Ghiberti's Gates Of Paradise Banner
Upper Design
Main Page
Panel 1 Story 1
Panel 2 Story 2
Panel 3 Story 3
Panel 4 Story 4
Panel 5 Story 5
Panel 6 Story 6
Panel 7 Story 7
Panel 8 Story 8
Panel 9 Story 8
Panel 10 Story 10
Decoration
Lower Design

Much of the information on this site, and all of this page, is from Michael Lampen, the Archivist of Grace Cathedral.
Each panel was carefully modelled in wax and covered with liquid plaster and a clay jacket. The panels were then baked until the wax flowed away, leaving a mold into which molten bronze was poured. The bronze panels were allowed to cool slowly for several days, to prevent cracking, and then the clay and plaster were removed. After cleaning, each panel was chased, or worked in fine detail with metal tools, a process that took years. Then followed the dangerous fire-gilding process- a gold-mercury amalgam was applied to each panel and the toxic mercury fumes driven off by heating, leaving gold surfaces on the panels. The completed doors were installed in 1452. For five centuries the doors stood, weathering wars and floods, until the late years of World War II. In 1943 the Nazi command in Italy ordered the evacuation of portable art works from Florence, despite its status as a "safe city". Reichsminister Goering apparently coveted the doors and other treasures for his personal collection, but the doors were hidden in a railway tunnel south of Florence until liberation in 1944. Bruno Bearzi, official consultant and caretaker of Florence's art works, cleaned the doors and made latex casts from which he cast panel replicas.Bearzi offered the panels for sale.


Italy's government was at first reluctant to let the replicas out of the country, but Bearzi successfully argued that the panels were not really exact, being slightly smaller than the originals, due to the shrinking process inherent in re-casting.
Two years after installation on Grace Cathedral, the original doors were severely tested in the great Florence Flood of 1966.
 


Several panels were swept away in the muddy torrent but all were finally retrieved. However, in the 1980s, showing signs of serious corrosion from acid rain and smog, the original doors were permanently removed to the safety of Duomo museum in Florence. Duplicate doors were erected in their place on the Baptistry in 1991.

right frame
bottom frame
link to introductory paragraph