA
The current Baroque facade was designed in 1711 by Gian Battista Vaccarini, after the 1693 earthquake. The facade has three orders with Corinthian columns in granite. All the orders are decorated with marble statues of Saint Agatha, Saint Euplius and Saint Birillus. The main wooden door has 32 sculpted plaques with episodes of the life and martyrdom of Saint Agatha.
9. CATHEDRAL OF SAINT ANDREW, AMALFI
The Cathedral of Saint Andrew, or Duomo di Amalfi, is a 9th-century Roman Catholic cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, in Amalfi, dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew, whose relics are kept here.
The facade of the church was rebuilt in 1891 after the original one collapsed. The current facade is made of striped marble and stone, with open arches that have lace detailing. The tympanum’s mosaics portray The triumph of Christ, a work created by Domenico Morelli.
8. CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN LATERAN, ROME
Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome, and the mother church of all the Catholic churches in the world, being the highest ranked of the four papal major basilicas, receiving the title of archbasilica.
The current facade of the church was designed by Alessandro Galilei in 1735, resembling a palace facade rather than one of a church. Galilei provided an entrance framed by large Corinthian pilasters, that tie together the facade in an impressive manner.
7. ST. PETER’S BASILICA, VATICAN CITY
Although St. Peter’s Basilica is not a cathedral, as some believe, because is not the seat of a bishop, and although it is not located in Italy, being part of the papal enclave of the Vatican City, we could not exclude it from this top, due to the importance it holds as the largest church in the world and the most important church of Christianity.
The facade of the church, designed by Carlo Maderno and built between 1608 and 1614, is 115 meters wide and 45 meters high. The facade was built of travertine stone, with a giant order of Corinthian columns and a central pediment rising in front of a tall attic surmounted by thirteen statues.
6. CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA ASSUNTA, PISA
The facade decorated with colored marble inserts was built by the architect Rainaldo. The facade is characterized by three doorways, four levels of loggia divided by cornices with marble intarsia, and single, double and triple windows.
5. ST. MARK’S BASILICA, VENICE
Cathedral of Saint Mark, commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica, is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Venice, located in Piazza San Marco, in Venice, adjacent to the Doge’s Palace.
The facade of the church is enclosed by the Gothic crowning with aedicules, statues and floral decorations made in the 14th and 15th centuries, and is divided in three registers. In the lower register, we can find five round-arched portals, enveloped by polychrome marble columns.
4. CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA ASSUNTA, ORVIETO
The facade of the Cathedral is divided in three by four vertical buttresses, each ending with a spire. The portals, the bas-reliefs, the loggia, the rose window, the statues, the pillars, and finally the spiers create relief motifs that contrast well with the flat and shiny surface of the mosaics.
3. CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA ASSUNTA, SIENA
The Cathedral of Siena, dedicated to the of the Assumption of Saint Mary, is located in the homonymous square in the historical center of the city, being a great exemple of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
The facade of the church, all in white marble with decoration of Siena Red and green marble from Prato, is divisible in two halves, inferior and superior, built in two distinct constructive phases. The richness of the decoration, mainly sculptural, hides irregularities and asymmetries derived from the long construction period.
2. CATHEDRAL OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT MARY, MILAN
Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint Mary, or Duomo di Milano, is the cathedral church of Milan, the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world.
The current facade is an unusual combination of various projects approved between 1683 and 1813, with some changes made even later – the decorations on top of the facade were modified in 1932.
The facade is marked by the pillars that divide it into five parts, the main and the four lateral doors, the four windows of the upper register, the three large lancet windows, and the gallery created parallel to the pitches of the roof.
1. CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE, FLORENCE
In 1864, Emilio De Fabris won the competition held to design a new facade, the work began in 1876 and was completed in 1887. The neo-gothic facade in white, green and red marble forms a harmonious entity with the Giotto’s bell tower and the Baptistery, being without doubt a masterpiece.