Vis-a-vis from the entrance of the Duomo you will find a fine example of the 11th-century Romanesque architecture - the Baptistery. I repeat: the baptistery was built in the 11th century, a couple of hundred years before the Duomo! It was the city cathedral until 1128 and it is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Many illustrious men of Florence, including Dante, were baptized here. The layout is basic, perfect octogonal with a 26 meters diameter. It's roof is pyramid-shaped and topped by a lantern with columns; it is also covered in white and green marble.
This octogonal building in front of the Duomo is one of Florence's oldest buildings. We were there in May and permanently there was a huge line in front of the building. I though I will leave Florence without seeing it. In the last day I tried again, arriving in the Piazza del Duomo about 15 minutes before the closing time. This time there were only a few people in line so I bought a ticket. It was really worth it, the 13th century mosaics which illustrated the Last Judgement are so beautiful. I stayed there until closing time.
These bronze Renaissance doors were decorated by Lorenzo Ghiberti who won the commision in a competition. He spent 21 years on the North Doors and 28 years (from 1424 to 1452) on the East Doors. The panels depict stories from the Old Testament. The legend is that Michelangelo himself said they were so beautiful that they could serve as the Gates of Paradise. The panels on the doors are copies, the originals are now on display in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo where they were taken to be protected from the effects of pollution.
I liked the golden Porta de Paradiso most - made by Lorenzo Ghiberti and telling stories from the old testament. But the interior of the romanic octagon with lots of beautiful marble in different colours and the fresco cupola is worth the entry as well. The building was built in the 11th century, why some call it’s style more pre-renaissance than romanic.
Oh gosh, where do I start with this one…
The Baptistery of St John is part of the Duomo complex and, other than the scavi under church, the oldest of the structures. Information on the thing is all over the place as it has never really been determined exactly how old it is: there’s this ongoing, erroneous myth that it was once a pre-Christian temple. Suffice it to say that a chapel was built over ancient, Roman foundations sometime between the 4th - 5th centuries, probably rebuilt again in the 7th, and again in the 11th. It also wasn't used exclusively for baptisms until the 12th. Over those centuries significant other changes were made: marble cladding and pavement added to the interior (11th/12th), Romanesque-style marble veneer to the exterior and addition of a third, upper story (12th/13th), and intricate, glittering mosaics applied to cupola, apse and other sections of interior (13th/14th).
And then there are those famous doors: Andrea Pisano’s to the south, and Lorenzo Ghiberti’s to the north and east. The most beautiful - Ghiberti’s bronze “Gates of Paradise” - took 27 years to complete and are now in the cathedral's museum (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo). A copy now serves as a stand-in, and you can see the panel the artist submitted to win the commission at the Bargello.
The mosaics alone are stunning: this is, in my humble opinion, the real jewel of the Duomo campus and well worth the ticket price. Other highlights include a Donatello tomb of Anti-pope Giovanni XXIII, and gorgeous inlaid 'carpet' pavements - look for the astrological wheel -which radiate out from the center, where the font once stood, to the three entrance doors. This website has some nice pages on the individual panels of the doors, stories and meanings illustrated in the mosaics, and other interesting background: print them out to take along.
See the website below for hours and ticket prices. NOTE: the baptistery is considered a sacred site so appropriate dress is required to visit the inside: no uncovered knees or shoulders. Also, no flash, tripods or cell phone use is allowed.
This remarkable building may date back as early as the 4th century. The marble is green and white and the architectural style facade is from the 13th and 14th centuries. The doors are very important in the regions art "collection". Designed by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti they depict many religious and Biblical stories. They are also said to be the first beginning works of the Renaissance.
The current eastern doors are actually copies of the originals. Damaged by the centuries and a 1966 flood, the restored original door panels are housed in the nearby Opera Del Duomo Museum. Consisting of 10 gilded bronze panels depicting Biblical scenes, it took Ghiberti 27 years (1425-1452) to complete the massive doors to the Baptristry. Inspired by Ghiberti's masterpiece, Michelangelo called it the "Gates of Paradise". If you look carefully you will notice a self portrait of Ghiberti at the center of the door.
