The Historical Archive houses the records of the Opera's activity since it was first founded by the city fathers to oversee the construction and maintenance of the new cathedral in 1296.
The written records of the earliest decades have been lost (although we have extensive indirect knowledge of them). The earliest document in the archive is a book from the middle of the 14th century containing the memoirs of Filippo Marsili, the Opera's general manager at the time, but after that the collection continues right on up to the present day without a break. The documents are divided into several different categories such as regulations, deliberations, correspondence and proceedings, accounts, inventories and so forth.
The Archive also owns several manuscripts which were not produced by the Opera directly but acquired at a later date, including two extremely precious 13th century registers which are the oldest works in the collection. One is a liturgical book entitled "Mores et consuetudines canonice florentine", which comprises a set of provisions for the clergy serving the old cathedral of Santa Reparata regarding the celebrations to be held inside and outside the church, while the other is the so-called "Santa Reparata Necrology", a parchment register set out like a Roman calendar with the name and date of death of those buried in the graveyard around the cathedral up to 1320.
The Historical Archive has an inventory-summary compiled by archivist Enzo Settesoldi in 1958.
San Giovanni Christening Records Archive
The most frequently consulted records in our archives are to be found in the San Giovanni Christening Records Archive, which houses the famous registers of all those christened in the baptistry of Florence after 1450. Parish churches in the diocese were only allowed to have their own baptismal fonts relative recently, at the time of Archbishop Elia Dalla Costa (in the synods of 1935 and 1945). Before then, all Florentines were christened beneath the mosaic-covered vaults of San Giovanni. Thus the records are a source of the first importance and of exceptional continuity for the city's history, fuelling a tradition of demographic scholarship that dates back to 1775 when Marco Lastri published his Ricerche sull'antica e moderna popolazione della città di Firenze ("Research on the Ancient and Modern Population of the City of Florence").
The archive, divided into different categories, including indices by surname from 1650 to 1814, came to the Opera del Duomo in 1777 after it merged with the Opera di San Giovanni,which had been responsible for administering the baptistry until then.
The series of records and indices by surname may still be consulted in their entirety on line via this website.
The Musical Archive
The Opera's Musical Archive contains an extremely celebrated collection of sacred music, comprising the liturgical and music books used for Mass and divine service in the cathedral and baptistry over six centuries (from 1300 to the present day). Of universal renown are its choral codices, which contain not only a rich repertoire of Gregorian chant but also a fully-fledged art gallery thanks to the countless wonderful illuminations illustrating their large parchment sheets. Unfortunately the flood of 1966 seriously damaged these manuscripts, which were on display in a room in the museum at the time. Thanks to the patient and meticulous job completed by our restorers in 1999, it has been possible to reconstruct and to clean the mud off the pages of the individual codices, but it will no longer be possible to admire the full splendour of a considerable number of the illuminations produced by the Maestro Daddesco,MontediGiovanni,FrateEustachio, Attavante degli Attavanti and many other illustrious illuminators of the period.
Despite this, the choral codices maintain their full historical, liturgical, musical and iconographical value and they are also now easily accessible on line.
No less important are the Musical Archive's other collections, none of which were damaged in the flood. They include an important collection of madrigals, vesperals and processionals, one of the most outstanding pieces being a 15th century Holy Week Processional well known to scholars.
Finally, an important place is occupied by the volumes dedicated to polyphony with their extremely rich repertoire of sacred music (masses, motets, antiphones, hymns and so forth) produced for the cathedral Cappella betwen the 16th and 18th centuries by such composers as Pier Luigi da Palestrina, Francesco Corteccia, Marco da Gagliano, Tommaso Lodovico da Victoria and the cathedral's various kapellmeisters over the centuries.