The doors of the Baptistery of Florence restored, brought together at last

Finally, after 30 years of restoration, the 3 monumental doors of the Baptistery of Saint John have been brought together on display at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.

The first restoration work on the portals, carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, began in 1990 with the removal of the Porta del Paradiso (Gates of Paradise), ended in 2012 and followed by the restoration of the North doors, second also in order of realization. Finally it was the turn of the South doors, with a restoration that lasted 3 years, which brought to light the beautiful gilding and masterly sculptural details.


The South doors, are also the oldest, executed between 1330 and 1336 by Andrea Pisano, Giotto's collaborator.

He created the portal with a simple and harmonious taste, in the Gothic style popular at the time. He divided the surface into 28 squares, where golden figures were carved in bas-relief on barely outlined backgrounds. The Florentines immediately loved this grand work, which was placed at the entrance of the baptistery that faces the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was facing North back then, but was later moved to the south side, replaced by the Gate of Paradise.


It took about sixty years before a new competition could be held to build the second door of the Baptistery. The one that became the East doors. It was the young Lorenzo Ghiberti who won the competition in 1401, with his tile (door panel) on the theme of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.

Ghiberti tried to adapt to the Gothic style of Pisano, but one already notes the manifestation of a more refined taste which at the beginning of the fifteenth century announced the Renaissance era.

On the second portal are still 28 panels, which here represent scenes from the life of Christ and figures of the evangelists and fathers of the church. A curiosity: in one of the panels of this door, among other characters, Ghiberti decided to include his own self-portrait.


Again a work of Lorenzo Ghiberti - by then an extremely expert and excellent artist - was the third gate, later called Porta del Paradiso.

This time around Ghiberti decided to do his own thing, completely changing the style of the portal, no longer divided into 28 panels like the other two, but in 10 sections only. Smaller the number of scenes represented, but greater the precision of the details and the complexity of the work.

Ghiberti represented stories from the Old Testament, illustrated in detail and applying the perspective. Each panel is like a small golden painting and he worked on them 27 years, completing the doors in 1452.

A masterpiece in gilded bronze of 8 tons.

Apparently, it was Michelangelo himself, who admiring it, commented: "It is so beautiful that it could become the door of Paradise". And thus, was in fact renamed by the Florentines and installed in the place of honor, in front of the Duomo’s façade, replacing the Andrea Pisano's doors.


Today it is finally possible to admire the three monumental doors side by side, in the Sala del Paradiso of the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Thanks to this arrangement, visitors will be able to grasp the similarities, and above all the remarkable differences in style, that characterize the three doors, made over a period of more than 120 that goes from 1330 to 1452.

Quite a sight indeed!




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