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Baptistery of San Giovanni

The baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist , patron of the city of Florence , stands in front of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore , in Piazza San Giovanni .
Initially it was located outside the circle of the walls, but was included, along with the dome, in the walls built by Matilde di Canossa ("fourth circle"). Originally it was surrounded by other buildings, such as the Archbishop's palace that arrived much closer, which were demolished to create the current square. The baptistery has the dignity of a minor basilica .
The baptistery is located between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza San Giovanni , between the cathedral and the archbishop's palace, in the religious center of the city. The main facade of the octagonal building faces east , towards the dome, while the apse faces 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 in the lantern. In the following centuries, however, this idea was gradually abandoned, also because at the end of the nineteenth century excavating under the building appeared the remains of Roman domus , probably of the first century AD, with mosaic floors with geometric motifs. 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, based on the classical characteristics of architecture, think of a construction of the early Christian era ( IV - V century AD), and who instead date around one thousand for the archaeological finds that was said and also for a document attesting to the consecration made by Pope Nicholas II on 6 November 1059; and there are also those who hypothesize successive alterations between the seventh and eleventh centuries and even beyond, even up to the thresholds 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 had been a 'Temple of Mars' (of which has never been found), in the sense not of pagan temple, but of a building commemorating the victory of Stilicho on Radagaiso, which took place in Florence in 406 and remembered by all the historians of the time as an extraordinary fact, so much that the same Sant '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.