Upcoming events

Follow Us

Log in


Building the Italian Renaissance: Brunelleschi's Dome
and the Florence Cathedral

by Paula Kay Lazrus

If you can explain how to build the Dome, you can get the commission to build it.

Building the Italian Renaissance focuses on the competition to select a team to execute the final architectural challenge of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore--the erection of its dome. The project takes place at an important time for Florence. The city is transitioning from a High Medieval world view into the new dynamics and ideas and will lead to the full flowering of what we know as the Renaissance. Thus the competition at the heart of this game plays out against the background of new ideas about citizenship, aesthetics, history (and its application to the present), and new technology. The central challenge is to expose players to complex and multifaceted situations and to individuals that animated life in Florence in the early 1400s. Humanism as a guiding philosophy is taking root and scholars are looking for ways to link the mercantile city to the glories of Rome and to the wisdom of the ancients across many fields.

The game gives students a chance to enter into the world of Florence in the early 1400s to develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of such a major artistic and technical undertaking while providing an opportunity to grasp the interdisciplinary nature of major public works.



European History; Art History; Cultural and Social History; History of Science and Technology; Western Civ/History; World History

15th Century; Post-Classical Era

In a Few Words
Liberal Education Matters


Notable Roles

Leonardo Bruni, Niccolo Niccoli, Battista d'Antonio

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive

Themes and Issues  
Citizenship, aesthetics, history (and its application to the present), new technology, humanism, the interdisciplinary nature of major public works

Sample Class Titles
Global History; Architecture; Engineering

Published Level 5 game (what's that mean?

Primary Source Highlights

P.P. Vergerius, "On Nobel Manners and Liberal Studies;" Vitruvius, "The Ten Books on Architecture;" L. Bruni, "Panergyric of Florence;" G. Dati, "The Structure of the Florentine Government"

Create Palios/Guild Banners, some groups make sketches/models

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
The set up requiring time for students to see how guilds and factions over lap is often confusing for students. Dealing with more than one role in society is a challenge and in this case it means working with different groups of people on separate projects. Faculty need to make sure that the students who need to build models have time and that the other students focus on the Palios/banners.

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 12-40 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 1 to 2 setup sessions and 3 game sessions are recommended. 

It's not listed as variable, but options are provided in the Instructor's Manual for shortening or lengthening the game to support class schedule or objectives.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. Duomo may pair well with:

You can adjust the assignments based on the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, explanatory writing , and art components such as model building, banners, etc. All roles are required to give formal speeches. 


Confirmed instructors who are not yet members can access basic instructor materials. Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content. The Duomo Gamebook is published by Reacting Consortium Press.

PAPERBACK ISBN: 978-1-4696-5339-6

EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-4696-5340-2

Available wherever books are sold.

Role Sheets and Add'l Materials

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives. 

VERSION 5.1. Updated 2018. .pdf file.

.zip file of .pdf files.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more. 

VERSION 5.1. Updated 2018. .docx file.


Paula Kay Lazrus

Paula Kay Lazrus is a Professor in the Institute for Core Studies, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology at St. John’s University in New York. An archaeologist, Paula has worked in Italy since 1980, is a past president of the NY Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, and is a current member of the Reacting board.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • To Farm or Not to Farm: Hunter Gatherers in Transition
  • Elgin Marbles Controversy


"This game's greatest strength is its interdisciplinarity. It draws upon philosophy, history, engineering, architecture, art history, … probably others as well. It integrates these differing approaches to thinking in a meaningful, cohesive way."

"The game seeks to apprise students of the wide scope and interdisciplinary nature of Renaissance learning—a valuable objective, especially in an age of specialization. It provides students with a hands-on introduction to basic architectural and engineering principles. And it may be unique in showing students how things are made."

"There are not enough pre-modern games, so this is helpful to fill that void. It would work in a variety of classes and at many levels: art history, history, Italian studies, etc. It has multiple factional orientations that suggest that the past was complex."


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Art in Paris
Modernism versus Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-1889

Marlowe vs Shakespeare
Stages of Power: Marlowe and Shakespeare, 1592

Wrestling with the Reformation: Augsburg, 1530


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software