Giuseppe Castellucci, Main altar
- Giuseppe Castellucci - Florentine craftsmen
- 1128? (1912)
- Baptistery of Saint John
- Specific location
- Interior, west side, apse
- Molding, sculpture, marquetry
- Height: 116 cm; Width: 233 cm;
- White marble, green marble
The altar is a 20th-century reconstruction of the ancient medieval altar, made with original 12th-century parts, based on an 18th-century graphic record. The location, in the presbytery area, is probably as original.
In 1731 the ancient Baptistery altar, from the third decade of the 12th century, was demolished to make way for ecclesiastic furnishings in late-Baroque style, sculpted by Girolamo Ticciati. In 1912 a decision was made to dismantle this monumental decoration (now in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo) and restore the area to its original appearance. Giuseppe Castellucci, then the architect of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, had developed the idea of rebuilding the altar in Romanesque style, based on some drawings made before the 1731 demolition, by Anton Francesco Gori, the Florentine scholar and Canon of the Baptistery (1691-1757). Castellucci reused some original elements, in particular the inlaid tiles and columns, and combined these with others made ‘in style’. The result is a box altar, set off with panels in geometric inlays of white and green marble, punctuated by squat, fluted semi-columns, standing on a moulded plinth and supporting the cornice. At the centre of each of the long sides is a ‘confession’: a grate allowing the viewing and veneration of the relics of saints, preserved inside.
The presence of these saintly remains within the chest enhances the allusion to a sarcophagus, or tomb, and so to the sepulchre of Christ, and to the Eucharistic mystery first celebrated there with its hope of Resurrection - and so finally, to the sacrament of Baptism in faith, as practiced in this very temple.