Tuscan craftsmen, Marble floor of the Baptistery
- Tuscan craftsmen
- 13th cent.
- Baptistery of Saint John
- Specific location
- White marble, green serpentine marble from Prato, red marble
The floor of the Baptistery is laid in quadrangular “carpets” of green, white and red marble, with geometric motifs, zoomorphic and vegetal figures, made by Tuscan masters in the first decades of the 1200s. The work, known as opus tassellatum, reproduces motifs and patterns of Middle Eastern origin, probably derived from the fabrics imported to Florence by the Calimala guild. This guild, of producers and merchants in wool cloth, had supervised the temple of St John the Baptist since 1157. One of the panels composes the wheel of the zodiac, centred on an image of the sun, surrounded in turn by a palindrome referring to the fiery rotation of the “day star”. According to ancient (unconfirmed) sources, this was once a sundial, designed at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries by the Florentine master Strozzo Strozzi, and lit by the oculus of the vault, with the light passing through a “bronze ring”. A second tassellatum floor depicting an almost identical zodiac, dated 1207 and still functioning as a sundial, is found in the Florentine Basilica of San Miniato al Monte: another temple administered by the Arte of the Calimala. For the Baptistery, the zodiac affirms the significance of the place as religious and civic “navel” of the ancient city, and symbolizes the circular nature of human time, surpassed only by those who receive the sacrament of baptism and so enter into eternal life.