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REVEALED! OPA’S FLORENTINE CONNECTION

Funny how the Old Paradians' Association seems to find a way to connect with its own ones, no matter where they may be in the world. 

A case in point involves Peter Gilmartin, a final year student of the Bundoora campus’s inaugural year of 1968, currently on tour with his wife Brenda in Europe.

On October 6, Peter forwarded this image to OPA central with the accompanying text;

“Today we visited the Duomo (Florence Cathedral) and I took the following photo of a crest on the floor. I immediately thought of you”.

And so the question begs . . . other than the obvious, what could the letters “OPA” possibly represent in the Florentine context?

According to the Florence Webguide, the answer can be sourced to the year 1296, when construction of the Duomo – the world’s fourth largest cathedral - began under the watch of Arnolfo di Cambio, who was commissioned to build the spectacular basilica officially known as “Santa Maria del Fiore” (“Saint Mary of the Flower”).

The Wool Guild - one of the city’s largest corporations of merchants – took charge, and established a special organization of guild members to oversee construction of the cathedral and its bell tower.

That organization was known as the “Opera del Duomo” (works of the Duomo), or OPA for short (O - Per - A) – which is why the letters appear, encircled in grey, white, and red geometric patterns on the cathedral’s exquisite marble floor.

Also prominent elsewhere in the cathedral is the emblem of the Opera - the “Agnus Dei,” or “Lamb of God” - a crest derived from the Woolmakers’ Guild with the added initials OPA, meaning “per Opera,” that is, "for the Opera".

In this way, homage was given to the guild which almost entirely funded the construction of the cathedral.

Since the cathedral took so long to build, di Cambio never saw his design brought to fruition. Following his death, construction was undertaken by Giotto, then Andrea Pisano and lastly Francesco Talenti.

The cathedral’s first stone was laid on September 8, 1296 and was consecrated on March 25, 1436 by Pope Eugenius IV.

Which means that the Florentine version of the OPA can lay claim to more than 700 years’ service to the welfare of Florence’s famed “Santa Maria del Fiore”.