Saturday, April 18, 2009

Florence Baptistery

The baptistery of St. John is oneof the oldest and most majestic buildings in Florence, mentioned by Dante Alighierias the “Beautiful St. John”.

Its tructure is very simple, but its simplicity shows touching details.

The Baptistery was built in a Romanesque style between the 11th and 12th century, it presents a double order of pilasters supporting a trabeation and some arcades. The attic (XIII century) is surmounted by an octagonal pyramid which hides covering of the roof of the dome. Remarkable sides (XI-XII century) are clad in coloured marble - white Carrara and green Prato marble, the classical style windows with pointed and semicircular tympani (according to a drawing that reveals a few surprises), and the apse of the XIII century.

The principal fronts, which faces the cardinal points, are decorated with a number of artistically significant statues from various periods.

SOUTH DOORS- The door depicts scenes from St. John the Baptist’s life and the “ eight virtues” sculpted by Andrea Pisano (1330);the significant statue “The decapitation of St. John “ is the masterpiece of Vincenzo Danti (1571).

NORTH DOORS – The door, with biblical scenes from the new testament by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1424). The bronze statues “ John the Baptist preaching to a Pharisee and Sadducee “were sculpted by Francesco Rustici (1511). 

EAST DOORS – This door depicting scenes from the Old Testament was also sculpted by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1452). This is considered his finest masterpiece. Michelangelo referred to this door as fit to be the “ Gates to Paradise”. We can also see a group of statues portraying the “Baptism of Christ” by Andrea Sansovino (1502).

Sud Door (A. Pisano, 1330)                                     East Door (L. Ghiberti, 1452)

Carrying out the model I have tried to locate the architectural elements that were repeated identically, in this way I obtained two front templates: A FRONT WITH DOORS and A FRONT WITH JUST WINDOWS. I have obtained a “basic frame” rotating these templates four times. Lastly I have personalized every single front of the baptistery including details of each one.


Interesting elements of the apse, I think, are the two griffons located on the nord-west and south-west extremity; they are typical elements of gothic architecture. I was not supposed to consider them due to their irrelevant dimensions, but a thought has come my mind leading me to reproduce them however schematically: the two griffons, I am sure, have watched as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci walked by.

Moreover I am sure that Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci have stopped so many times here, facing the two griffons, observing, comparing and questioning these two lifeless animals, which tell us even today about our history.