Children can still be baptised here on the first Sunday of the month. However there is only time for four, so make your request early!
The Baptistery of St John dates from the 11th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Built in the Florentine Romanesque style, it has the status of a minor basilica. With its white and green marble façade, it is in keeping with the other two masterpieces in the Piazza del Duomo: the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Giotto Campanile.
The three buildings are similar, but you can’t miss the baptistery: it’s octagonal, after all. The octagon has been a common shape for baptisteries for a long time. The number eight represents the six days of creation, the Day of Rest, and a day of re-creation through baptism.
Stairway to Heaven
It has three sets of bronze doors which bear panels telling the story of humanity and the redemption. The south doors were made be Andrea Pisano, whereas the north and east doors were made by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Though the originals are now held in the Grande Museo del Duomo for safekeeping, the copies of Ghiberti’s renowned doors of the Porta del Paradiso are still marvellous. None other than Michelangelo himself gave the door that name, and he knew what he was talking about.
Redemption, for some
Inside, a magnificent mosaic ceiling looms overhead. It dates from the 13th century, and the section above the altar depicts the Last Judgement, with the rewards of the saved at Christ’s right hand and the punishments of the damned at his left. Hieronymus Bosch would have been proud of the latter: sinners are variously roasted on spits, crushed by rocks and chewed on by beasts.
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