Artworks are usually hidden from the public while they are being restored.
But not in Florence’s famous Baptistery. Thanks to a unique mushroom-shaped scaffold, visitors to the city will be able to see the 800 year-old mosaics up close.
The 10-million piece mosaic - tiled during the 13th century - is being repaired for the first time in over 100 years.
Tourists will be able to climb the scaffolding for a close-up glimpse of the artwork.
The restoration provided a “unique opportunity,” explains Samuele Caciagli, the architect in charge of the restoration site.
"[The building work] will remain in place for a long time, and we did not want to sacrifice the visibility and enjoyment of this beautiful mosaic of the vault,” he says.
“On the contrary, we had to turn this occasion into an opportunity to make it even more accessible and usable by the public.
“Special routes [will] bring visitors into direct contact with the mosaics of the vault. It is a unique opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated in the coming decades", he explains.
What are the mosaics of the vault?
The mosaics line the dome of Florence’s Baptistery of San Giovanni, opposite the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. They were constructed over three generations in the 1200s.
The art covers an area of more than 1,000 square metres, and boasts richly detailed biblical scenes.
One figure - a horned Satan devouring sinners - is likely to have inspired the representation of Hell in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Dante was baptised in the church.
But earthquakes and inclement weather have badly damaged the mosaics, which were last repaired in 1907.
How will the mosaics be repaired?
In order to be as unobtrusive as possible, the scaffolding has been designed to occupy as little space as possible at the base - an area of only 63 square metres - and as large an area as possible at the top, about 10 times larger than the base
The restoration will attempt to stay faithful to the original design.
"It is a halfway meeting between science, technology, experience and tradition,” says Roberto Nardi, who is directing the restoration.
“What is extremely important to know is that in order to implement this work we will use traditional material, which will be the same materials that have been used to create this mosaic.”
How can I visit the mosaics of the vault
The scaffolding will be open to visitors from 24 February 2023.
You can buy a variety of passes on the Duomo tourist website. Not all will include access to the mosaic scaffolding, so be sure to check.
The Cathedral is closed to visitors on Sundays and during religious events.