Universally recognised as one of the locations symbolising the city, consecrated in 1059 in honour of its patron, Saint John, the Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the oldest places of worship in Florence.
Located opposite the complex of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery owes part of its renown to its particular octagonal plan structure – typical of the baptisteries of antiquity – surmounted by a pyramidal dome consisting of eight segments, the richly decorated interior of which bears the signatures of great Renaissance artists of the calibre of Cimabue and Coppo di Marcovaldo.
Among the masterpieces contained in it, in addition to the funerary monument in memory of the “Antipope” John XXIII created by Michelozzo and Donatello, the precious gilded mosaics of the dome representing the Angelic Hierarchies and Universal Judgement stand out, dominated by the great figure of Christ the Judge.
The exterior of the Baptistery, on the other hand, entirely covered in slabs of white marble from Carrara and green marble from Prato, is famous for its three bronze doors, of immense historical and artistic value. The South Door, by Andrea Pisano, dating back to 1330, illustrates the life of Saint John the Baptist in 28 inlaid panels, the North Door, by Lorenzo Ghiberti, imagines the life and passion of Christ through 20 panels, and with a further eight, the four evangelists and four “fathers of the church”, while the East Door, located opposite the Cathedral and known by the epithet conferred on it by Michelangelo, of “Porta del Paradiso” (Gate of Paradise), consists of ten gilded panels representing scenes from the Old Testament.