By Ioannis Tzortzakakis*

24 June is the feast day of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. He is also called the John the Forerunner, last prophet of the Old Testament. He is the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, an elderly pious couple, and was conceived after the visitation of Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:5-25, 57-66). In addition, the Golden Legend includes Virgin Mary being present at his birth.

He is the patron saint of Florence since medieval times, considered the “symbol of moral rectitude and political correctness.” There is a true festive atmosphere in the city on this day. Celebrations, fireworks (reminders of the bonfires), sport games, and a solemn procession starting from the Baptistery and its “Gate of Paradise.”

Further reading

Ryan, William Granger, and Eamon Duffy. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Princeton University Press, 2012, pp. 328-336, JSTOR,

*It has been a great journey writing for the Italian Art Society. Keep reading and sharing Italian Art Society posts! I will always remain a daily reader of IAS blog!

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Birth of St John the Baptist, 1486-90, Fresco, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni, The Life of John the Baptist, 1416, Fresco, Oratory of St. John the Baptist, Urbino.

Bartolomeo di Fruosino, Disk (recto) with the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, 1428, Tempera on panel, New York Historical Society, New York.

Bartolommeo di Giovanni, Scenes from the Life of St John the Baptist, 1490-95, Tempera on poplar panel, Art Institute, Chicago.

Tintoretto, The Birth of John the Baptist, c. 1554, Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Pontormo, The Birth of John the Baptist, c. 1526, Oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Scenes from the Life of St John the Baptist, 1545, Fresco,  San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan.

Artemisia Gentileschi, The Birth of St John the Baptist, c. 1635, Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

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