Archive for August, 2013


Winner: Pluto

Tonight was the last game before the August recess, and some players made a special effort to join us. Our fave young couple  (“the Goalie” and “the Goal”) were working in Brooklyn, but still made the long trip to Northport to get into this last game of summer before heading back to college in September. They had spent their spring semester studying  (trivia?) in Europe and were looking forward to tonight’s challenge and redemption.

Their effort paid off when “the Goalie” finished second against a strong field, and “the Goal” finished third, along with a few others. This was quite an improvement over their abysmal showing last year, so maybe there is something to this semester study abroad idea.

Tonight we learned that after Luxemburg,  France has the highest consumption of alcohol (per capita) – Viva La France! Some of us knew immediately which country was ranked best for family and peer relationships – Italy, of course.

Even though the game is on hiatus, MainStreetCafe still provides a cool oasis, and the Tuesday night Main Street Festival gets better each year, so come on down. TNBE will be back in September.


…………………………Tonight’s group of friends in the window seats

Good Question! : Florence has the largest brick dome ever constructed .

Who was the engineer?

Choices :  A. Michelangelo   B. Da Vinci   C. Donatello   D. Brunelleschi   


The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, is a marvel.

Answer : Filippo Brunelleschi


Brunelleschi’s story is fascinating and worth your time:

imagesFew men have left a legacy as monumental as Filippo Brunelleschi. He was the first modern engineer and a problem-solver with unorthodox methods. He solved one of the greatest architectural puzzles and invented his way to success. Only now is he receiving deserved recognition as the greatest architect and engineer of the Renaisssance. 

Born in Florence in 1377, Brunelleschi, like his peers Ghiberti and Donatello, was apprenticed to a goldsmith, Benincasa Lotti. They worked amidst the slums of the Santa Croce quarter. It was there that young Brunelleschi learned the skills of mounting, engraving and embossing. He also studied the science of motion, using wheels, gears, cogs and weights.

In 1401, the young craftsman entered a competition to design new bronze doors for the city’s baptistry. Already paranoid, Brunelleschi hid his work away, and watched as his rival, Ghiberti, the lesser technician, wooed the judges and won the commission. Legend has it that Brunelleschi stormed out of the competition when he was refused complete control, and quit the city of Florence altogether.250px-Pantheon-panini

Brunelleschi spent the next 10-years living rough in Rome with his good friend, the sculptor Donatello, studying the ruins of the great city. He was especially interested in Roman engineering and the use of fixed proportion and Roman vaults. The construction of the Pantheon – especially the dome – fascinated him. Brunelleschi dedicated himself to understanding how it stayed up, which included pouring Roman concrete over a massive timber frame.

When Brunelleschi returned to Florence, a new prize was on offer, the magnificent Cathedral desperately needed a dome. Whilst no one had ever made a self-supporting dome before, Brunelleschi was confident that he could solve the problem.

He hungered for the greatest prize of all, the Cathedral. The authorities demanded a demonstration. The temperamental architect displayed his strategy by standing an egg upright, breaking its bottom. The Cathedral authorities were unsure but had little choice but to trust him. To succeed, Brunelleschi needed to rewrite the rules of Western architecture and there was no guarantee of success.

Brunelleschi knew that there was not enough timber in Tuscany to build a scaffold inside the Cathedral, and the recipe for concrete had been lost since the fall of Rome. Brunelleschi instead came up with an ingenious and completely original theory. His plans showed an inner hemispherical dome within Florence cathedral’s octagonal drum. A second, ovoid brick dome was to be placed on top, and nine sandstone rings would then hold the structure together, like a barrel. To raise the bricks and sandstone beams several hundred feet in the air, Brunelleschi invented a fast and efficient hoist with the world’s first reverse gear, allowing an ox to raise or lower a load at the flick of a switch.

Brunelleschi had no formal training. The ideas he brought to building sites were completely new. Every day, he ensured workers remained sober by providing their lunch and watering down the wine. A safety net prevented workers from falling to their deaths, a chiming clock regulated their working hours and Brunelleschi had a canteen half way up the dome. His methods seemed to work. Only three deaths were recorded during a 16-year construction period.

ken-scicluna-italy-florence-tuscany-western-europe-duomo-designed-by-famed-italian-architect-brunelleschiAs the magnificent dome neared completion, Brunelleschi indulged in other interests. In 1434, he held a public display, sketching the outline of the nearby baptistery. Using a novel technique, involving reflective material and pinholes, Brunelleschi produced an exact isometric simulation of the octagonal building. Brunelleschi had reproduced a three-dimensional object in two dimensions. He had invented perspective.

With the dome complete, Cosimo de’Medici invited the Pope himself to consecrate the finished Cathedral on Easter Sunday, 1436. The dome towered majestically over the city of Florence, a triumph for the Florentine people and the city’s most powerful family.

Weighing 37,000 tons and using more than 4,000,000 bricks, Brunelleschi’s dome was the greatest architectural feat in the Western world.

One man alone had realized his ambition. When Brunelleschi died in 1446, he was buried beneath his towering achievement, where he remains to this day. He was the first engineer of the Renaisssance.

If you are still interested, try this national bestseller:

“Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture”

“By all accounts, Filippo Brunelleschi, goldsmith and clockmaker, was an unkempt, cantankerous, and suspicious man-even by the generous standards according to which artists were judged in fifteenth-century Florence. He also designed and erected a dome over the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore-a feat of architectural daring that we continue to marvel at today-thus securing himself a place among the most formidable geniuses of the Renaissance.

At first denounced as a madman, Brunelleschi literally reinvented the field of architecture amid plagues, wars, and political feuds to raise seventy million pounds of metal, wood, and marble hundreds of feet in the air. Ross King’s captivating narrative brings to life the personalities and intrigue surrounding the twenty-eight-year-long construction of the dome, opening a window onto Florentine life during one of history’s most fascinating eras.” Sounds like a good read.

 sources: pbs.org, biography.com

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