Guided Visit: Women's Gallery of the Baptistery

The tour includes the visit into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Overview

This guided tour takes you back in time to the origin of Florence. The Baptistery is a symbol of the city and a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture with its dome entirely covered in Byzantine mosaics. With a special path through the gallery you can admire, from an extraordinary point of view, the splendid mosaics and inlaid marble floors. By climbing to the attic you will discover the secrets of the architecture of the roof, which inspired Brunelleschi's famous Cathedral Dome. The tour includes the visit into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The ticket provides access to the entire monumental complex.

  • Available: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
  • Times: 4:30pm - 6pm
  • 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 the order and confirmation of payment from the bank ARE NOT VALID for ticket pick-up.

Ticket is personal and non transferable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: After successfully completing a reservation, you will receive two e- mails: the copy of your order (immediately after submitting your order) and the confirmation mail (one working day after). In order to receive them, please make sure you insert your e-mail address correctly and check that your anti-spam filter or antivirus are not blocking mails from our address [email protected] Special attention for AOL, Comcast and Sbcglobal.net mailbox users.

Cancellation policy: refund is due only if the monument remains closed during the whole period of validity of the ticket.

IMPORTANT: BEHAVIOR RULES
The monumental complex of Santa Maria del Fiore is overall a place for the cult and the pray; visitors are asked to respect some simple behavior rules in respect of the place and the persons.The prepurchased tickets DOES NOT guarantee access or stay inside the monuments, if the behavior rules are not respected, especially the dressing code.

  • To use an adequate dressing: it's not allowed entrance with bare legs and shoulders
  • Please be quiet
  • Please turn your mobile phones off
  • Do not eat nor drink
  • Pets are not allowed
  • Works of art must not be touched
  • No smoking
  • Please don't use flash or tripod

Before You Book

PLEASE NOTE: Immediately after submitting an order, you will receive two emails. The first email contains your order summary (this one you receive immediately after placing your order), the second email confirms your successful payment (one business day after placing the order). In order to receive these two emails, please make sure that you enter your email address correctly and check that antispam or antivirus filters do not block emails from our [email protected] address. Users of AOL, Comcast and Sbcglobal.net need to pay special attention to this, please. Vouchers will also be available, one business day after the request, at your dashboard.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The time you select on the order form is your preferred time. The closest available time, which can be anytime during opening hours on the selected date, will be automatically confirmed if your preferred time is no longer available.

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.

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.

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