Baptistry, Duomo, Santa Croce, and Orsanmichele – 3/20/17

It is a little overcast this morning as we make our way to the Baptistry in the Piazza del Duomo. The Baptistry consecrated in 1059 predates the cathedral. The building is octagonal signifying the six days of creation, the day of rest, and the rebirth of baptism.

The Baptistry with the Duomo behind

The inside is amazing! The ceiling is filled with mosaics. In the center is Christ with his attendant angels, prophets, and apostles.

Mosaic of Christ
Mosaic of Christ in context

Around the dome are scenes from the Old Testament, Christ’s Passion and Redemption, and other Biblical stories.

View of the ceiling
Story of Adam and Eve
Creation of Eve

There’s also a gruesome mosaic of what is waiting for you if you don’t lead a good life. The devil is munching on people! Imagine what this all must have looked like to the people back then many of which lived hard, colorless lives. These mosaics are amazing to us today!

Last Judgment

After leaving the Baptistry, we head to Orsanmichele a building from 1359 that started as a place to sell grain and morphed into church when miracles were associated with it. The outside is decorated with large statutes of saints by such art luminaries as Donatello. Due to increasing damage from being left out in the elements, the original statues are inside their museum which is only open on Mondays. Yay! It’s Monday!

Exterior of Orsanmichele
Inside the church there is a painting of the Madonna and Child which people pray to for miracles
There are frescoes of the horrible ways that martyr/saints died. This is St. Bartholomew getting his skin flayed
St. Matthew by Donatello in the museum. His head looks too large when you look at it from this angle
But when you look at the statue from beneath as you would have looked at it from the street, everything is in proportion

After a quick stop at the Duomo (which tbh is a lot more impressive on the outside than inside) we head to Santa Croce.

Rather plain looking altar in the Duomo
Looking up into Brunelleschi’s dome

We would love to eat lunch first but we have not timed things quite right. A lot of restaurants do not open for lunch until 12:30 PM. It is only 11:45 AM. We decide to visit Santa Croce first but need a little sit-down first to re-energize. The benches around Piazza Santa Croce are a fine place to sit for a bit, bask in the sun, and people watch.

Piazza Santa Croce


Selfie with John

Okay, crew, on your feet! Let’s do this!

Santa Croce is a very large church filled with art. The complex includes the church and museum. Unfortunately they are out of English guides, too many American visitors. In addition to the religious works, there is also a presentation about the incredible damage done by the flood of 1966. In the church the water was 5 meters high (over 16 feet!) and the church and its artwork were covered in mud and muck after the waters receded. Sadly we saw evidence of the flood, not everything could be restored.

Here are some of my favorites from Santa Croce.

Nave of Santa Croce


Early painting of St. Francis and scenes from his life by Giotto
Marriage of Mary – staff of Joseph grew a tree, others did not, unchosen suitors are breaking their sticks. T. Gaddi, 1328-1338
Last supper by Gaddi showing damage

By the time we are done it is around 2 PM. We stop at Trattoria Alfredo on the way back to the apartments.

We tell Sarah to go do something else if she likes. John and I are done for the day. But instead everyone just falls asleep. It has been a busy day! We have snacks for dinner down at the pub, Caffe Megara, where you can have free crostini if you buy a glass of wine or beer.

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