Baptistery

Baptistery

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In Christian architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 the baptistry or baptistery (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 baptisterium, from Greek ) is the separate centrally-planned structure surrounding the baptismal font
Baptismal font
A baptismal font is an article of church furniture or a fixture used for the baptism of children and adults.-Aspersion and affusion fonts:...

. The baptistry may be incorporated within the body of a church or cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 and be provided with an altar as a chapel. In the early Christian Church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

, the catechumen
Catechumen
In ecclesiology, a catechumen , “‘down’” + ἠχή , “‘sound’”) is one receiving instruction from a catechist in the principles of the Christian religion with a view to baptism...

s were instructed and the sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

 of baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 was administered in the baptistery.

The sacramental importance and sometimes architectural splendor of the baptistry reflect the importance of baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 to Christians. The octagonal plan of the Lateran Baptistery
Lateran Baptistery
The domed octagonal Lateran Baptistery stands somewhat apart from the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome, to which it has become joined by later construction. This baptistery was founded by Pope Sixtus III in 440, perhaps on an earlier structure, for a legend grew up that Constantine the...

, the first structure expressly built as a baptistry, provided a widely-followed model, which might be twelve-sided, or even circular as at Pisa. In a narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

 or anteroom
Antechamber
An antechamber is a smaller room or vestibule serving as an entryway into a larger one. The word is formed of the Latin ante camera, meaning "room before"....

 the catechumens were instructed and made their confession of faith
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

 before baptism. The main interior space centered upon the baptismal font
Baptismal font
A baptismal font is an article of church furniture or a fixture used for the baptism of children and adults.-Aspersion and affusion fonts:...

 (piscina), in which those to be baptized were immersed thrice. Three steps led down to the floor of the font, and over it might be suspended a gold or silver dove. The iconography of fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s or mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s on the walls were commonly of the scenes in the life of Saint John the Baptist. The font was at first always of stone, but latterly metals were often used.
The Lateran baptistery's font was fed by a natural spring. When the site had been the palatial dwelling of the Laterani, before Constantine presented it to Bishop Miltiades, the spring formed the water source for the numerous occupants of the domus. It will be quickly apprehended that as the requirements for Christian baptisteries expanded, Christianization of sacred pagan springs
Christianised sites
One aspect of Christianisation was the Christianisation of sites that had been pagan. In the 1st centuries of Christianity churches were either house churches in whatever houses were offered for use by their owners, or were shrines on the burial-sites of martyrs or saints, which following the usual...

 presented natural opportunities. Cassiodorus
Cassiodorus
Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator , commonly known as Cassiodorus, was a Roman statesman and writer, serving in the administration of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank.- Life :Cassiodorus was born at Scylletium, near Catanzaro in...

, in a letter written in A.D. 527, described a fair held at a former pagan shrine of Leucothea
Leucothea
In Greek mythology, Leucothea , "white goddess") was one of the aspects under which an ancient sea goddess was recognized, in this case as a transformed nymph....

, in the still culturally Greek region of south Italy, which had been Christianized by converting it to a baptistery (Variae 8.33). In a paper read in 1999, Samuel J. Barnish drew examples of the transition from miraculous springs to baptisteries from Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 (died c. 594) and Maximus, bishop of Turin
Maximus of Turin
Saint Maximus of Turin was a bishop and theological writer. Maximus is believed to have been a native of Rhaetia.-Veneration:His name is in the Roman martyrology on 25 June, and the city of Turin honours him as its patron saint. A life which, however, is entirely unreliable, was written after the...

 (died c. 466).

Baptisteries belong to a period of the church when great numbers of adult catechumens were baptized, and when immersion
Immersion baptism
Immersion baptism is a method of baptism that is distinguished from baptism by affusion and by aspersion , sometimes without specifying whether the immersion is total or partial, but very commonly with the indication that the person baptized is immersed completely...

 was the rule. We find little or no trace of them before Constantine made Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 the state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, i.e. before the 4th century; and as early as the 6th century the baptismal font was built in the porch
Porch
A porch is external to the walls of the main building proper, but may be enclosed by screen, latticework, broad windows, or other light frame walls extending from the main structure.There are various styles of porches, all of which depend on the architectural tradition of its location...

 of the church and then in the church itself. After the 9th century, with infant baptism increasingly the rule, few baptisteries were built. Some of the older baptisteries were very large, so large that we hear of councils and synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

s being held in them. It was necessary to make them large, because in the early Church it was customary for the bishop to baptize all the catechumens in his diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 (and so baptisteries are commonly found attached to the cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 and not to the parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 churches), and also because the rite was performed only three times in the year.

