PIAZZA DEI MIRACOLI, BAPTISTERY EXTERIOR

Audio File length: 2.43
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

And now to head to the circular building that is directly opposite the Cathedral's façade. Built almost a century later in 1152, the Baptistery first strikes you for the harmony of its dimensions, which regardless, are rather impressive with a circumference of over one hundred meters and a height of almost 55. And keep in mind that the masonry of the base is an amazing 2.63 meters wide, which is why it took more than two centuries of almost uninterrupted work to build it.

An inscription on one of the pillars inside tells you who the architect was, a man named Diotisalvi. The first order was completed in the first three decades, then in the thirteenth century the new architects Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni significantly modified the original project, decisively contributing to the decoration of the exterior façades. Unfortunately, some of their sculptures were removed in the 1800s for a massive restoration that changed the appearance of the Baptistery.

Before entering, observe the building's mass from various angles, every now and then also shifting your gaze to the other monuments in the square. As I was saying, it shares many aspects with the Cathedral as well as the Tower and the Cemetery, starting with the motifs of the porticoes placed one on top of another. Like the other monuments, the Baptistery also has a series of blind arches at the bottom and the top has galleries of arches on thin columns.

Make sure you notice the uniqueness of the double dome: while inside it's shaped like a truncated cone, outside it has the shape of a semicircular shell. The strange pairing of colors is also noteworthy: the side that faces the sea is covered with red tiles, while the other side is covered with lead plates.

Built to host the baptismal ceremony, just like every baptistery this monument is also dedicated to St. John the Baptist, who is depicted in the bas-reliefs above the door. Instead, on the left on the pillar between the two columns, have fun looking at how each month is depicted: for example, August shows a farmer mowing grain, September shows grapes being pressed, and October shows wine being poured into barrels.

 

FUN FACT: to finance the construction of the Baptistery, every person in Pisa had to pay a cash tax at the beginning of the month, and every neighborhood had to provide a certain number of people to work on the site for free!

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