The Baptistery of Saint John is one of the oldest churches in Florence, and is located in front of the city cathedral, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The baptistery is octagonal-shaped, completely covered by white and green marble from Prato. The dome on the building consists of eight segments and the fascinating structure, which merges faith with history and art, was the cause of many problems during its long history.
People from Florence believed that the baptistery is an ancient building, dating back to the ancient Romans, and that it used to be a pagan temple before it was converted into a church. However, the fact is that large portions of the marble used for the construction of the baptistery, as well as many fragments, ancient inscriptions and large pillars that support the structure beside the doors actually came from the ruins of Roman buildings.
The monument that we can see today is the result of the expansion of the Baptistery that occurred in the 4th and 5th centuries. In the 13th century, the mosaics in the interior were created, covering the entire dome. These mosaics are works by artists Jacopo Torriti, Cimabua and Coppo di Marcovalda.
The first thing that will get your attention when you enter the Baptistery is the precious dome mosaic, one of the biggest in the world upon its completion. A major part of the mosaic is dedicated to the image of Jesus Christ, as well as judges in the universal court, which cover three out of eight segments of the dome. The other five segments are decorated with depictions of the stories of John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, as well as images of Jesus Christ, Joseph and Genesis. In the central portion of the dome, which are the highest up, a depiction of the angelic hierarchy completes the mosaic complex. The baptistery is also decorated with three beautiful bronze doors.
The oldest of the doors is the South door, which was completed between 1330 and 1336 by Andrea Pisano. In the upper twenty sections of the door, episodes from the life of John the Baptist are depicted, while the remaining eight show Christian virtues.
The North Door are the second oldest, and it displays images from the New Testament on twenty secions above the door, as well as the image of John the Baptist and four church fathers on the remaining eight.
Finally, the East door, also known as Michelangelo’s Angel Door, is a true Renaissance masterpiece, a work by Ghiberti and his colleagues. Ghiberti and his workshop were allowed to complete their door in a completely different way, in ten larger sections.
There were even more marvelous works situated inside the Baptistery, such as the Penitent Magdalene by Donatello and the Silver Altar, which can now be found inside the Opera Museum.
Ticket prices for the Baptistery of Saint John
Visitors must purchase a ticket online. The entrance to the complex has no ticket booth. The price of a cumulative ticket is €18
(!) A cumulative ticket includes a single pass for the following monuments: The Opera Santa Maria del Fiore Museum, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Campanilla, The Baptistery of St. John and the archeological site Santa Reparata.
(!) The ticket has a 72hr validity period. It covers one person.
(!) The reservation fee per person costs €2.
The website where you can purchase a ticket
Working hours of the Baptistery of Saint John
The Baptistery is open between 8:15 and 10:15am, as well as between 11:15am and 7:30pm
Every first Tuesday of the month, the Baptistery of Saint John is closed for visitors.