During the months when there were no baptisms the baptistery doors were sealed with the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

's seal
Seal (device)
A seal can be a figure impressed in wax, clay, or some other medium, or embossed on paper, with the purpose of authenticating a document ; but the term can also mean the device for making such impressions, being essentially a mould with the mirror image of the design carved in sunken- relief or...

, a method of controlling the orthodoxy of all baptism in the diocese. Some baptisteries were divided into two parts to separate the sexes; sometimes the church had two baptisteries, one for each sex. A fireplace
Fireplace
A fireplace is an architectural structure to contain a fire for heating and, especially historically, for cooking. A fire is contained in a firebox or firepit; a chimney or other flue allows gas and particulate exhaust to escape...

 was often provided to warm the neophytes after immersion.
Though baptisteries were forbidden to be used as burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

-places by the Council of Auxerre (578) they were not uncommonly used as such. The Florentine Antipope John XXIII
Antipope John XXIII
Baldassarre Cossa was Pope John XXIII during the Western Schism. The Catholic Church regards him as an antipope.-Biography:...

 was buried in the Baptistery
Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence)
The Florence Baptistry or Battistero di San Giovanni is a religious building in Florence , Italy, which has the status of a minor basilica....

 facing Florence's Duomo
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

 with great ceremony and a tomb erected. Many of the early archbishops of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 were buried in the baptistery at Canterbury.

Baptisteries, we find from the records of early councils, were first built and used to correct the evils arising from the practice of private baptism. As soon as Christianity made such progress that baptism became the rule, and as soon as immersion gave place to sprinkling, the ancient baptisteries were no longer necessary. They are still in general use, however, in Florence and Pisa.

The baptistery of the Lateran
Lateran
Lateran and Laterano are the shared names of several architectural projects throughout Rome. The properties were once owned by the Lateranus family of the former Roman Empire...

 must be the earliest ecclesiastical building still in use. (Main article: Lateran Baptistery
Lateran Baptistery
The domed octagonal Lateran Baptistery stands somewhat apart from the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome, to which it has become joined by later construction. This baptistery was founded by Pope Sixtus III in 440, perhaps on an earlier structure, for a legend grew up that Constantine the...

.
) A large part of it remains as built by Constantine. The central area, where is the basin of the font, is an octagon around which stand eight porphyry
Porphyry (geology)
Porphyry is a variety of igneous rock consisting of large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass. The larger crystals are called phenocrysts...

 columns, with marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 capitals and entablature
Entablature
An entablature refers to the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave , the frieze ,...

 of classical form; outside these are an ambulatory
Ambulatory
The ambulatory is the covered passage around a cloister. The term is sometimes applied to the procession way around the east end of a cathedral or large church and behind the high altar....

 and outer walls forming a larger octagon. Attached to one side, towards the Lateran basilica, is a fine porch with two noble porphyry columns and richly carved capitals, bases and entablatures. The circular church of Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza is a 4th century church in Rome, Italy, on the Via Nomentana, which runs north-east out of the city, still under its ancient name. According to the traditional view, it was built under Constantine I as a mausoleum for his daughter Constantina who died in 354 AD...

, also of the 4th century, served as a baptistery and contained the tomb of the daughter of Constantine. This is a remarkably perfect structure with a central dome, columns and mosaics of classical fashion. Two side niches contain the earliest known mosaics of distinctively Christian subjects. In one is represented Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 receiving the Old Law, in the other Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 delivers to Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 the New Law charter sealed with the XP monogram.

The earliest surviving structure that was used as a baptistry is the tomb-like baptistry at Dura-Europas http://divinity.library.vanderbilt.edu/burns/3262/dura2.html. Another baptistery of the earliest times has been excavated at Aquileia
Aquileia
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso , the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times...

. Ruins of an early baptistery have also been found at Salona
Salona
Salona was an ancient Illyrian Delmati city in the first millennium BC. The Greeks had set up an emporion there. After the conquest by the Romans, Salona became the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia...

. At Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 exist two famous baptisteries encrusted with fine mosaics, one of them built in the middle of the 5th century, and the other in the 6th. To the latter date also belongs a large baptistery decorated with mosaics at Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

.

In the East the metropolitan baptistery at Constantinople still stands at the side of the former patriarchal Church of Holy Wisdom; and many others, in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, have been made known to us by recent researches, as also have some belonging to the churches of North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. In France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 the most famous early baptistery is Baptistère Saint-Jean
Baptistère Saint-Jean
The Baptistère Saint-Jean is a religious edifice in Poitiers, France. It is reputed to be the oldest existing Christian building in France and one of the most prominent examples of Merovingian architecture.-Roman origins:...

 at Poitiers
Poitiers
Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

, and other early examples exist at Riez
Riez
Riez is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France.-Geography:The densely-built village sits where two small rivers join—the Auvestre and the Colostre—in a glacially-widened valley.-Population:-Economy:...

