Florence Baptistery

       
Florence Baptistery

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The Florence Baptistery or Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John) is a religious building in Florence (Tuscany), Italy, which has the status of a minor basilica.

The octagonal Baptistry stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza di San Giovanni, across from the Duomo cathedral and the Giotto bell tower (Campanile di Giotto). It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built between 1059 and 1128. The architecture is in Florentine Romanesque style. Florentine style has not seen the spread of the Pisan Romanesque or Lombard, however, its influence was decisive for the subsequent development of architecture, as it formed the basis of which drew Francesco Talenti, Leon Battista Alberti, Filippo Brunelleschi and the other architects who created the ' Renaissance architecture . The Church of the Holy Apostles is a clear example, it announced for its spaciousness, as noticed by Giorgio Vasari, Renaissance themes. Therefore, in the case of the Florentine Romanesque, one can speak of "proto-renaissance", but at the same time an extreme survival of the late antique architectural tradition. Just from the pursuit of an ideal "classic" placed out of time, he creates difficulty in dating the Baptistery, similar to what occurs for other Italian medieval monuments of strong classical style, like the church of St. Alexander in Lucca or the Basilica of St. Salvatore in Spoleto (it) with the nearby Temple of Clitumnus .
The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were done by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east pair of doors were dubbed by Michelangelo "the Gates of Paradise".

The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistry. In fact, until the end of the nineteenth century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized here.

For a long time, it was believed that the Baptistry was originally a Roman temple dedicated to Mars, the tutelary god of the old Florence.

The unscholarly chronicler Giovanni Villani reported this medieval Florentine legend in his fourteenth-century Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. However, twentieth-century excavations have shown that there was a first-century Roman wall running through the piazza with the Baptistry, which may have been built on the remains of a Roman guard tower on the corner of this wall, or possibly another Roman building. It is, however, certain that a first octagonal baptistry was erected here in the late fourth or early fifth century. It was replaced or altered by another early Christian baptistry in the sixth century. Its construction is attributed to Theodolinda, queen of the Lombards (570-628) to seal the conversion of her husband, King Authari. In 2007, three original panels were taken on tour to the United States: Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

The Baptistry has eight equal sides with a rectangular addition on the west side.
The sides, originally in sandstone, are clad in geometrically patterned colored marble, white Carrara marble with green Prato marble inlay, reworked in Romanesque style between 1059 and 1128. The pilasters on each corner, originally in grey stone, were decorated with white and dark green marble in a zebra-like pattern by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1293.
The style of this church would serve as prototype, influencing many architects, such as Leone Battista Alberti, in their design of Romanesque churches in Tuscany.

The exterior is also ornamented with a number of artistically significant statues by Andrea Sansovino (above the Gates of Paradise), Giovan Francesco Rustici, Vincenzo Danti (above the south doors) and others.
The design work on the sides is arranged in groupings of three, starting with three distinct horizontal sections. The middle section features three blind arches on each side, each arch containing a window. These have alternate pointed and semicircular tympani. Below each window is a stylized arch design. In the upper fascia, there are also three small windows, each one in the center block of a three-panel design. The apse was originally semicircular, but was it was made rectangular in 1202.

The vast interior of the Baptistry recalls the interior of the Pantheon in Rome. The interior is rather dark, light entering through small windows in the ambulatory and through the lantern. The interior is divided in a lower part with columns and pilasters and an upper part with an ambulatory. The Florentines didn't spare any trouble or expense to decorate the baptistry. The interior walls are clad in dark green and white marble with inlaid geometrical patterns. The niches are separated by monolithic columns of Sardinian granite. The marble revetment of the interior was begun in the second half of the eleventh century.
The rectangular apse was faced with mosaics in 1225.

The building contains the monumental Tomb of Antipope John XXIII by Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi. A gilt statue, with the face turned to the spectator, reposes on a deathbed, supported by two lions, under a canopy of gilt drapery. He had bequeathed several relics and his great wealth to this baptistry. Such a monument with a baldachin was a first in the Renaissance.

The mosaic marble pavement was begun in 1209. The geometric patterns in the floor are complex. Some show us oriental zodiac motifs, such as the slab of the astrologer Strozzo Strozzi. There was an octagonal font, its base still clearly visible in the middle of the floor. This font, which once stood in the church of Santa Reparata, was installed here in 1128. Dante is said to have broken one of the lower basins while rescuing a child from drowning. The font was removed in 1571 on orders from the grand duke Francesco I de' Medici. The present, and much smaller, octagonal font stands near the south entrance. It was installed in 1658 but is probably much older. The reliefs are attributed to Andrea Pisano or his school.
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