Battistero di San Giovanni
The Baptistery was built between 1059 and 1128 thanks to the patronage of the powerful Guild of Calimala, so it is one of the oldest religious buildings in the city; it has octagonal shape and represent a characteristic example of the Tuscan Romanesque style, with its white and green marbles and the typical semi-pilasters and columns supporting rouded arches.
In the Florentine Baptistery many famous personalities of the city were baptized: among them the great poet Dante Alighieri, who mentioned it in his Divine Comedy.
On three of the four sides there are three large doors famous for their decorations; however, it is important to notice that all the doors of the baptistery are copies of the originals, which are now on display in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, just behind the Cathedral.
The bronze doors on the South side of the baptistery (temporary removed for restoration) were made by Andrea Pisano around 1330-1336 and is the oldest pair of doors: it present 28 panels depicting scenes from St. John’s life.
Northern doors were realized by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1403-1424, after winning a public competition in which also Filippo Brunelleschi was included among the finalists: on the 28 bronze panels of doors are represented Stories of the Life and Passion of Christ taken from the New Testament.
The marvelous Eastern doors – most famously known as the Gates of Paradise – have always been regarded as the most important: they were beautifully made by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1425-1452, and consist in 10 rectangular golden panels depicting scenes of the Old Testament.
The interior of the Baptistery presents two registers with granite columns and marble pilasters: a gallery runs around the upper register. Inside, it contains the monumental tomb of antipope Giovanni XXIII (Baldassarre Cossa), a superb work financed by his friend Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and realized by the great sculptor Donatello and his colleague Michelozzo during the 1420s. On the floor it is possible to admire a decoration with marble intarsia showing the Signs of Zodiac.
The centerpiece inside the Baptistery are the magnificent mosaics covering the ceiling, realized in Byzantine style with iconic figures and a gold background. It is a work of art of many craftsmen between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The mosaics show the Angelic Hierarchies on the top, and lower present four cycles of stories: Scenes from Genesis, Scenes from the life of Joseph the Patriarch, Scenes from the life of Christ, Scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist.
In the middle of the three lower levels, a giant and solemn figure of Christ dominates the wonderful Last Judgement realized by Coppo di Marcovaldo and Meliore di Jacopo, in which we can see the rewards of the saved and the terrible punishments of the damned.
No tour of Florence city is complete without a visit to the Battistero di San Giovanni.