Florence Cathedral Easter Egg - Brunelleschi's Dome and Dufay's "Nuper Rosarum Flores"

If you're familiar with Renaissance history, you know that Guillame Dufay's "Nuper Rosarum Flores" (The Rose Blossoms) was written for the dedication of the Flanders Cathedral, in Florence Italy. However, the song and the cathedral have much more in common.

As a precautionary warning, this egg is quite long and complex.

To begin, take a look at the song. It changes signature four times throughout the piece. Now, count up the beats between the time signature changes, and you get:
168 : 112 : 56 : 84.
These numbers all have a common denominator, 28. REMEMBER THIS NUMBER!!!
When you divide each of these numbers by their common denominator, 28, you get:
6 : 4 : 2 : 3.

Now take a look at each of the two tenors' parts (soprano and bass in modern terms). The tenors come in and out throughout the song, singing "Terriblis est locus iste," or "Awesome is this place." If you count up the measures with and without the tenors, you find that there are initially 28 measures without, then 28 measures with, then 28 measures without, and so forth all the way through the song.

Here is the link between the song and the cathedral. Start with the dome, which is octagonal. If you draw a square around the dome, then a square inside the square, then a square inside of that square, you eventually reach the exact proportions of the crossing of the cathedral. This in itself is not amazing, until you take a look at the measurements of the crossing: 28 Braccia cubed. (The Braccia was the standard unit of measurement in Italy back in the day.)

Now go back to the proportions from the song we studied earlier– 6 : 4 : 2 : 3. If we think of the 28 Braccia cubed as a block, we find that the nave is composed of EXACTLY six of these blocks. The transepts are two blocks each, giving a total of four, and the place behind the crossing where the altar stands is exactly two. Ah, so we have 6 : 4 : 2, but where is the 3? In the dome. If you start on top of the block that makes up the crossing, you find there are exactly three blocks to the cieling of the dome.

The song and the dome itself also have a distinct connection. If you are familiar with Brunelleschi's Dome, you know that it was actually two domes- an inner and an outer, with a space between. If you measure the thickness of these two domes, you find that they are in exact proportion to the length of higher tenor's (soprano) and the lower tenor's (bass) notes.

And no, Dufay and Brunelleschi weren't in on some Ancient Secret. The era was known for neo-Platonism, which is partly founded on the belief that there is harmony between the earth and the planets; the planets and the heavens. By putting these eggs in their works, Dufay and Brunelleschi (and many other artists of the time) believed they were communicating through harmony with God.


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Contributed By: teufelfisch on 09-07-2002
Reviewed By: Webmaster
Special Requirements: A copy of the music would help.
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laura writes:
It is nice to see that the person who wrote this entry has completely plagiarised the 1973 research by Charles Warren. It is also interesting to note that the plagiarist has not been in contact with any ofthe recent literature on nuper rosarum flores and its connection with Brunelleschi's dome, namely the article by Craig Wright in 1994. Wright discovered that Warrens mathematical atriculation of the architecture of the Dome was severly flawed, and that nuper rosarum flores' mathematical structure was related to the ancient architecture of Solomon's temple, described in the Bible. Do your research before you attempt to pass an idea off as your own!
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teufelfisch writes:
Sorry, I made a mistake - the two tenors are alto and bass in modern terms, not soprano and bass. Don't know what I was thinking!
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Kiani Hanson writes:
What you forget to mention about both Warren and Wright's work is that they both have the same basic thesis that Dufay's motet follows the mathematics of the Golden Ratio. So they're both saying the same thing in the end.
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Eric writes:
Bravo Laura! However Wright's article dates from 1993... but good work uncovering the imposter!
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This is absolutely brilliant. I wanna do something like this in my own music someday. Thanks for pointing out how it's been going on for centuries. I really wish I were better at math!
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sparky writes:
Somebody has ALOT of time on their hands.
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