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19.9.12

The Doors Revealed

Here I am in Florence, one of my favorite cities, to be wowed by Lorenzo Ghiberti's newly restored Baptistry Doors of Paradise. Installed in 1452 and weighing eight tons, the gilded wonders must have dazzled when new. Time and pollution left a darkened patina, which was then layered with varnish in the late 1700s.


During World War II, the doors were removed and stored in a train tunnel for safe keeping. They were cleaned before being reinstalled, once again revealing the former brilliance hiding beneath the soot and varnish. After they survived the devastating flood of 1966 and increased pollutants, it was decided to remove the doors permanently in the 1990s to be properly restored at the renowned Opificio delle Pietre Dure and replaced by cast replicas.

On the day of my visit, the crowd of tourists was twenty deep to get a glimpse of the replica doors on the Baptistry, while the actual, refurbished doors in all their stunning beauty are now on view in a small building behind the Duomo, opposite the Baptistry. In fact, the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore was practically empty -- allowing me some quiet contemplation with these stunning beauties. More images on my Flickr.

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