THE FLORENCE BAPTISTERY: 3-D SURVEY AS A KNOWLEDGE TOOL FOR HISTORICAL AND STRUCTURAL INVESTIGATIONS
Keywords: Laser scanning, Cultural heritage, Comparison, Orthoimages
Abstract. The Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the most important pieces of architecture in Florence. It is an octagonal building, encrusted with marble both internally and externally (including the pyramidal roof) and covered inside by a magnificent dome with sparkling gold mosaics. During Dante’s time, it appeared much older than the other monuments, so its origins were considered as hailing straight from Florence’s most remote and mythical history. Even though we have much more data now, scholars still disagree over the interpretations on the origin and construction sequence of the monument.
Survey has always been considered a main instrument for understanding historical architecture, mostly from constructional and structural points of view. During the last century, the Baptistery was surveyed using both traditional techniques and the most up-to-date instruments available at the time, such as topography, close-range photogrammetry and laser scanning. So, a review of those early applications, even if partial or isolated, can significantly attest to the state of the art and evolution of survey techniques.
During recent years, the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore promoted new research and a wide range of diagnostic investigations aimed at acquiring greater knowledge of the monument in anticipation of the cleaning and restoration of the outer wall surfaces during 2015.
Among this research, GeCo Lab carried out a new systematic and complete laser scanner survey of the whole Baptistery, acquiring data for the more inaccessible parts that were given little attention during other survey campaigns.
First of all, the paper analyses recent contributions given by instrumental surveys in advancing knowledge of the building, with references to the cutting-edge techniques and measurement tools used at the time. Then, it describes the new survey campaign, illustrating the approach followed in the planning, data acquisition and data elaboration phases; finally, it gives examples of some interpretations of the structure stemming from the new acquisitions.