Donatello Collaborates with Michelozzo on the External Pulpit of the Prato Cathedral
The Cathedral of Prato (Italian: Duomo di Prato) is the main Catholic church of Prato, Tuscany, Central Italy and seat of the bishop.
It is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It is one of the most ancient churches in the city, existing already in the 10th century and having been built and in several successive stages. The churches has a number of notable works of art, in particular, fine sculpture.
The Cathedral is documented as early as the 10th century as the Pieve of Santo Stefano, located in the Borgo al Cornio, the first settlement in Prato.
The current structure dates from Romanesque period of the 12th century, the nave, side walls and greater part of the bell tower remaining from this date. The upper stage of the bell tower was constructed in 1356.
During the 14th century, the Cathedral acquired an important relic, the Sacra Cintola or Belt of the Holy Virgin. This brought about the enlarging of the edifice by the addition of a transept which is attributed to Giovanni Pisano, but probably the work of a pupil of Nicola Pisano. The Cintola Chapel was also built at this time to house the relic.
In the early 15th century, a new façade was added in the International Gothic, in front of the old one. In the space between the two was created a narthex or corridor leading to the external pulpit, built by Michelozzo and decorated by Donatello between 1428 and 1438.
The facade is architecturally simple, the shape of the building informing the new structure so that its low-pitched central roof and sloping side aisles mark the roofline, which is enlivened with an open parapet of simple Gothic tracery, uniting the building with the sky. The facade is divided into three sections by shallow buttresses or pilasters. That part of the facade above the springing of the door arch is faced with marble in contrasting stipes, while the lower part is pale-coloured but much stained in some areas, possible from the absorption of pollutants.