A Greek word derived in Latin baptisterĭum, which arrived in Castilian as baptistery. This is the name of the place where the baptismal font is located: the stone or the container that is used in the administration of the sacrament called baptism.
The notion is also used to directly name this stone and the building near a temple that, in ancient times, was used to administer baptism.
To understand what a baptistery is, ultimately, you have to understand the notion of baptism. This is the name given to the first sacrament that is administered in many Christian Churches and that marks the entry of the one who receives it into the community of the faithful. Baptism usually consists of pouring a little water on the head of the person being baptized.
The baptistery, in this framework, can be the baptismal font (the container that contains the water in question), the sector where this element is found or the construction that is destined to carry out baptisms.
In the latter case, baptisteries are small temples that are usually located next to larger ones or that may even be inside them. Until the seventeenth century they used to be independent buildings, although later they began to be integrated into the churches.
Within the list of baptisteries located in Italy, it is possible to establish a classification according to their shape and design, as can be seen below:
* octagonal baptisteries: such as those of Parma, Bergamo, Milan, Cremona, Verona and Ravenna;
* with a quadrifolio plan: the baptistery in the city of Biella, in the Piedmont region;
* circular: those of Pisa and Nocera Superiore;
* Hexagonal plane: those of Siena and Aquilea.
An example of a baptistery is the Baptistery of Saint John, which is located in the Piazza del Duomo in the Italian city of Florence. In this place, which has been classified as a minor basilica, the poet Dante Alighieri was baptized.
The Baptistery of San Juan is also well known for its three groups of bronze doors, which are of incalculable artistic value. In addition to the aforementioned poet, all Florentine Catholics born up to the 19th century received baptism in this building.
For many decades, various scholars supported the idea that the Baptistery of Saint John had originally been a Roman temple built in honor of the God Mars, an entity that guarded ancient Florence. Although this idea was attributed to Dante Alighieri, it was actually proposed by the historian Giovanni Villani.
On the other hand is the Baptistery of Saint John built in the French city of Poitiers in the 4th century. So far it is considered the oldest of the Christian monuments; in fact, there are not many others that retain the appearance they did in Merovingian times, which took place from the 5th to the 8th century.
At first, the Baptistery of Poitiers was a Roman house; It was demolished in the year 276, and its central part was built on its foundations, almost a century later. In 507, as a result of the damage caused by the Visigoths during their occupation, the restoration process began.
The Baptistery of Pisa is also very popular today. Its construction began in 1152 and lasted more than two centuries. Statistics indicate that, among the independent baptisteries, it is the most internationally recognized. The baptistery active until 1152 was quite smaller in size, and the new one was erected to replace it. It should be noted that the cathedral was built first and, once the baptistery was finished, work on the tower began.