The Florence Baptistery

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People often try to imitate a finished product if it has become popular. When this is done after several years it is considered a revival. Usually the artist or patron has a purpose such as modeling after a powerful culture or religious significance. They may slightly change or mix other styles to make the best of past and present. In Florence Italy there stands a baptistery. It resides west of the Florence Cathedral, which was modeled after the baptistery. The Cathedral began in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio. Although the two resemble each other, they are considered to be from two different styles. The Baptistery of S. Giovanni is categorized as Romanesque while the cathedral is considered Gothic. The exterior of the cathedral doesn’t appear to be Gothic, it’s the interior that is. The baptistery possesses an octagonal structure with an extension to the west. This extension was originally an apse. There are doors to the north, south, and east sides. All of the doors are decorated with beautiful sculptures. The first doors were done by Andrea Pisano and set the standards for the next to come. The second set, the first done by Lorenzo Ghiberti, were originally hung on the east end, but were soon moved to the north side to make room for the final set. These final doors, by Ghiberti, have earned the name “Gates of Paradise.” The name S. Giovanni was given to the baptistery because of the remains of Piazza S Giovanni found beneath the floor in a medieval cemetery. Historians have argued the baptistery’s date for a few hundred years and it is still completely unsure what is it. The first recorded documentation of the baptistery’s existence was March 4th, 897. Many have come to agree that the original constructed was during the 6th and 7th centuries and much of the restoration happened around 1059. Through the years nature’s forces have taken their toll upon the San Giovanni. Several restorations have been made to the exterior and the interior since the 10th century. The most drastic change done would have to be the exterior marble. Around 1293 the corner pilasters were reconstructed with alternating slabs of green and white marble. This technique wasn’t ever seen in the Florentine school and was assumed to have originated in Pisa. The use of alternating marbles and the arcade sills wrap around the entire building. It gives a sense flowing continuity. The arcade is also made up of stripped marble that appears to “hop” around the baptistery. At the bottom of the arch it flows down the column to the base where it disappears. The empty panels that appear in the arcade emphasize the entire buildings repetitious scheme. The Florence baptistery is considered a revival of classical architecture. The first reason a revival may have occurred could be the fact that it rests on the foundation of an old Roman building. The citizens of Florence believed the baptistery to be a Roman temple dedicated to Mars. The baptistery’s great resemblance of a roman building fed the rumor for a few hundred years. This could have been the beginning reason for the revival of classicism. One interesting fact is that the shape of the baptistery is like the old Roman aqueducts. These were very important in the survival of Roman cities. The aqueducts may have been symbolic for something more, but it has never been proven. The idea of a centrally planned church was also known to be used in classical style architecture. Classical architecture was symmetrical, balanced, and harmonious, all of which are seen in the baptistery. The use of pilasters and columns resemble the classical style of the Parthenon. The columns held up the weight of much of the baptistery. These columns made the walls seem lighter. This idea was used in early Christian architecture, but it could be seen in late Roman architecture. The pilaster capitals of the baptistery are...
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