In Lombard-Romanesque style, the Baptistery dates from the end of the twelfth century and stands alongside Padua’s Cathedral.
A square-plan building with a high drum supporting a cupola, it has walls decorated with elegant blind arches and pilaster strips.
The building is, however, made unique by the spectacular fresco cycle it houses, which was painted in just three years by Giusto de’ Menabuoi. A painter at the Carraresi court, de’ Menabuoi received the commission from Fina Buzzacarini, wife of Francesco I Carraresi; she wanted the decoration to make the Baptistery a worthy mausoleum for her family. The scenes depicted are taken from both the Old and New Testaments, and the narrative culminates in the magnificent cupola, where the artist paints ranks of angels around God’s throne.
The frescoes show how well de’ Menabuoi had learnt what Giotto had to teach regarding the modelling of figures and the handling of perspective; even at the level of palette, the iridescent colours of the figures’ robes show the artist applying what he had learnt from Giotto in order to make his characters more vivid.
The cycle that decorates the small apse is also significant: it depicts scenes from the Apocalypse and is one of the oldest – and most complete – group of frescoes based on the Book of Revelation.