The Gates of Paradise are a set of gilded doors on the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence.
The Baptistery is located in front of Santa Maria del Fiore and has three sets of bronze doors. The main entrance door, originally located on the east side of the Baptistery, was made by Andrea Pisano between 1330-36. This set of doors is decorated with twenty-eight panels depicting the life of St. John the Baptist. At the beginning of the 15th century a competition was held to produce a new set of doors to replace the existing ones. Pisano’s doors were moved to the south side and current entrance of the Baptistery (they were removed to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in April 2016 for restoration). Lorenzo Ghiberti won the contest for the second set of doors, beating out other artists such as Filipo Brunelleschi (who had designed the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore). These doors took over twenty years to be made and replaced Pisano’s doors in 1424. The panels on these doors depict scenes from the New testament.
Ghiberti then went on to make the third set of doors for the Baptistery without the need for a competition. These doors took twenty-seven years to produce (1425-52) and were to be placed on the north side of the baptistery. However, the doors were regarded so highly that they were placed on the east side of the Baptistery, replacing Ghiberti’s previous set of doors which were subsequently moved to the north side where they can still be seen today. Michelangelo called the newly designed doors the ‘Gates of paradise.’ The doors are made up of ten large gilded panels as opposed to the twenty-eight panels seen on the previous doors. In each panel, Ghiberti depicts more than one story form the Old Testament, utilizing new techniques of perspective and relief sculpture. The original door is kept in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (as seen in the adjacent photograph) and a replica is hanging on the east side of the Baptistery.
Did you known?
The original panels produced by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi for the competition of the second door are on display in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. The chosen scene to be depicted for the competition was that of The Sacrifice of Isaac.