Florence Travel Guide

Baptistery

This famous octagonal building with semicircular apses, raised on a stepped podium, was built between the 4th and the 5th century, near the north gate of Roman Florence. Its current appearance dates to the 13th century. The smooth pyramidal roof of the Baptistry was finished in 1128, the lantern with columns is from 1150, the rectangular tribune, or scarsella, from 1202.

The exterior of the Baptistery is covered with green and white marble. Each side is divided into three sections by pilaster strips and round arches with windows. Particularly outstanding are the bronze doors and, inside, the mosaics in the dome.

There are three sets of doors in the Baptistery of San Giovanni: the south doors by Andrea Pisano with Stories of the life of the Baptist and Allegories of the virtues, the north doors by Ghiberti, with Stories from the New Testament, Evangelists and Doctors of the Church, and the east doors (or Gates of Paradise), Ghiberti's masterpiece and deservedly the most famous of the three. They are divided into ten panels which depict Stories from the Old Testament and were commissioned by the Arte dei Mercanti in 1425.

In the perfection of execution, they are worthy of the name Michelangelo bestowed on them. Small figures of biblical personages and portraits of contemporary artists are to be found in the frame around the panels.

Interior of the Florence Baptistery

The interior of the Baptistery is characterized by the walls on two lines, the inferior one with columns and the upper one with pillars between mullioned windows.

The surfaces are covered by marble, similar to those of the floor. Particularly interesting the tomb of the Antipope John XXIII, a complex built by Michelozzo and Donatello (the latter made the reclining statue), two Roman sarcophagi and the tomb slab of Bishop Ranieri.

The apse is enriched by beautiful mosaics of the thirteenth century, similar to those of the large dome. Next to the large Enthroned Christ by Coppo di Marcovaldo, six tiers of bands representing, from the base to the top, scenes from the life of Saint John the Baptist, stories of Christ, of Joseph, of Genesis, Celestial Hierarchies and decorations.

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