Florence Baptistery Women's Gallery

Guided tour to hidden aspects of the Baptistery, masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, its Byzantine mosaics and inlaid marble floors, and to the Florence Cathedral itself.

Overview

Travel back in time to the beginnings of Florence with this guided tour into one of the symbols of the city – the Baptistery. A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, its dome is entirely covered in Byzantine mosaics. With this special itinerary through the women's gallery (or matroneum) you will see the splendid mosaics and inlaid marble floors from an extraordinary point of view. By climbing to the attic you will discover the secrets of the architecture of the roof, which inspired Brunelleschi's famous Cathedral Dome. Your tour includes the visit to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

>> Your ticket guarantees access to the entire monumental complex. The validity begins at the time of the tour, and the ticket remains valid to visit the monuments of the complex not yet visited, within 72 hours. Important details of the ticket conditions are given in the DETAILS section under the headline BEFORE YOU BOOK.

 

Available: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Time: 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm

Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Language: English

Meeting Point: 15 minutes before confirmed time at Centro Arte e Cultura, Piazza San Giovanni 7.

 

IMPORTANT WARNING! ACCESS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to those who present themselves without the CONFIRMATION VOUCHER sent by us one business day after the request. The copy of your order and confirmation of payment from the bank ARE NOT VALID for ticket pick-up.

Guided Visit: Women's Gallery of the Baptistery

Travel back in time to the beginnings of Florence with this guided tour into one of the symbols of the city – the Baptistery. A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, its dome is entirely covered in Byzantine mosaics. With this special itinerary through the women's gallery (or matroneum) you will see the splendid mosaics and inlaid marble floors from an extraordinary point of view. By climbing to the attic you will discover the secrets of the architecture of the roof, which inspired Brunelleschi's famous Cathedral Dome. Your tour includes the visit of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

 

Architecture and Exterior
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is famous for its octagonal shape. The unusual structure is entirely faced with white and green marble from Prato. A cupola with eight segments, which rest on the perimetric walls surmounts the Baptistery. This cupola was masked from the outside by raising the walls over the arches of the second level, and by a roof with a flattened pyramidal form.

This fascinating and extremely complex structure has created a challenge for scholars seeking to date it.

In the Middle Ages, the Florentines believed the Baptistery to be an ancient pagan temple transformed into a church, dating back to the city’s Roman period. In fact, a good portion of the Baptistery’s marble facing, along with numerous fragments and ancient inscriptions, as well as the large columns supporting the lintels over the doors inside, come from the ruins of the Roman Florentia (precursor of Florence), perhaps from some pagan building.

The Baptistery we see today is a much larger version of a primitive Baptistery dating to the 4th-5th century. Excavations of the past century have revealed the remains of Roman constructions under both the Baptistery and the Duomo. Several grilles on the floor light a subterranean area showing the remains of a Roman house with its geometric mosaic floors.

In the early 1100s, San Giovanni was faced with splendid green and white marble, which took the place of the previous sandstone. The third order with marble bays and the pyramidal roof with the lantern were probably added in the middle to late 12th century. In 1202, the ancient semicircular apse was replaced with today’s rectangular “scarsella,” the small rectangular apsis that protrudes from the western facade. The building is one of the very fine examples of Romanesque architecture in the city.

 

Interior of the Baptistery
In the second half of the 11th century, the interior was lined with marble. This fact, together with the monolithic columns and two sarcophagi, evokes the “gravitas” of the Roman Pantheon. The floor with its oriental-style marble intarsia abounds in elegant decorative motifs with zodiacal signs in bold relief, and resembles a precious oriental rug.

On the right wall of the apse, you will notice the sarcophagus of Bishop Ranieri, which bears an inscription in Leonine hexameters from 1113. On the right of the apse, you will notice a precious work created by Donatello and Michelozzo in 1421-27 - the sepulcher of Baldassarre Cossa, the anti-pope John XXIII.

Pairs of holy water fonts on small spiral columns, a Gothic candelabrum attributed to a follower of Arnolfo, and a late fourteenth-century baptismal font attributed to a follower of Andrea Pisano complete the interior decoration. Most of the original Baptistery furnishings, including Donatello’s Magdalene, are today housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

 

Mosaics
The magnificent mosaic decoration of the interior was begun in the 13th century, lining the scarsella and the entire cupola. It reflects byzantine traditions in the most splendid way. Many craftsmen worked on the creation of this moving and expressive masterpiece - including unnamed Venetian artists, as well as Jacopo Torriti and, perhaps, representatives of the new Florentine pictorial school, such as Cimabue and Coppo di Marcovaldo.

The mosaics are dominated by a large majestic Christ figure (over 26 feet high!) in the center. Scenes of the Last Judgment occupy three of the eight segments of the cupola. The upper horizontal registers of the five remaining segments depict the stories of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, and stories of Christ and Mary, Joseph, and the Genesis. The highest register in the center of the cupola depicts the angelic hierarchies.

 

The Bronze Doors
Under the patronage of the wealthy Calimala Guild (woolworkers), the Baptistery was also embellished with three beautiful bronze doors. The Baptistery owes much of its fame to these – and rightfully so, as they form an unsurpassed high point of Gothic and Renaissance sculpture in Italy.

