The Baptistery of San Giovanni have been built originally around 4th to 5th century, octagonal in plan with a semi-circular apse. In the 11th century it became the city cathedral, since Santa Reparata was being rebuilt. In that circumstances the Baptistery was refaced both inside and out, while in 1128, the smooth pyramidal roof was finished and topped by a lantern with columns. After this works, finished in 1150, the Baptistery looked as it does today.
Thr three bronze doors of the Baptistery are particularly important. The South door, by Andrea Pisano, is the oldest, decorated with scenes from the Life of San Giovanni the Baptist and the Allegories of the Theologian and CardinalVirtues. The North door with stories from the New Testament is by Lorenzo Ghiberti, with the help of Donatello, Paolo Uccello, Bernardo Ciuffagni and Bernardo Cennini. The Eastern door, known also as the Gates of Paradise with ten panels (now replaced by the copies) representing Stories from the Old Testament is by Lorenzo Ghiberti, and is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of 15th century sculptures.
this is the second popular photo spot of the Trifecta of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. the Baptistry is situated just across the entrance to the Cathedral and is octagonal in Shape. It was built in 1128 in Romanesque Style and is famous because of the three sets of beatifully crafted bronze doors with various relief sculptures with different Sculptors namely, The south door were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east door by Lorenzo Ghiberti of which The east doors were dubbed by the famous Renaisannce Artist Michelangelo as the Gates of Paradise. It was under renovation when we where there unfortunately.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the main Roman Catholic Church of Florence and is one of the Largest Roman Catholic Church of Italy. The three structures of the Church, the main Cathedral the Baptisty and the Giotto Bell tower are part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Center of Florence and is one of the attractions of the City.
The Cathedral was started in 1296 and was completed in 1436 and done in Gothic Style of which was designed by architect Arnolfo di Cambio and the Dome by Filippo Brunelleschi built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata. The external façade of the Cathedral was re done in the 19th century filled with many polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white made by Architect Emilio De Fabris. The interior of the Cathedral is a wide central nave of four square bays, with an aisle on either side of which there are many side chapels and a crypt and some frescoes specially on the dome. The chancel and transepts are of identical polygonal plan, separated by two smaller polygonal chapels. The whole plan forms a Latin cross. The nave and aisles are separated by wide pointed Gothic arches resting on composite piers.
Open from 10am - 5pm
Thursdays: 10am - 4/5pm
Saturdays: 10am - 4:45pm
Sundays and religious holidays: 1:30 - 4:45pm
Admission is Free
Contact Number: +39 055 230 2885
address: Piazza del Duomo, Firenze, Italy
These beautiful bronze doors, dubbed The Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo, located on the east side of the Baptistery are COPIES of Ghiberti's famed bronze doors. Looking for the originals? Then head to the Duomo Museum.
Ghiberti bested Brunelleschi (who created the dome that is known as Il Duomo - turn around to see it) in a contest to make the doors for this baptistery. If you want to view Brunelleschi's contest submission, you'll find it inside the medieval Bargello Museum.
Auguste Rodin drew inspiration from these doors for HIS famed Gates of Hell, which contains smaller version of Le Penseur (The Thinker) and the Burghers of Calais.
When I first encountered the architectural practice of building baptisteries separate from churches or cathedrals, I didn’t understand why. I was later to learn that there is a theological basis for it – you have to be baptized to participate in the Eucharist. Someone also later mentioned that even in some Protestant churches, the baptismal font is just inside the back of the church – the theory being that you come to be baptized and continue into the church for the other sacraments. Large buildings like this one are of a size to accommodate the large crowds which came to the twice-yearly baptisms.
As with many projects in Florence, a competition was held for the bronze doors and the entrants included some notable figures like Donatello, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti. Ghiberti won, much to the disgust of Brunelleschi – they seemed to despise each other. Looking back, it is hard to imagine anything better than Ghiberti’s doors with the intricate depictions of the life of Christ.
Inside the Baptistry the most striking thing to me is the huge mosaic covering the whole interior of the dome. There are lots of different scenes portrayed, but the one that jumps out is the Last Judgement. I guess if the candidates for baptism had any last minute doubts, it was there to show them what was in store for the sinners as well as the saints.
There are a number of tombs in the baptistery and one caught my attention – it is the tomb of Anti-Pope John XXIII. A couple of things about his being buried struck me as odd. I wondered why he was given space here since, historically, he is not acknowledged as a pope. The second thing is related to that: who we all know as John XXIII is the 20th Century Pope of Second Vatican Council fame and the one recognized to legitimately claim that name. I think anti-John was a friend of the Medici’s, who paid for this ornate tomb in Florence.
Ghiberti did these doors as well, but there was no competition for them in 1430; he was just asked to do them. These panels are completely different; not only are the gold, but they are square and there are only ten of them. These panels show scenes from the Old Testament. More time had elapsed since the second set of doors and art was progressing to show an increasing level of emotion and the perspective creates an illusion of depth. This perspective can especially be seen in the panel that shows the story of Jacob and Esau – look at the architecture behind the front scene.
Also, look up. As your eyes go up, notice how the reliefs are designed for your eyes – they are actually made with the idea that the top ones would be seen from standing on the ground and looking up at them, so the relief (or 3D parts) are larger.
Before you finish with these doors, look at the small heads in the frames around the panels. On the center left, count four heads down. That is Ghiberti’s self portrait – a sort of signature on his masterpiece.
