Known for being Florence’s oldest monuments is the stunning Baptistery of Saint John.

Nestled in the Piazza del Duomo, it is one of the most important landmarks around, neighbouring the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is easily spotted, with its distinctive octagon shape and pastel-hued marble, it truly is a breathtaking sight to see.

The History Baptistery of St. John

Built-in 1128, the Baptistery of St. John was construction on the ancient foundation of a pagan temple. This is the reason for the building’s exterior octagon footprint, as the designers decided to leave this style of building intact.

The Interior

The building is covered in magnificent art throughout the floors, walls, and ceilings. The floor is intricately inlaid in geometric mosaics, perfectly placed to create a sense of space and power. However, by far the greatest feature within the building is the ceiling’s mosaics of the dome. Arranged in concentric circles, the mosaics are set in gold, showcasing stories of Genesis, including the story of Joseph, Virgin Mary and Christ, and of course St. John the Baptist. The crick in your neck will be well worth it when you squint to see the incredible detail of this ceiling masterpiece.

The Exterior

Despite the stunning artwork held into the building, by far the Baptistery’s biggest features is its decorative doors. The first doors were created by Andrea Pisano, who built the bronze set of doors in the 14th century to protect the Baptistery. The doors depict the life of St. John, showcasing his life by separating the door in small squares, each with a detail carving of an artwork.

The second set of doors featured along the north side of the building were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. His bronze door told the story of the New Testament, taking 21 years to complete.

Lastly, the third set of doors is located in the east of the building, created by Ghiberti, becoming the artists most famous masterpiece. This set of doors showcases a series of bible stories, taking over 27 years to finish. Despite this long effort, Ghiberti’s doors were a triumph, with Michelangelo himself stating they were ‘Gates of Paradise’.

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