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Neonian Baptistery2019-04-11T16:45:55+00:00

Presentation

Next to the Cathedral, almost as a connection between the Duomo and Arcivescovado Squares, you can admire the Orthodox Baptistery (or Neonian) in the heart of a well-kept garden, which many citizens love to cross on foot even just for the simple joy of eyes.
In Summer, on the occasion of the Feast of St. John (original title of the parish of the Cathedral, to which the Baptistery is attached) the Holy Mass open doors is celebrated inside: it is an invitation to enter, to enjoy the beauty of the ritual in these precious places. And what about baptisms? Even today, if you are lucky, you can attend right here, in the symbolic place of the Sacrament. The only risk is to attend with the nose constantly upturned, distracted with the contemplation of the dome, and perhaps with a question: who is the third character who appears in the Baptism of Christ next to the Savior and St. John?

Unique in the world

Entering the octagonal-shape Neonian Baptistery you’ll find yourself facing a “unicum” for what concerns early Christian and byzantine art. It is in fact the best preserved baptismal building in the world, both for the architectural structure and for the interior (marbles, stuccos and mosaics). Of the most ancient baptisteries built in Antioch, Constantinople, Ephesus, Trier, Milan, Aquileia and Rome between IV and V centuries only the perimeter walls, or the basement, survive.

A bit of history

Around the middle of the V century the Bishop Neonis (450-475) decided to redo the roofing of the Baptistery of the Cathedral, erected a few decades before by Bishop Ursus. Hence the name of Basilica of St. Ursus, then rebuilt in the XVIII century.

With the nose up

As usual, the iconographic program is to be read in an upward direction and it reaches its highest accomplishment in the dome, tripartite in bands that look like revolving wheels whose mainstay is the central clypeus with the scene of the Baptism.
The lower wheel band, the outermost one, is divided into eight parts, in which alternate empty seats (those of the Ethimasia, or preparation of the Throne of God for the day of Judgement), framed by viridari (heavenly gardens) and altars, on which a Gospel is leaning.
In the middle band we can instead see the dressed up Apostles (wearing tunic and pallium) who, with their veiled hands as s sign of deference, bring crowns; guided by “duces” Peter and Paul (Church “columns “), they walk solemnly with a musical, cadenced step in a slow rotation. The crown is a symbol of triumph, as an offer of aurum coronarium that the defeated brought to the victor at the time of the Romans.
Mainstay of the decoration is the central clypeus with the scene of the Baptism, where we can see the Savior, St. John the Baptist and the personification of the river Jordan as an old man emerging from the waters holding in one hand a marsh reed and in the other a cloth with which Christ will dry. The Baptist holds a patera, even if in origin he certainly laid his hand directly on the head of Christ, as it was used to make (impositio manus). The later insertion of the patera is evidenced by the lighter color of the tesserae.
The wall decoration below the dome, in the pendentives and in the arches above the trifora presents vegetal and zoomorphic decorative elements, such as cantharoi from which vine branches are born, acanthus spirals and peacocks, all symbols of eternal life, saving and redeeming Divine Grace.

Entering the octagonal-shape Neonian Baptistery you’ll find yourself facing a “unicum” for what concerns early Christian and byzantine art. It is in fact the best preserved baptismal building in the world, both for the architectural structure and for the interior (marbles, stuccos and mosaics). Of the most ancient baptisteries built in Antioch, Constantinople, Ephesus, Trier, Milan, Aquileia and Rome between IV and V centuries only the perimeter walls, or the basement, survive.

Around the middle of the V century the Bishop Neonis (450-475) decided to redo the roofing of the Baptistery of the Cathedral, erected a few decades before by Bishop Ursus. Hence the name of Basilica of St. Ursus, then rebuilt in the XVIII century.

As usual, the iconographic program is to be read in an upward direction and it reaches its highest accomplishment in the dome, tripartite in bands that look like revolving wheels whose mainstay is the central clypeus with the scene of the Baptism.
The lower wheel band, the outermost one, is divided into eight parts, in which alternate empty seats (those of the Ethimasia, or preparation of the Throne of God for the day of Judgement), framed by viridari (heavenly gardens) and altars, on which a Gospel is leaning.
In the middle band we can instead see the dressed up Apostles (wearing tunic and pallium) who, with their veiled hands as s sign of deference, bring crowns; guided by “duces” Peter and Paul (Church “columns “), they walk solemnly with a musical, cadenced step in a slow rotation. The crown is a symbol of triumph, as an offer of aurum coronarium that the defeated brought to the victor at the time of the Romans.
Mainstay of the decoration is the central clypeus with the scene of the Baptism, where we can see the Savior, St. John the Baptist and the personification of the river Jordan as an old man emerging from the waters holding in one hand a marsh reed and in the other a cloth with which Christ will dry. The Baptist holds a patera, even if in origin he certainly laid his hand directly on the head of Christ, as it was used to make (impositio manus). The later insertion of the patera is evidenced by the lighter color of the tesserae.
The wall decoration below the dome, in the pendentives and in the arches above the trifora presents vegetal and zoomorphic decorative elements, such as cantharoi from which vine branches are born, acanthus spirals and peacocks, all symbols of eternal life, saving and redeeming Divine Grace.

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