The hidden Porta del Paradiso in Florence
Among the many monuments that worth to be seen in Florence, it the Porta del Paradiso is one of the great works that some times remains hidden. It often happens that, focusing own attention on the most famous places in the city such as Piazza della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo, it is lost sight of the masterpieces that is possible to have under own eyes.
One of the works that perhaps escapes the attention of visitors, despite being clearly visible in the Piazza del Duomo, is the so-called “Porta del Paradiso” (Heaven’s Door). This great masterpiece was made by the great sculptor and goldsmith Lorenzo Ghiberti in the first half of the fifteenth century. This door is in bronze and is located on the east side of the Florentine Baptistery and what it represents are the Old Testament Stories, divided into several panels in which the artist developed the story distributed in different episodes that, featured more than one in the same frame, range from the Creation of the Progenitors to the Union of Solomon with the Queen of Sheba.
A complex technique
After working on bronze the stories’ reliefs, the artist took care of gilding them with a complex technique that required a long technical process.
This is well demonstrated by the time it took the sculptor to carry out all the surveys: 27 years. The door was in fact begun in 1425 and was completed only in 1452. It was indeed a very long period but the artist did not devote himself entirely to the fusion of the reliefs. It must be remembered that Ghiberti was a particularly sought-after artist in the Florence of that time; besides the works for the Duomo, he worked for the church of Orsanmichele, also in Florence, and for the Duomo of Siena’s Baptistery.
It could be said that the artist was a man endowed with extreme patience – as well as great technical skills – if we consider that, before the Gate of Paradise, Lorenzo realized another Door, again for the Florentine Baptistery and with the representation of New Testament’s episodes. The latter is perfectly preserved and is located on the north side of the Florentine Baptistery.
The other Ghiberti’s door
Still enclosed in Gothic frames, Christ’s life episodes were commissioned by the Opera del Duomo to the artist after having won the Competition of 1401 in which, among the various artists, personalities of the calibre of Brunelleschi and Jacopo della Quercia attended.
If Lorenzo got the job, it means that the acknowledgment he had for his artistic skills was really conspicuous.
Why “the Door of Heaven”?
After discovering the history of the doors that Ghiberti did for the Baptistery of Florence, the question is why was the Gate of Paradise called that?
If you want to discover it, all you have to do is take a guided tour of the Duomo of Florence where, in addition to admiring one of the largest Cathedrals in the world, you will learn about the many secrets that lie behind this extraordinary complex ⟣