The Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the monuments of the Piazza dei Miracoli, in Pisa. The baptistery stands in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, south of the Camposanto Monumentale (monumental cemetery) and about 170 meters from the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The construction of the building began in 1152, to replace a smaller baptistery located north-east of the Cathedral, where the Camposanto is now located. It was built in Romanesque style by the architect Diotisalvi, who is also credited with the construction of the Tower of Pisa. Later, the works were conducted by Nicola Pisano, Giovanni Pisano and Cellino di Nese.
In the 19th century, along with the renovation that affected the entire Piazza del Duomo and its monuments, the baptistery was the subject of a radical restoration by the architect Alessandro Gherardesca. His interventions led to the reconstruction of some portals and much of the decorations.
Despite the denunciations of some intellectuals and prominent personalities of the Pisan culture of the time, the works of the 19th century, directed by the master builder Giovanni Storni, led to the removal of numerous sculptures by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. The original sculptures were almost all lost except for those now exhibited at the Opera del Duomo Museum.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is the largest baptistery in Italy, and also in the world. Its circumference measures 107.24 meters, while the width of the masonry at the base is 2.63 meters. Its height is 54.86 meters.
Like many other buildings in Pisa, the baptistery is slightly inclined. The tilt faces east, towards the cathedral.
The dome is covered with red tiles towards the sea and lead plates towards the east. Probably, the cause of the difference in the coverage is to be found in the lack of money.
The small dome on top with the statue of St. John the Baptist was added only much later. The baptistery originally had an opening on the ceiling through which light entered, illuminating the baptismal font.
The interior, surprisingly simple and without decorations, has exceptional acoustics. Inside the central circular hall, runs an ambulatory, with round arches resting on pillars, surmounted by a matroneum.
The octagonal baptismal font, placed on three steps in the center, dates back to 1246 and was built by Guido Bigarelli. The bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist in the center of the fountain is an excellent work by Italo Griselli.
The pulpit was sculpted between 1255 and 1260 by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni Pisano, with scenes from the Life of Christ.
HOW TO GET THERE
Pisa Centrale train station is located about 2 kilometers away from the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The closest bus station is Torre 1, located in Via Giovanni Battista Niccolini, about 250 meters away, on the bus Lines 21, LAM Rossa and Navetta E.