A massive amount of scaffolding rises from floor to ceiling in one of Italy’s most important religious buildings. But unlike most construction projects where access is restricted, here, the public is being allowed to climb to the top for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The famed mosaics that make up the domed ceiling at the Baptistry of San Giovanni are meticulously being restored by work crews atop the scaffolding.
It’s a project that will take 6 years, but rather than closing the building to visitors and tourists, Baptistry officials are instead allowing them to get an up-close look at the mosaics.
“We had to turn this occasion into an opportunity to make it even more accessible and usable by the public through special routes that would bring visitors into direct contact with the mosaics,” Samuele Caciagli, the architect in charge of the restoration site, told the Associated Press.
The baptistry is one of the most well-known buildings in Florence and is dedicated to its patron saint, John the Baptist. Raised on the foundation of a Roman building, it was constructed sometime in the late 11th century.
Some even believe the building’s origins began as a pagan temple as early as the 4th century.
Its exterior features a pattern of white and green marble with three massive bronze doors with religious symbolism. But its interior is where the wow factor comes in, thanks to the mosaics lining the domed ceiling.
The mosaics were created over more than 100 years, with the oldest parts featuring the hierarchy of angels and others showing the Last Judgment.
Because of their importance, organizers decided now would be the best, if not the only, time for the public to see them up close.
Caciagli called it “a unique opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated in the coming decades.”
Small numbers of visitors will be allowed up the scaffolding’s 105-foot staircases starting at the end of February. Reservations will be required. Officials have not said how many people will be allowed or when the visits might end.
The visits will also have to be timed around the work being done at the top. Workers will be assessing the damage, mostly from water, then removing grime and debris in a safe, deliberate manner.
Beatrice Agostini, who is in charge of the restoration work, likened the start of the process to diagnosing a patient: “A whole series of diagnostic investigations are carried out to understand what pathologies of degradation are present on the mosaic material, but also on the whole attachment package that holds this mosaic material to the structure behind it.”
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