The billowing sails and ostrich plumes adorn the ornate marble front of Tuscany's most prominent Gothic cathedral (an emblem of the Medici). The cathedral has enormous artistic masterpieces contributed by affluent donors, many of whom have chapels named after them. The Baptistery of St. John the Baptist is located in Piazza del Duomo, Florence's religious hub. Built in the 11th century, this elegant Romanesque structure has excellent acoustics for prayer meetings. It also houses several interesting bronze panels donated by the Medicean family.
Both buildings are part of the Cathedral Complex of Florence. The Baptistery was originally built as a baptistry for the new cathedral. It was converted into a public library during the 19th century; now it is a museum that houses some of the best examples of Gothic sculpture in Italy.
Florence's two largest churches are both dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Virgin Mary of the Flower). One is the huge complex of Santa Maria del Fiore, which includes a domed cathedral and various other buildings constructed over several centuries by different architects. The other church is the 12th-century Basilica di San Giovanni, which has been called Italy's most beautiful interior. It has an exquisite Gothic architecture with colorful marble decorations.
There are many more churches in Florence. But these two dominate the city's landscape. They are the ones all tourists visit when they come to see Renaissance art in Italy.
There are several magnificent churches in Italy, many of which house amazing works of art. A cathedral is the major church of a city and is commonly referred to as the duomo, although it can also be referred to as a basilica, cattedrale, or chiesa madre (mainly in the south). There are also numerous small churches throughout Italy. It is estimated that there are around 1,000 churches in Rome alone!
The name cathedra comes from Greek words meaning "seat" or "stadium", referring to the chair where the bishop sits during services. The word was later applied to the chair itself. In Italian, these buildings are called sedi del vescovo ("bishops' seats") or sede di preghiera ("prayer seat").
In Italy, only bishops can build or renovate churches so all the famous monuments in Europe were built by different priests and monks over many years.
However, all over Italy you will find small white stones with black crosses on them, which mark the locations of holy springs. These are called fontanelle di Santa Maria (or Santa Susanna for the ones in Rome) and they are found near churches all over the country. People would travel long distances to get water from these springs for healing purposes. Today, they are more often used for baptisms.
People started building large churches to accommodate growing populations of Christians.
This is the case in Pisa. Nonetheless, the massive church itself is well worth a visit. If you have a ticket to another attraction, you can enter the cathedral for free (Leaning Tower, Baptistery, etc.). It is the second most significant church in Tuscany, behind the Cathedral of Florence with its iconic dome. The building was started in 1063 by Hildebrando di Camaino and completed in 1164. It remains one of Italy's foremost examples of Romanesque architecture.
The interior of the cathedral is equally as impressive as its exterior. The nave is supported by rows of slender columns, which are decorated with intricate carvings of animals and humans. There are also some beautiful stained-glass windows, including one that depicts Christ on the cross with other saints. To the left of the entrance is an elaborate marble pulpit carved by Giovanni Pisano in about 1270. This is where priests preached sermons during services. In the back corner of the nave is a Gothic tabernacle built by Florentine artists and sculptors around 1360. It contains relics of the Holy Land including a thorn from the crown of Jesus' head.
The most interesting part of the cathedral for me was up above. You can climb the stairs to the roof for views over Tuscany that cannot be seen from within the city walls. The cathedral roof was originally covered in green and white tiles made in Spain, but they were replaced after earthquakes in 1337 and 1757.
The Florence Cathedral The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, constructed in 1434, is the most notable landmark in Florence and the world's fourth biggest church. The Cathedral of Florence, a classic Italian Gothic structure, is dedicated to "Santa Maria del Fiore." It is one of Italy's major tourist attractions, and millions of people have walked inside its walls.
The cathedral was built over an area of more than two acres with four large aisles supported by naves that spread out from it. It has a total length of 365 feet, a width of 44 feet and a height of 160 feet. The exterior is covered with marble, while the interior features paintings by Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Michelangelo and others.
It was here that Savonarola preached his apocalyptic sermons that led to his death under house arrest in 1498. His remains are buried in the chapel he designed for himself on the right side of the nave as you enter from the south transept.
Today, the cathedral is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm except during religious holidays when it closes at noon. Visitors are allowed to take photos inside the cathedral but not outside. There is a fee of 10 euros for adults, 7 euros for students under 26, and free admission for children under 16. Additional fees may be applicable for some exhibitions and services within the cathedral.
Competition in Baptistry Few structures in Florence are as important to the city's existence as the Baptistry. The Baptistry is located in Florence's religious district, just across from the Duomo's west face. The structure was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, Florence's patron saint. It replaced an earlier version that had been built in the 11th century but destroyed by fire in 1224. The new Baptistry was designed by Hildebert de Romenaing, a French architect who worked in Italy. It is believed he drew on Roman models for his design which has a large square base with four equal sides and a pyramidal roof.
The original plan called for eight baptismal wells but only six have been found. Archaeologists believe the missing wells may have been filled in during renovations or changes made to the site over time. Of the six that remain, two are still visible today. One is at ground level near the front entrance while the other is below street level next to the back wall of the building.
In addition to being important for its architecture, the Baptistry also served an important function in the city's life for more than 500 years. Originally constructed as many as eight underground baptismal wells, they were later covered up when streets were paved over them. In 1872, these wells were reopened after archaeologists discovered them while repairing work on one of the city's main roads.