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"the Baptistery" Battistero San Giovanni- Baptistry Tip by margaretvn

The Baptistery of Saint John is the oldest building on the square. For years it was thought to be a pagan temple 'converted' for Christian use.
In the 5th or early 6th century the first baptistery was erected in fron the the cathedral that was then there - the Santa Reparata. This early Baptistery building was similiar shape to the one we see today - octagonal. This octagonal shape is though to represent the 'octava dies' the eighth day - the time of the Risen Chist. It alludes to the hope of resurrection after death of the Christian faith.
From the mid-11th century the Baptistery was reconstructed on a larger scale as we see it today. It was also decorated with expensive marble (a lot of it taken from ancient buildings). It was,for FLorence, a time of financial and political growth. Flroence became the seat of Imperial government in Tuscany and then it broke free from the Holy Roman Empire. During the 12th and 13th century the Baptistery was enlarged further with a monumental dome and a rectangular apse. Then from the 14th century the wonderful external sculptured decoration was added.
When you enter the Baptistery you can see why it is traditonally said that it was once a Roman temple. The general arrangement of the large domed area recalls the Pantheon and it also has monolithic columns adn 2 sculptured sarcohagi. the wall decoration is geometrical amd the lovely mosiacs show Byzantine influence. All of this makes it a mixture of several cultures of Medieval Europe.
Looking up from the font in the Baptistery you see a large Christ in 13th century mosaics and under his feet the dead are rising as in the Lasat Judgement. There are also the figures of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the fathers of ancient Israel on Christs right head side. On his left is Hell with images of death.

Address: Piazza del Duomo
Phone: +39 055 230 2885

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  • Updated Jan 29, 2006
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