Baptistery Now Free for Florence Residents

The Baptistery, part of the city’s Cathedral complex, is now free to residents of Florence and towns and villages of what was formerly known as the province of Florence starting on January 8, 2018.  Those eligible must show a valid ID card at the entrance.  Hours are 8:15 – 10:15 am, 11:15 am – 8 pm Monday through Saturday, 8:30 am – 2 pm on Sunday and the first Saturday of the month.

“Nothing seems greater/Than when I am in my beautiful Saint John/Made to be the place of the baptized.” This quote, which is immortalized in lines 16 through 18 of Dante’s Divine Comedy, accurately describes the spell that the Baptistery of Saint John (San Giovanni) places upon its visitors.

Dante, whose own baptism took place in San Giovanni in 1266, is only one of the many notable historical figures with links to the Baptistery. Amerigo Vespucci, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Cosimo I de’Medici all received the sacrament there.

Consecrated in 1059, the Baptistery’s history is a long and rich one. Built upon the remains of a pagan temple, its origin dates back to the time of the Romans.

The central pavement in the Baptistery is octagonal in shape and made of marble. Near the entrance, the pavement is of inlaid marble, alternating colors in geometric shapes, creating a wave-like effect, and probably Islamic in inspiration.

Striking are the different levels of Byzantine-style figurative ceiling mosaics, with a huge impassive haloed Christ, crucifixion holes in His hands and feet, as the centerpiece, which reminds one of the mosaic in San Miniato of the same period.

To the viewer’s right, and Christ’s left, the closest tier depicts Inferno (after all, the subject is the Last Judgment). There is a big, fat demon in the center of the Inferno panel with a body between his teeth—buttocks and legs protruding from his mouth.

The panel is full of writhing souls, with dark demons herding them toward the large demon (or main devil). To the left is another large demon carrying stacks or piles of damned souls to the middle demon. The scene is quite terrifying, far beyond anything Dan Brown could think up.  (rosanna cirigliano & margaux glovier)