The oldest door, the one facing south, was originally situated in the east. It was successively replaced with the one created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, known as the “Door of Paradise.” It was originally commissioned from sculptor Andrea Pisano who created it between 1330 and 1336. Its twenty upper bays show episodes from the life of John the Baptist, while the remaining eight portray the Christian Virtues. The frieze that frames them was sculpted in the mid fifteenth century by Vittorio Ghiberti, son of Lorenzo Ghiberti. The bronze sculptural group on the lintel representing John the Baptist, his execution, and Salome, is by Vincenzo Danti (1570).

The north door was the next to be realized. It served as a test bed for the competition of 1401, which was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti, and resulted in the defeat of various artists, including Brunelleschi and Jacopo della Quercia.

Substantially laid out like the south door, the twenty upper panels depict scenes of the New Testament, while the eight lower panels show the Evangelists and the four Fathers of the Church. The wings are decorated with stories from the life of Christ and are by Lorenzo Ghiberti, while the lintel depicts the group of John the Baptist Preaching by Giovan Francesco Rustici. The coat of arms of the Calimala guild is depicted above the window - the Calimala eagle holding the bolt of cloth.

The east door is the Renaissance masterpiece by Ghiberti and his assistants, including Luca della Robbia. Michelangelo said of it that it could well be the door ofof Paradise – and it has since then be called by that name.

Ghiberti and his workshop obtained the commission for the door without competition. It was made differently from the other two, and has only ten large panels. These illustrate scenes of the Old Testament and are no longer framed by a Gothic border. Ghiberti and his assistants proposed instead new solutions in perspective, and used Donatello’s “stiacciato” style (minimally raised relief). The sculptures over the door, dated 1502, are by Andrea Sansovino and Innocenzo Spinazzi.

On either side of the Door of Paradise are two porphyry columns donated to the Florentines by the Pisans for the military help given in 1117 against Lucca. The Pisan fleet had at the time been engaged in the Balearic Islands against Muslim piracy.

BEFORE YOU BOOK

> After you have successfully completed a booking, you will receive two emails: The copy of your order (immediately after placing it) and the confirmation email (one business day after placing your order). In order to receive these two emails, please make sure to enter your email address correctly and check that your spam or antivirus filters do not block the mails from our address [email protected] Special attention is kindly requested from users of AOL, Comcast and Sbcglobal.net.

> Your vouchers to participate in the tour will also be available, one business day after order is placed, on your account.

> The tour reservation includes the ticket that grants access to the entire monumental complex of Great Museum of the Cathedral of Florence [Cathedral Museum, Brunelleschi's dome (access time must be booked*), Giotto's campanile, Baptistery, archaeological site Santa Reparata]. This ticket will be provided by your guide at the time of the tour. Its validity begins at the time of the tour, and the ticket remains valid to visit the monuments of the complex not yet visited, within 72 hours.

* Attention: The Tour "A Little Peek on Florence" includes the entrance to Brunelleschi’s dome - it is therefore not necessary to book the access time separately.

 

Important information about the ticket to the sites of the Great Museum of the Cathedral of Florence:

> Pre-purchased ticket allows one entry to each site of the Great Museum of the Cathedral of Florence. Ticket does not allow two entries to the same monument.

> Pre-purchase does not allow priority admission to any monument.

> The ticket remains valid to visit the monuments of the Great Museum of the Cathedral of Florence not yet visited during the tour, within 72 hours of the tour.

> Ticket contains a barcode readable by the turnstiles at the entrances of the various sites. We recommend you print out your ticket, as use of mobile ticketing (mobile phones or tablets) is not advised because of reading difficulties of the barcode at the entrance.

> Customers with ticket must go directly to the entrance line of each monument, without going through the cashier/ticketing line.

> Your ticket is personal and non transferable; all tickets bought at the same time will be under the name of the group leader.

> IMPORTANT: Any errors made by the client on the selection of the date of visit will not be refunded.

> Tickets CANNOT be cancelled or changed and are NOT refundable. Weekend a Firenze will only refund the entire cost of your ticket(s) including the service fee if the monuments remain closed during the entire period of validity of the ticket(s).

Please note: Access to the cathedral itself is free and cannot be booked; it is not part of the ticket.

Restrictions and Rules of Conduct

Visitors are asked to respect some simple rules. Your pre-purchased ticket DOES NOT guarantee access or the possibility to stay inside the monument. You may be asked to leave if you choose not to respect the following:

  • Appropriate clothing is required – no bare arms/shoulders or bare legs. Please note that access to the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Crypt will be denied without appropriate clothing.
  • Please respect the silence
  • Please turn your mobile phones and other electronic devices off
  • Do not eat nor drink
  • Pets are not allowed
  • Works of art must not be touched
  • No smoking
  • No flash photography or tripod
  • Access not allowed with large suitcases
  • Wardrobe not present

Please note that the various places of worship may always be subject to closure without notice for masses, concerts, and extraordinary events.

CANCELLATION POLICY

> Tickets CANNOT be cancelled or changed and are NOT refundable. Weekend a Firenze will only refund the entire cost of your ticket(s) including the service fee if the monuments remain closed during the entire period of validity of the ticket(s).

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