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The Baptistery of San Giovanni (Saint-John) in Florence

The origin of the Baptistery

The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence in Italy
The Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery was the cathedral of Florence from 1059 to 1128, before the construction of the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Dedicated to the Patron Saint of Florence, Saint John the Baptist, it is also at the centre of Florence's history.

In the Middle Ages, the Baptistery was on the golden florin.

Here Dante was baptized, which he did not forget by referring to the “beautiful Giovanni” in his Divine Comedy (Hell XIX, 17).

Some believed that initially, it was a Roman temple dedicated to Mars.

The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence in Italy
The Baptistery of San Giovanni
But this assumption has recently been questioned.

The Florence Baptistery Art and Architecture

The first writing relating to the church date back to 897, but its architectural structure, built on Roman foundations, is much older since it dates back to the 5th and 6th centuries.

Its plan is octagonal, a religious symbol, and its faces oriented according to the cardinal points.

Pope Nicholas II, being bishop of Florence at the same time as Pope, consecrated it on November 6, 1059.

The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence in Italy
The Baptistery of San Giovanni
Its pyramidal roof dates from 1150; on the top, the lantern dates from 1174.

The Dimensions of the San Giovanni Baptistery in Florence

The octagonal base of the Baptistery of Saint John is 35 meters 40 outside and 25 meters inside.

Its total height is 45 meters and 40 centimetres.

Carrara White and Prato Green Marble

Two-tone marble covers the exterior of the Baptistery: white Carrara marble and green marble from Prato.

The Baptistery's Gate to Paradise

The Baptistery's Gate to Paradise in Florence in Italy
Gate to Paradise
The north and east gates of the Baptistery are decorated with gilded bronze panels by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

Ghiberti made his bronze panels from 1403 to 1424 with the help of many assistants, including Donatello, Masolino, Ucello and Michelozzo.

Opposite the cathedral, the most famous east gate was baptized “the Gate of Paradise” by Michelangelo.

The ten signs read from left to right and from top to bottom, from Adam and Eve to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

First Horizontal Patterns

- The creation of Adam and Eve, the original sin. Angel is driving Adam and Eve out of heaven.

- Cain is a ploughman, and Abel is a shepherd; the two brothers offer sacrifices to God. Cain kills Abel, then the divine curse.

Second horizontal patterns

The Gate to Paradise, Adam and Eve of the Baptistery Saint-John in Florence in Italy
Gate to Paradise: Adam and Eve
- The story of Noah, the animals and the family of Noah saved from the Flood, God throws Noah the rainbow of the Covenant, Noah's drunkenness.

- The appearance of the three angels to Abraham. Abraham's wife, Sarah, on the threshold of his tent, Isaac's sacrifice.

Third Horizontal Patterns

- Esau and his brother Jacob; Isaac sent Esau to hunt. Esau gives Jacob his primogeniture's right, Rebekah advises Jacob, Rebekah listens to God, Isaac gives his blessing to Jacob.

- Joseph's life. His brothers sell Joseph at the top and on the right to discover the cup in Benjamin's bag. At the bottom left, we see the wheat storage following the pharaoh's dream about the seven years of famine, interpreted by Joseph, and Joseph sitting on a throne while being recognized by his family.

Fourth Horizontal Patterns

The Gate to Paradise, the tables of the Law are handed over to Moses, Baptistery Saint-John in Florence in Italy
Gate to Paradise: Moses
- The Tables of the Law are handed over to Moses.

Meanwhile, the Hebrews at the foot of Mount Sinai are beginning to worry about Moses's absence.

- The capture of Jericho with Joshua; at the bottom, the Jordan being dry, the people cross it by collecting the stones of remembrance.

Fifth Horizontal Patterns

- The story of Saul and David; above, the battle fought by Saul standing on his chariot against the Philistines; below David cuts off Goliath's head.

- King Solomon is meeting the Queen of Sheba.

Inside Florence's Baptistery, Marbles and Mosaics

The Baptistery of San Giovanni's Mosaics in Florence in Italy
The Baptistery's Mosaics
The interior of the Baptistery, 25 metres in diameter, is mainly inspired by the Pantheon of Rome.

Marble framed by granite columns and pilasters covers the walls.

The dome's interior is covered with superb Byzantine style mosaics, largely made by Venetian mosaicists and by Florentines, including Cimabue.

The Tomb of Antipope John XXIII

In the small apse is the antipope John XXIII's tomb, a friend of Giovanni di Bicci (father of Cosimo the old).

This tomb, dating from 1427, was made by Donatello and Michelozzo.

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