Guided Visit: Women's Gallery of the Baptistery

The tour includes the visit into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Guided Visit: Women's Gallery of the Baptistery
From 41.66

Tour the hidden treasures of the eight-sided wonder of Florence!

Technical organization Opera di S. M. del Fiore di Firenze
Provided by Opera di S. M. del Fiore di Firenze

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 of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Your ticket provides access to the entire monumental complex, and is personal and non transferable.

 

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 your order and confirmation of payment from the bank ARE NOT VALID for ticket pick-up.

 

IMPORTANT: CODE OF CONDUCT

The monumental complex of Santa Maria del Fiore is above all a place for prayer and worship. Visitors are therefore asked to respect some simple behavior rules in respect of the place and the persons. Your prepurchased tickets DOES NOT GUARANTEE access or permission to stay inside the monuments if the behavior rules are not respected, especially the dress code.

  • Please dress appropriately - bare legs and shoulders are not permitted (no shorts nor miniskirts), access will be denied
  • 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 photography or tripod, please silence your photographic equipment

 

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

CANCELLATION POLICY: Tickets cannot be refunded unless the monument remains closed for unforeseen reasons during the whole period of validity of the ticket.

Save time ordering: Add all tickets for museums and other services you want into your basket, then fill in the form and send your request.

PLEASE NOTE: Immediately after submitting an order, you will receive an email with your order summary plus a second email confirming your successful payment. A confirmation email with links to the vouchers will be sent one business day after you place your order (Monday afternoon for orders submitted on Friday and during the weekend). Please make sure that your anti-spam filter does not block automatic emails from [email protected]

Details

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.

Prices

Only Full Price Tickets can be pre-purchased online.

Reduced price tickets are available for the following categories, ONLY AT THE TICKET OFFICE:

  • FAI members
  • Children from 6 to 11 years of age

Reviews

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