San Giovanni and Baptism

kitfinn

New Member
Corey prompted my curiosity last week over baptism. I have some knowledge of current practice, but that has only limited applicability here. I have done some poking about and unearthed some info. Not all of it has authoritative sources that I have found.
Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church was and is done in infancy, except in the case of converts. Every Catholic child learns to do an emergency baptism before they are seven. As children do, they practice in their play. They baptize each other, their siblings and their playmates. An emergency baptism require water, preferably but not necessarily clean, in whatever amount is available and the requisite statement. It was, and is, usual for newborns to be privately baptized by their carers quite soon after birth. The Church ceremony is public and follows later.
We have a statement of advice from a Bishop very early, first Century, stating that the amount of water is not critical. You use what you have. Therefore, baptism by infusion (pouring water over the head) is very early, and a response to desert conditions rather that the Reformation.. Some Catholic Churches today have pools and do adult baptisms by immersion, but it is not considered at all necessary.
San Giovanni is a baptistery, not a church. It is across the piazza from the cathedral in Florence. It was a place for baptisms, which were public ceremonies done at intervals for a number of individuals. It was not a place for regular worship. The website for the Baptistery says that Dante was baptized there and gives a date, for which they give no source. I also found a statement that the font in his day was octagonal and had multiple basins of different sizes. The statement was made that Dante had broken one of the basins saving a child from drowning. No source was given. That font is no longer there.
Anointing with oil happens at Baptism, at Confirmation at Holy Orders, and at the Sacrament of the Sick (often referred to as Last Rites, but used in any serious illness). The oil is blessed by the Bishop annually during the Triduum (Easter services). One does not pull out the cooking oil.
 

jossalyn

New Member
Corey prompted my curiosity last week over baptism. I have some knowledge of current practice, but that has only limited applicability here. I have done some poking about and unearthed some info. Not all of it has authoritative sources that I have found.
Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church was and is done in infancy, except in the case of converts. Every Catholic child learns to do an emergency baptism before they are seven. As children do, they practice in their play. They baptize each other, their siblings and their playmates. An emergency baptism require water, preferably but not necessarily clean, in whatever amount is available and the requisite statement. It was, and is, usual for newborns to be privately baptized by their carers quite soon after birth. The Church ceremony is public and follows later.
We have a statement of advice from a Bishop very early, first Century, stating that the amount of water is not critical. You use what you have. Therefore, baptism by infusion (pouring water over the head) is very early, and a response to desert conditions rather that the Reformation.. Some Catholic Churches today have pools and do adult baptisms by immersion, but it is not considered at all necessary.
San Giovanni is a baptistery, not a church. It is across the piazza from the cathedral in Florence. It was a place for baptisms, which were public ceremonies done at intervals for a number of individuals. It was not a place for regular worship. The website for the Baptistery says that Dante was baptized there and gives a date, for which they give no source. I also found a statement that the font in his day was octagonal and had multiple basins of different sizes. The statement was made that Dante had broken one of the basins saving a child from drowning. No source was given. That font is no longer there.
Anointing with oil happens at Baptism, at Confirmation at Holy Orders, and at the Sacrament of the Sick (often referred to as Last Rites, but used in any serious illness). The oil is blessed by the Bishop annually during the Triduum (Easter services). One does not pull out the cooking oil.
thank you for this- so interesting
 

Bruce N H

Member
Hey,

Notes in the Penguin edition say that the holes the Simoniacs were in were for the priests to stand in, not the actual part with water. Here we see a picture from the baptistery at Pisa - the font was built in 1246 so would be contemporary with Dante (photo credit to Jimmy Pierce, whose Flickr gallery I'm grabbing this from). I was actually there ~30 years ago, but don't remember if we went inside the baptistery at all - I remember going into the main cathedral and then spending most of our time outside taking pictures of the Leaning Tower. It looks like the font that was in San Giovanni was removed in 1571, but Wikipedia doesn't say why, but it would be reasonable to assume it looked similar to the one in Pisa. The middle of that octagonal part would be filled with water, but the priests could stand in those four round holes around the the outside, so they could essentially be level with the surface of the water but wouldn't get their feet wet.

Mandelbaum says the holes for the Simoniacs are like those that "were made to serve as basins for baptizing" - suggesting the actual pool of water. Longfellow says the holes "fashioned for the place of the baptisers" - more consistent with the holes shown around the outside of the octagon in that picture. Sayers refers to the holes "made for the priests to stand in, to baptize". The Italian says the holes were "fatti per loco d’i battezzatori" which Google Translate says is "made for the baptismal site" - which could go either way, but if you just put in "battezzatori" you get "baptisers" which sounds like the holes for the priests. It does seem to make sense that the holes the damned clergy are turned upside down in in Dante would match the ones you would see priests standing in during Dante's time.

Looking a couple of lines further, though, both Longfellow and Mandelbaum agree that the reason Dante broke the hole was because someone was drowning in it, which would be more consistent with the main basin than for a dry hole from the priest to stand in. Sayers, OTOH, just says "to save a stifling youngster jammed in it", but this IMO is a worse fit of "rupp’ io per un che dentro v’annegava:" which Google Translate renders as "I broke for something that drowned you inside" - specifically the word "annegava" seems to translate to "drown". That would argue the opposite way from the previous paragraph, that the holes in the Inferno were being compared to the part with the water in the baptismal font.

Hopefully it's obvious that I know no Italian (save a few curse words) and am completely relying on Google Translate. As such I'm completely open to correction by people that actually know something.

BTW, children in medieval times may have played at baptism, but I don't know if that's true today. We're not Catholic, but our kids go to a Catholic school, and that's nothing they've ever mentioned.

Bruce
 
Top