The Baptistry, flanked by the Dumo and the Campanile

The east entrance to the Baptistry

With its distinctive shape the Battistero or Baptistry is one of the most recognizable edifices in Florence. Standing alongside the Duomo and the Campanile in the Piazza del Duomo, (photo to the left) the Battistero has a long and distinguished history. Built over the remains of an ancient Roman palace, it is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Any Florentine of any note was baptized here, including the infant Dante, who was christened here before the Battistero gained its beautiful marble facade. The entire outer surface is covered with this design of white and green marble, added from the 11th to 13th centuries (photo to the right). Inside, the ceiling is decorated with mosaics, while above the altar there are figures of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, for whom the structure is dedicated. The mosaic dome shows the Last Baladassare Cossa TombJudgement, with the sinful being devoured by monsters, while the faithful ascend to heaven. The Baptistery features a tessellated floor with intricate patterns.Interior of the Baptistry The photo to the immediate right shows the high windows on the northern side of the Battistero, which lets in the small amount of light that is used to illuminate the area. Although most of the sculptures have been removed to the nearby Opera del Dumo Museum, including the Gates of Paradise and the sculptures of the Beheading of St. John by Vincenzo Danti  (southern door), St. John the Baptist Teaching between the Pharisee and the Levite by Giovanni Francesco Rustici (northern door), and the Baptism of Christ by Andrea Sansovino (above the Gates of Paradise).  Still visible in the Baptistry is the tomb of Baladassare Cossa - the maligned Antipope John XXIII - created by Donatello and Michelozzo. This is visible in the photo to the left.

The east doors: Ghiberti's Gates of ParadiseFrom an aesthetic perspective, the most remarkable feature of the Battistero are its sets of doors, especiallyOne of the panels from Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise those on the east and south entrances. The east entrance gates (directly across from the steps of the Duomo) are the creation of the renowned Lorenzo Ghiberti. Dubbed "The Gates of Paradise" by Michelangelo, the door is divided into ten panel depicting Old Testament scenes. (photo to the left) Noted for their use of perspective and detail, the two sets of doors (the north doors as well as the east doors) occupied the bulk of the artist's life work. He labored on his masterpiece from 1425-1452--a total of 49 years to finish the doors. The photo to the right shows one of the panels from the "Gates of Paradise." It depicts Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. These doors are, however, copies, as the originals are safely stored from weather in the nearby Museo dell'Opera.


Pisano's south doors

Closeup of Pisano's south doors

Not to be overlooked are the south set of doors, the creation of Andrea Pisano, who also aided in the design of the nearby Campanile. Completed in 1336, they too depict biblical scenes in a series of 28 panels, smaller than those found in Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise." The photo to the left shows the south Baptistery doors, while the close-up to the right depicts a baptismal scene.