FLORENCE, ITALY – On January 23rd, a faithfully executed replica replaced the original North Door of the Baptistery. The historic endeavour has been completed by skilled craftsmen using the techniques and craftsmanship of 600 years ago.
The faithfully executed replica of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s original North Door of the Baptistery of Florence, 5 meters high by 3 meters wide, has been completed by craftsmen who employed the same techniques and artistry used 600 years ago.
The numbers: 6 months of research, 4 years of work, 15 people employed full-time, 350 hours of chiselling for each one of the 28 panels, 3.5 tons of bronze, 15 tons of heat-resistant materials, 440 kilos of wax to make the moulds and 1 ton of silicone to make the casts of the panels and friezes on the frame.
Young Lorenzo had been trained in the goldsmith workshop of his father, and he sculpted and carved bronze, which is such a hard material that cannons were made out of it, as if it were gold. It was a gigantic commission that Ghiberti worked on – helped by his goldsmith father, Bartoluccio and a number of assistants, including the young Donatello – for 23 years, from 1402 to 1424.
Replacing the original North Door with a replica is part of the project that also included the restoration of the original, now visible in the new Museum of the Opera del Duomo, which was restored at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure and completed in October 2015. The project has been entirely financed with private funds made available by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Guild of the Dome Association, which includes entrepreneurs of all faiths from around the world sharing the common goal of supporting the universal values of art.
In order to protect the North Door it became necessary to replace it, as had previously been done for the Gates of Paradise. The replica of the Gates of Paradise was created in Florence at the Frilli Gallery Cigli and Carrai Foundry. Aldo Marinelli of Frilli Gallery produced the replica of the Gates of Paradise in 1990, utilizing casts that had been made during the restoration of the door in the post-war period, and thanks to the generosity of the Japanese benefactor, Choichiro Motoyama, who financed the procedure donating two billion Italian Liras. The replica was taken to Paris to be gilt using the galvanic method, as in Italy the mercury method had been banned due to its high degree of toxicity.
In 1401, young Lorenzo Ghiberti participated in and won the competition organized by Arte di Calimala (Merchants Guild), to create the second door of the Baptistery in Florence, following the door by Andrea Pisano (1330-1336) and prior to the Gates of Paradise (1426 to 1452). He created the North Door faithfully reproducing Andrea Pisano’s pattern of 28 quatrefoil panels arranged in seven rows of four, two rows per wing, representing stories from the New Testament except for the bottom two rows of the door, where instead, the four Evangelists and four Doctors of the Church are represented. On the framework, at the corners of the panels there are 47 heads of Prophets and Sybils, six per row except for the last row at the bottom that only has five. One of the heads is a self-portrait of Ghiberti wearing a turban.