, Fréjus
Fréjus
Fréjus is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.It neighbours Saint-Raphaël, effectively forming one town...

 and Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence
Aix , or Aix-en-Provence to distinguish it from other cities built over hot springs, is a city-commune in southern France, some north of Marseille. It is in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône, of which it is a subprefecture. The population of Aix is...

. In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, a detached baptistery is known to have been associated with Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site....

.

Famous Baptisteries


Famous Italian baptistries include:
  • The Lateran Baptistery
    Lateran Baptistery
    The domed octagonal Lateran Baptistery stands somewhat apart from the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome, to which it has become joined by later construction. This baptistery was founded by Pope Sixtus III in 440, perhaps on an earlier structure, for a legend grew up that Constantine the...

    , Rome,the most significant and architecturally most influential baptistry in the Christian West, founded by Pope Sixtus III
    Pope Sixtus III
    Pope Saint Sixtus III was pope from 31 July 432 to 18 August 440.The name of Sixtus is often connected with a great building boom in Rome: Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill was dedicated during his pontificate and he built Santa Maria Maggiore, whose dedication to Mary the Mother of God reflected...

    ;
  • The Baptistry of San Giovanni in Forte, Ravenna
    Ravenna
    Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

    ;
  • The Baptistry of Parma;
  • The Tuscan Romanesque
    Romanesque architecture
    Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

     Battistero di San Giovanni
    Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence)
    The Florence Baptistry or Battistero di San Giovanni is a religious building in Florence , Italy, which has the status of a minor basilica....

    , associated with Santa Maria del Fiore
    Santa Maria del Fiore
    The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

    , the duomo
    Duomo
    Duomo is a term for a cathedral church. The formal word for a church that is presently a cathedral is cattedrale; a Duomo may be either a present or a former cathedral . Some, like the Duomo of Monza, have never been cathedrals, although old and important...

     of Florence, rebuilt between 1059 and 1150; it contains Ghiberti
    Lorenzo Ghiberti
    Lorenzo Ghiberti , born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was an Italian artist of the early Renaissance best known for works in sculpture and metalworking.-Early life:...

    's "Doors of Paradise";
  • The circular domed Baptistry clad in white marble in the Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
    Pisa
    Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

    , built in stages from 1150 and combining Romanesque with Gothic
    Gothic architecture
    Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

    .
  • Others are found at Ascoli Piceno
    Ascoli Piceno
    Ascoli Piceno is a town and comune in the Marche region of Italy, capital of the province of the same name. Its population is c. 51,400.-Geography:...

    , Pistoia
    Pistoia
    Pistoia is a city and comune in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 km west and north of Florence and is crossed by the Ombrone Pistoiese, a tributary of the River Arno.-History:...

     and Padua
    Padua
    Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

    .


Famous French baptistries include:
  • The Baptistry of Fréjus Cathedral
    Fréjus Cathedral
    Fréjus Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, situated in the town of Fréjus in the Var department of Provence, in southeast France....

    ;
  • The Baptistry of Aix Cathedral in Aix-en-Provence;
  • The Baptistry
    Baptistère Saint-Jean
    The Baptistère Saint-Jean is a religious edifice in Poitiers, France. It is reputed to be the oldest existing Christian building in France and one of the most prominent examples of Merovingian architecture.-Roman origins:...

     of Poitiers
    Poitiers
    Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

    , reputedly the oldest Christian building in France.
  • The Baptistery of Leurent


Byzantine baptisteries of the Holy Land:
Emmaus Nicopolis
Emmaus Nicopolis
Emmaus Nicopolis was the Roman name for a city associated with the Emmaus of the New Testament, where Jesus is said to have appeared after his death and resurrection. In the modern age, the site was the location of the Palestinian Arab village of Imwas, near the Latrun junction, between Jerusalem...


See also



  • Renaissance architecture
    Renaissance architecture
    Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

  • Medieval architecture
    Medieval architecture
    Medieval architecture is a term used to represent various forms of architecture common in Medieval Europe.-Characteristics:-Religious architecture:...

  • Pieve
    Pieve
    In the Middle Ages, a pieve was a rural church with a baptistery, upon which other churches without baptisteries depended.The Italian word pieve is descended from Latin plebs which, after the expansion of Christianity in Italy, was applied to the community of baptized people...

    (church with a baptistery on which other churches without baptisteries depended)