The Duomo is fabulous. Climb up to the top of the dome and be amazed at the beauty of this great city.
Although I didn't climb up the Campanile, I hear it's great for looking at the Duomo.
The Baptistry is more beautiful on the inside than it is on the outside. So, go in.
I used the Duomo as my "marker" in the sky. As long as I can see it, I knew where I was in the city.
Easy to miss one. Above the East Door of the Baptistery there is a group of statues that shows the scene of The Baptism of The Christ, naturally by St. John The Baptist. The statues are not the original ones, made by Andrea Sansovino. The originals are to be found in the museum Opera del Duomo. Interesting thing: Andrea Sansovino worked for 3 years (1502-1505) to make the original scene only with Christ and St. John, he did not finish it and left for Rome for a new comission. The task was continued much much later, in 1569 (!), by Vincenzo Danti, a sculptor from the school of Michelangelo. He kept on working for 7(!) more years, until his death. The statues were not fully completed though. The group was finally completed in 1792 (so after 290!!! years from the first chip of Sansovino) by Innocenzo Spinazzi, with an addition of an angel to the left of the group. It can clearly be seen that the angel is not in perfect harmony with the two and it is made from a different coloured marble.
Dating back to ancient Roman times, the octagonal Baptistry is the oldest Christian Temple in the city. The current structure was built between the 11th and 13th century on the site of a pagan temple. The most famous feature of the Baptistry are the east facing guilded bronze doors by Ghiberti. The doors were dubbed "Gates of Paradise" by Michelangelo.
After waiting days for the entrance lines to be of a reasonable length, we finally made it to the Baptistery of St. Giovanni. The Baptistery is believed to be the oldest building in the city, although there is some controversy about that.
Although the mosaics of the cupola (ceiling) were beautiful, the rest of the Baptistery was very small and plain – and empty. The most beautiful part of the Baptistery are the three bronze doors on the outside, with the nicest being the Gate of Paradise on the east side of the Baptistey. Stories from the Old Testament including the Creation of Adam and Eve and the Sacrifice of Noah are each enclosed with a frame on the door.
This wouldn't be on my list of must-sees in Florence - especially since you can see the best part - the doors - without entering, but I guess it's one of those sites everyone (including me) will see anyway.
Get here as early as possible to avoid the tour groups and general crowds!
Monday - Saturday 12:15 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Please note that all visitor information is correct as of this writing.
The Baptistery of St. John was built on foundations dating from the Roman epoch, and some of the original marble from these buildings was used in its construction. During the Middle Ages, it was believed to have been a temple to Mars, later transformed into a church.
Picturesque transport by horse and carriage in front of the cathedral and bell tower seen from the elegant campanile, or bell tower.
The east doors of the Bapistry of Santa Maria del Fiore are known as the "Gates of Paradise" (so named by Michelangelo) and were commissioned to celebrate the deliverance from the plague. There was a competition as to whom would design theses doors and it was Ghiberti who designed the ten relief panels in bronze showing scriptural subjects. As you look at them;
1. Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden
2. Cain murders his brother abel
3. the Drunkedness of Noah
4. Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac
5. Esau and Jacob
6. Joseph sold into slavery
7. Moses receiving the 10 commandments
8. the fall of Jerico
9. the battle with the Philistines
10.Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
However, these doors are only copies as the originals are exhibited in the Museo dell-Opera del Duomo next to the Duomo.
Beside the Basilica, in the Piazza del Duomo, is the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St John). The exterior doors are worth studying before you go inside as they are covered in wonderfully intricate bronze scenes, dating back to 1329.
Inside... look up and you will see the most magnifcent mosaic ceiling. Each panel represents a scene from the Bible and free leaflets are available that explain them in more detail.
The east door of the Duomo is probably the most famous door with only the Jubilee door at St Peters in the Vatican more famous. Described at gates worthy of paradise by Michelangelo they are indeed a great sight. Ghiberti designed the east door which depicts scenes of the Old Testament. Damaged by floods in 1966 when the Arno got a bit full the original doors are in the Cathedral Museum with these ones very good copies.