These doors have the unofficial name of "Gates of Paradise" because it is said that Michaelangelo called them that after he looked at them. The name kind of stuck.
These are not the real doors created by Ghiberti – those are being restored and will remain in the Cathedral Museum to protect the art from the weather. The ones on the Baptistry now are exact copies.
The doors are best viewed in the early morning before all the tourists come around. The first time I saw them was mid-afternoon and it was time consuming and difficult to get a good view until I worked my way through the crowd to the front. But in the early morning, you can have the doors all to yourself! Well worth getting out a little earlier in the day!
All this great art for free…only in Florence!
The city decided to have a competition for a second set of doors. The winner would get to design and create them. This is the famous competition between Ghiberti (who won) and Brunelleschi (who didn’t win but went on to build the dome to the Cathedral). The actual competition entries can be found in the Bargello Museum in the Donatello Room (see my tip). Ghiberti’s entry won because of its unique use of landscape, its classical styling, its sense of emotion, and, oh yes, it was made all in one piece so it would be cheaper to make the doors (something those paying for the doors and selecting the winner appreciated).
So from the first set of doors on the south side, walk to your left around the Baptistry until you come to the next set of doors, the north side and the entrance to the interior of the building. Reminder - there are no doors on the west side.
Here you will see the second set of doors, created by Ghiberti in 1404. It only took him 28 years to finish these. Actually, the process of creating bronze reliefs or statues was very tedious (something Ghiberti was good at since he was trained as a goldsmith). But maybe he could’ve finished them sooner if he hadn’t kept accepting other commissions during this same time.
The second set of doors shows scenes from the New Testament and the life of Christ. Try to find the baptism scene and compare it to the one on the first set of doors. Notice how much more realistic the water is now? Times were changing and Renaissance ideas were being seen in the artwork. These reliefs were just beginning to show emotion, action, and depth.
Now return to the third set of doors on the east side – the golden ones - my next tip will cover those.
The first set of doors, the earliest set which are located on the south side of the Baptistry, was created by Andreas Pisano back in the 1330s and show scenes from the life of John the Baptist. These were made before the great plague that took thousands of Florentine (and other European) lives. The doors are made of bronze relief and use the Gothic quatrefoil design. And there are 28 separate panels with reliefs on this door. But artist had not improved too much in the medieval times and artists still were not creating realistic works that showed depth.
If you look closely at the figures, you’ll see stout, hearty people showing very little emotion. At this time in history, artists didn’t use nature of landscape unless it related to the story (because these were supposed to tell a story so the illiterate populace could understand). A good panel to find is the Baptism of Jesus on the left door. See the “wall of water” that shows Jesus’ legs? Not very realistic for sure.
Originally, these doors had the top spot on the east side of the Baptistry (where the golden "Gates of Paradise" doors are now) but were later moved to the south side to make room for Ghiberti's new doors.
If you’ve done any research on the Baptistry, you’ve read about the doors and the competition between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. So what’s up with these doors? And how do you know which doors are which?
First, let’s start with the building itself. The Baptistry is one of the oldest buildings in Florence; it predates the Cathedral and is assumed to have been built in the 6th or 7th century. At one time, most all Catholic babies born in the city were baptized in this building, including Dante and members of the Medici family.
While you can easily admire the artwork on the doors (they are free to look at!), you can also go inside the Baptistry and see the magnificent mosaic ceiling and complex marble flooring. There is also the tomb of the Antipope John XXIII (from the era of the Great Schism), which was designed by Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi (cool name, huh?). The entrance is on the north side of the Baptistry and costs €5. But it's free to look at the doors!
So, let’s go back to the doors. There are three sets of them – the ones most people pay attention to are the golden ones that face the Cathedral – the “Gates of Paradise” as termed by Michelangelo. These are actually the third set of doors created for the Baptistry and to really appreciate the development of Renaissance art, it is best to look at them in chronological order. So, if you are standing facing the golden doors, go around to your left until you reach the south doors (when you are looking at them, the Cathedral will be to your right).
My next three tips will continue the story of the doors in chronological order.
Baptistry Doors #1 - South
Baptistry Doors #2 - North
Baptistry Doors #3 - East
(there are no doors on the west side of the Baptistry).
The Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence is one of the most beautiful spaces I know, a real favorite of mine. Its mosaic cupola is among the most exquisite things your eyes will ever feast on.
Summer in Florence can be hot and crowded, so why not take advantage of the Baptistry's late summer hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights you'll find it open until 11:00pm! All other days, it stays open until 7:00pm. These hours will be in effect until September 28, 2013.
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.
The Florence Baptistry or Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John) is a religious building which has the status of a minor basilica.
It located in Piazza del Duomo, right in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, it is one of the most important monuments in Florence.
The Baptistery, dedicated to Florence's patron saint, has an octagonal plan and an octagonal lantern with a cupola. Outside it is clad in geometrically patterned colored marble, white Carrara marble and green Prato marble that is typical of Florentine Romanesque architecture.
The golden East Doors (facing the Duomo) are also known as the Gates of Paradise after a famous quotation by Michelangelo. They were also commissioned to Ghiberti and depict scenes from the Old Testament.
Full euro 5,00
From 12.15 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.
Sunday and 1st Saturday of the month from 8.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m.
Closed on 1st January, Easter, 8 September, 24th December and Christmas
Probably the most architecturaly interesting structure in the Duomo compound is the Babtistry with its multiple arched hexagonal sections and bronze doors. ESPECIALLY the bronze doors, included here in the photos is a closeup of just one of the panels. Beautiful detail.