The three monumental doors of Florence’s Baptistery, bronze and gilded masterpieces of late Medieval/early Renaissance art, have been reunited after almost 30 years apart. The South, North and East doors can now be admired next to one another inside the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the museum containing many of the original works of art created for the Cathedral complex of Florence.
The three sets of doors had been separated for restoration work. The South Door was the latest to be restored, placed back into the museum only recently after a three-year, 1.5M restoration financed by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and performed by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, the same institute that worked on the restoration of the two other doors.
Made between 1330 and 1336 by Andrea Pisano, a student and collaborator of Giotto, the South Door, the oldest of the three, was badly damaged during Florence’s 1966 flooding. It comprises 28 panels: the top 20 depict scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist, while the lower eight depict virtues. The restoration was meant to revive the door’s golden decorations, worn by time and contact with hundreds of hands, and the details of the tiny sculptures.
The Baptistery doors are about 5 meters tall and 3 meters wide, weigh 8 tons, and were made between 1330 and 1452.
The three doors can be seen together in the museum's Sala del Paradiso, where the north and east doors, the work of Lorenzo Ghiberti, were already on display. The east doors are the most recent and famous, after Michelangelo supposedly nicknamed them ‘Gates of Paradise’, because they are so beautiful.
The restoration work on the three doors began in 1979 on the Gates of Paradise, a work that was completed only in 2012 because of its complexity.
The doors have been removed from their original location in the Baptistery to be better safeguarded and protected from the elements; in their place are faithful copies.
Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in the Baptistery.