Standing to the west of the Duomo, the Baptistery is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It’s construction began in 1152 and was not completed until 1363, so total construction time is 211 years. The Baptistery, which is Romanesque in design and appearance, was designed by Diotisalvi. This is known because Diotisalvi’s name was carved on a pillar inside (it read “Diotosalvia magister”).
The construction of the Baptistery actually took place in two stages, accounting for its long construction time. In the 14th century, the top story and the dome were added to the building, completing its overall design and finalizing its construction.
The Baptistery in Pisa is the largest in Italy. It’s total circumference measures 107.25 m (351 feet). Its height is 54,86 m (180 feet), taller than the leaning tower of Pisa if you count the inclusion of the large statue of St. John the Baptist. Though not much higher than the leaning tower, it does dwarf the tower by a few centimeters. The entire Baptistery is made out of marble.
Classic Design and Religious Significance
The Baptistery is mostly Romanesque and Gothic in style, though there are definite influences from Byzantine and Islam. This is likely due to the time of its construction, which was just after the 4th crusade.
- The lower part: Romanesque (rounded arches)
- The upper part: Gothic (pointed arches)
The Inside of the Baptistery
The exterior of the building is a remarkable sight, abundant in arches and columns.. It’s hard not to take a few minutes to take in the sheer awesomeness of the structure, admiring the ornate details and elaborate depictions of religion. The inside is overwhelming too, although it is very basic without a lot of decoration.
Guido bigarellie da Como provided the octagonal font in 1246, and the bronze sculpture of St. John is a beautiful contribution from Italo Griselli.
Along the walls are artworks depicting various stages of St. Johns life, and on the upper floor there are artworks depicting Christ between Madonna and St. John , surrounded by Angels.
The Baptistery has a lean, just like the Leaning Tower and the Cathedral. It leans 0,6 degrees in the direction of the Cathedral. The sand on which the Baptistery is built (and everything else on the Piazza Dei Miracoli) is the culprit.
The Baptistery at Night
The Baptistery, just like the rest of the Piazza Dei Miracoli, is a popular tourist destination, so be prepared to deal with crowds and tourist shops.
Despite that, you should be able enjoy yourself while learning a lot about old world Italian design and architecture. The Baptistery is famous for its St. John references and its incredible architecture, and though thousands of people from across the world come to see the Baptistery every year, it still manages to retain that close, personal feeling that make excursions to see it so memorable.
Those of the Christian faith may find their visit to the Baptistery even more rewarding as there is a large amount of personal sentiment that remains there.
One more tip: check out the acoustics in the Baptistery, the sound seems to go on for ages. It’s even possible to sing a chord all by yourself by changing the note after a few seconds.