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Baptistery of San Giovanni

The baptistery dedicated to Saint John the Baptist , patron saint of the city of Florence , stands in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Flower , in piazza San Giovanni .
Initially it was located outside the circle of the walls, but was included, together with the dome, in the walls built by Matilde di Canossa ("fourth circle"). Originally it was surrounded by other buildings, such as the Palazzo Arcivescovile which arrived much closer, which were demolished to create the current square. The baptistery has the dignity of minor basilica .
The baptistery is located between piazza del Duomo and piazza San Giovanni , between the duomo and the archbishopric, in the religious center of the city. The main facade of the octagonal building faces east , towards the dome, while the apse is located towards west .
The origins of the monument are one of the most obscure and discussed themes in the whole history of art. Until the sixteenth century the ancient Florentine tradition was followed according to which it was originally a temple of the god Mars , modified in the Middle Ages only in the apse and lantern. In the following centuries instead this idea was gradually abandoned, also because at the end of the nineteenth century excavating under the building appeared the remains of domus Roman, probably of the I century <306 > dC, with mosaic floors with geometric patterns. It was therefore believed that this would demonstrate the medieval origin of the monument, and on this assumption most of the current theories are based. Today, however, scholars remain divided between those who, basing themselves on the classical characteristics of architecture, think of an early Christian construction ( IV - V century AD), and who instead the date around a thousand for the archaeological findings that were said and also for a document that attested the consecration made by Pope Nicholas II on November 6, 1059; and there are also those who hypothesize successive alterations between VII and XI century and even beyond, even up to the threshold of the Renaissance.
These explanations so different make it clear how much the problem is still open, and it should be added that in recent years the hypothesis has been put forward that the Florentine traditions were essentially telling the truth when they said that the monument was a 'Temple of Mars' (of to which no trace has ever been found), in the sense not of pagan temple, but of memorial building of the victory of Stilicone on Radagaiso, which took place in Florence in 406 and remembered by all the historians of the time as an extraordinary fact , so much so that St. Augustine brought it as an argument against the pagans to demonstrate the power of God. Only later, then, would the building be consecrated to Christian use, as happened for many other ancient monuments. In this hypothesis the Roman finds of the excavations should be explained not as remains of barbaric devastations of the VI century, but as demolitions carried out in the same fifth century before construction and just to make room for the building. The quality of its architecture should therefore be referred not to the Florentine Romanesque but to the late Roman period.