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Filippo Brunelleschi

Brunelleschi was trained as a sculptor in a Florentine workshop and was a member of the goldsmiths’ guild. In the competition for the second set of doors for the Florentine Baptistry, he virtually tied with Ghiberti, who executed the famous “Doors of Paradise.” He may have worked in Rome with his friend Donatello. His interests extended to mathematics and engineering and the study of ancient monuments. He made early experiments with perspective in painting and invented hydraulic machinery and elaborate clockwork, none of which survives. Above all Brunelleschi is remembered as an architect who established new classic canons of serene rhythms, clear geometry, and symmetry, often using the simplest materials: gray pietra serena and whitewashed plaster.

His career centered from 1409 onward on the construction of the Duomo, and especially on the famous problem of the “cupola”, as the dome is generally called, which attracted his engineering bent.

Building the Dome

Brunelleschi’s most famous masterpiece is the high, octagonal-ribbed dome of the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), the first notable dome erected in Italy since Antiquity. In 1418, a competition was announced for proposals on how to bridge the central crossing of the cathedral in Florence. Brunelleschi’s bid was backed by a then less important family, the Medici, which would benefit hugely from the completion of the dome. His design, which offered to build the cupola in spiraling courses of brickwork forming two light shells, without a framework of scaffolding, won the competition, and in 1423 he was put in complete charge of the Duomo’s building works. Its completion took most of his life. The main structure was finished by 1434. Four half-domed tribunes in the apse were constructed in 1438. The dome was only completed with a lantern in 1461 by Michelozzo. Andrea del Verrocchio added the gilt copper ball in 1496. The church’s dedication took place on 25 March 1436, accompanied by a grand ceremony; music for the occasion, the motet Nuper rosarum flores, was written by Guillaume Dufay.

While construction was proceeding, Brunelleschi designed and built the Pazzi Chapel in the cloister of the church of Santa Croce, which was actually begun in 1442 after long negotiations. The chapel, where members of the Pazzi family were to be entombed, was meant to function as a chapter house for the Franciscans of Santa Croce. Brunelleschi’s ribbed hemispherical dome is expressed on the exterior as a low tiled flattened conical roof on a low plain drum with small oculus windows. Inside, under the dome, the chapel is almost a cube, extended by barrel-vaulted bays on two sides. Pilasters and hemicyclic arches articulate the walls. The sedate materials are white stucco and the gray stone Florentines call pietra serena.

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Prologue
Colleyville, Texas
October

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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