The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
The first recorded mention of the "operai di Santa Reparata" – officers elected to administer the funds earmarked by the city fathers in the Comune for the huge building project that was Florence's new cathedral – occurs in February 1296.
In those early days, half of the men tasked with overseeing the embryonic Opera del Duomo were chosen by the city fathers and the other half by the bishop, reflecting the secular and ecclesiastical cooperation that was such a feature of the project's early years. Yet by the early 14th century the Comune had already gained the upper hand not only in the funding but also in the running of the construction site, which it began to delegate to the city's Arti Maggiori, its most important guilds, on an alternating basis, thus emulating a long-established practice adopted by the Arte di Calimala, the Guild of Merchants, Finishers and Dyers of Foreign Cloth, for the baptistry. At length, in 1331, the Florentine Republic ruled that the Arte della Lana, the Guild of Wool Manufacturers and Merchants, should have exclusive control over the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.
- Agnus Dei, symbol of the Opera, by Della Robbia 15th-16th century.