Postcard from Parma, Italy: Baptistery takes on soaring height

The soaring height of the Baptistery of Parma makes it a striking addition to the huge plaza fronting the Cathedral. The exterior of the Romanesque and Gothic structure is octagonal and is softly colored with bands of pink stone quarried from the area of Verona. A row of animals, some believable and some fanciful, add a whimsical touch to the structure’s surfaces.

The Baptistery was commissioned in 1196, with Benedetti Antelami generally receiving credit for both the architectural and much of the sculptural design. Restoration has revealed that his sculptures in the lunettes crowning the entrances were polychrome.

Inside, the hexagon is farther divided into 16 arches. Among the themes reflected by the rows of sculpture is the personification of the seasons of the year.

Antelami devoted more than two decades to working on the Baptistery, but it was not completed until after his death around the year 1230.

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