Baptistery of San Giovanni - Florence visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Baptistery of San Giovanni' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Tuscany.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is the oldest building in the Cathedral Square and one of the top attractions in Florence (Firenze). The first baptistery was built here in the 5th - 6th century. Like the current one it was octagonal in shape, symbolizing the '8th Day', the time of the Risen Christ that is to come. This symbolism was relevant to baptism, which sees the believer buried with Christ and raised again anew as they come out of the water. This is particularly pertinent as the Baptistery used to stand in a cemetery and was surrounded by graves. The same symbolism is reflected in the octagonal High Altar area of the Cathedral.
The current Baptistery dates from the 11th century and embellishes with expensive marble, mostly taken from other ancient buildings. At this time Florence became the seat of Imperial government in Tuscany and broke away from Rome. In the 12th and 13th centuries the Baptistery was once again enlarged and topped with a massive dome. Three decorated bronze doors were added during the 14th and 16th centuries, depicting Biblical scenes.
The most stunning part of the Baptistery is the fine, 13th century, mosaic ceiling. Dominant in this is a figure of the risen Christ with the dead rising from their graves at the Last Judgement. To the right of Jesus is heaven and to the left is hell. Again this is significant to baptism as the New Testament states; '[those of us] who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. We were therefore buried with him in death [in baptism] so that as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead ... we too may have new life.'
The remaining mosaics tell distinct stories from the Bible. The inner tier has stories from the book of Genesis (Creation, making Adam and Eve, banishment from Eden, Cain and Abel). Another shows the story of Joseph, his being sold as a slave, and scenes from his life in Egypt. The third tell the story of Jesus, starting with the angel appearing to Mary, flight to Egypt, baptism, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. The outer row tells the story of John the Baptist, culminating with the dance of Salome and his beheading. These images would have been very useful tools for teaching and reminding those present of the stories and meaning of the Scriptures.
Florence Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo - Virtual Tours
Full list of virtual tour images in this collection taken around the Cathedral and associated buildings, some of which are not open to the public: