The Baptistery of Pistoia is dedicated to San Giovanni in Conte and is located in the central Piazza del Duomo. Today, it no longer has a religious function and is only used for cultural events. Although there was a church on the site before, the current construction dates back to the 14th century.
Address: Piazza del Duomo – Pistoia. Opening hours: From 10am to 6pm. Entrance fee: Free of charge. At the Baptistery you can buy the ticket for a guided tour of the bell tower.
History and description
The current version of the San Giovanni in Conte Baptistery was built towards the middle of the 14th century. However, there must have been a sanctuary earlier, as there is a 12th-century documentmentioning a buidling dedicated to San Giovanni facing the Cathedral. The document mentions the building as the burial site of Bishop Atto.
It is likely that the building consisted of a central room with a baptismal font in the middle.
In the early 14th century, plans were already made for a reconstruction of the Baptistery. However, the war between Lucca and Florence threw a spanner in the works.
Work finally started in 1337. The work was supervised by Cellino di Nese, who had also rebuilt the Baptistery and the Camposanto in Pisa. The construction was completed in 1359.
The baptistery is octagonal in shape and stands on a small elevation. The building is clad in slabs of green-black and white marble.
The decoration of the doors and windows, as well as the blind gallery and roof, are all typical of the Gothic-Tuscan style.
The sculptures on the main entrance, however, are a characteristic example of the 14th-century Pisan school. The wooden door knockers were made by Francesco di Ventura in 1532.
To the right of the main entrance is a small pulpit, placed there in 1359 to display relics to the people.
The most recent restoration took place in the 19th century. The restoration included a return to the building of the original baptismal font made by Lanfranco. The brick interior is otherwise extremely soberly decorated.
What to see
The baptistery with its balustrade with beautifully carved panels was made by Lanfranco da Como in 1226. The artist’s name can be seen in block letters on the inside of the vat.
The gilded wooden altar dates from the 16th century and was originally in the Madonna dell’Umiltà Basilica.
The statue of Saint John the Baptist was designed by Andrea Vaccà in 1724.