Florence St John: the Saint, the masterpieces, the feast
St John the Baptist is the Saint Patron of the city of Florence. The feast day is on June 24th and – as usual – lots of celebrations are on their way: one more reason to visit and enjoy this beautiful city in summer!
The relationship between Florence and its Saint Patron is a very long one, and an absolutely fruitful one in terms of artworks: let’s go to meet Florence St John!
Florence St John: the neat beauty of the Baptistery
The most important artwork related to St John the Baptist in Florence is of course the Baptistery – Battistero di San Giovanni -. Mentioned in a 897AD document, the Baptistery officially acquired its function – the Florence baptismal font – in 1128: previously the baptismal font seat was Santa Reparata, the “old” Florence Cathedral.
The Battistero is a treasure chest with treasures… inside and outside! The mosaic ceiling is the most important feature of Byzantine – style art in Florence.
But if the inside is quite definitely a medieval one, the three doors are per se a sort of beautiful travel – time experience, from the medieval South Doors by Andrea Pisano (1329 – 1336) to the Renaissance jewel by Lorenzo Ghiberti: the North Doors (1401 – 1422) and the East Doors (named later by Michelangelo The Paradise Gates, 1425 – 1452). With its elegance and neatness, the Baptistery is definitely another Florence – must – see.
But, while the Battistero is the main artwork dedicated to St John the Baptist in Florence, it is definitely not the only one…
Florence St John… and ‘baby’ St John: the many San Giovanni of the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery wards many artworks having St John as the subject, and mind that, being the importance of St John the Baptist in Christianity huge, there are at least three different iconographies: San Giovannino, i.e. “the little St John”, St John as a child, along with baby Jesus; the adult St John, usually with the poor cloths of a hermit; the beheading – decollazione – of St John (the beheading requested by Salome to her stepfather, Herod Antipas.
The Uffizi has ten San Giovannino paintings: among them, the ones by Raffaello and Lucas Cranach the Elder; a beautiful St John is a small painting by Filippo Lippi; two Decollazione del Battista from Venetian school and Dutch School.
A ‘brand new’ St John in Florence
Artists in Florence still love the St John’s iconography: the San Giovanni by Giuliano Vangi is a beautiful contemporary statue in Piazza di Santa Maria Sopr’Arno.
And the Arno river is one of the main characters of the St John feast celebrations!
Florence St John: the feast and celebrations
If you are in Florence next June 24th, do not miss…:
- The fireworks: “i fochi di San Giovanni”: beautiful fireworks show over the Arno;
- San Niccolò Tower: the by the Arno tower is open for visiting;
- Calcio storico fiorentino: the final. The Florentine football is one of the toughest sports in the world.
The final match of the season is played on June 24th in Piazza Santa Croce which, for the day, is more a smouldering coliseum than a medieval artistic cobbled square… 😉
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