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The year the people of Firenze decided to order the creation of one of the masterpieces of the town was very peculiar. It was 1401 and they had emerged from the bubonic plague and Milanese troops had laid siege to the city. On top of that, the city's economy was in doldrums. Not exactly a year to think about great art. But they did. They decided to keep a contest for the task to create the bronze doors of the Baptisery of Santa Maria del Fiore. The situation is very well discribed by Eric Weiner in his book "Geography of Genius": "Here was a city at it most vulnerable, beaten down by pestilence, threatened by foreign invaders, pummeled economcaly, and yet its citizens choose this very time to hold a Florence Got Talent contest. Not a contest to see who could create the best catapult or plague vaccine, but one whose stated goal was something outlandishly impractical as beauty. The contest came down to two finalists, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi....The judges were split down the middle. So Solomon-like, they proposed that Brunelleschi and Ghiberti work together on the project. " But Brunnelelschi didn't want to work together, so the commission handed the contract to Ghiberti. "Thus began a lifelong rivalry, one that would drive both men to create some of the finest art and architecture the world has ever seen: in case of Ghibertin the Gates of Paradise, and for Brunelleschi, the Duomo."
Source: Eric Weiner, 2016, Geography of Genius, 124-125
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