Baptisteria Sacra is an iconographic index of baptismal fonts from the Early Christian period to the seventeenth century. All data is organized in a relational database which has been customized to include a complete description of each work and the corresponding digitized images (when available).
For the sake of consistency and in order to provide functional retrieval capabilities, several descriptive guidelines and models were consulted in the design of the Baptisteria Sacra database. The Getty Art History Information Program's Categories for the Description of Works of Art was used as a general guide in the establishment of basic categories for each font record.
Baptisteria Sacra is an iconographic
index. It provides detailed descriptions of the imagery and the pictorial motifs
ornamenting each work. The Iconclass classification system was used as a guide in the
hierarchial formulation of the subject terms.
Each font record aims at including the following information:
In addition, we aim to include a full description of the images and motifs ornamenting each work. This includes the following:
Each image or motif ornamenting a work is assigned a location code and number to indicate the placement and order in which images appear on a given work. This enables a view of the full pictorial program that ornaments each work. Locations consist of the following:
Whenever possible the direction of pictorial narratives is noted:
The following terms and definitions listed give a general idea of some of the distinctions made in the Baptisteria Sacra database. There are additional terms and fields used in the design of the database which do not appear below, as they pertain to the administration of the index and the project in general.
The object is defined as a baptismal
font. Several types are identified:
The name of the font is the name by which it is known in bibliographic sources or that of the location or site of the font. In cases where there is more than one font per site, a number is used in conjuction with the name (e.g. Burgos no. 1 or Burgos no. 2, etc.). Further identification is established by the name of the church, the original site or other criteria.
There has been very little consistency in the dating of fonts in bibliographic references and art historical definitions for chronological periods vary greatly between one geographical region and another. In Britain, for instance, fonts described as "Norman" correspond roughly in time/period to the ones called "Romanesque" in Sweden and Spain. The parameters for the Swedish and Spanish "Romanesque" fonts do not, however, correspond exactly to those of France, which in the thirteenth century would be considered "Gothic".
For these reasons and due to the need to create parallel but consistent references between the works and the geographic regions, three date categories may be assigned to each work:
All measurements are given in metric units (e.g. 36 cm). The type of measurements vary according to the type of object. Bibliographic sources are used for the original measurements listed in the database. These are checked during research trips and revised or expanded upon if necessary.
Two general categories are entered for the type of medium. The Font Material1 defines the general category (stone, metal, wood, brick, etc.) and the Font Material2 describes the specific type of material, if known (granite, marble, sandstone: lead, bronze; oak, etc.)
Frequently above ground stone fonts are made from several pieces of cut stone. The number of pieces are noted when known. For sunken fonts other features such as the number of steps into the font are noted.
Most baptismal fonts have a type of drainage system for the holy water. The type of drainage system is noted for each work when known (central drain in the upper basin, side drainage from the basin, etc.).
Each baptismal font is assigned a generic term that describes its basic shape. Several attempts have been made in the last two centuries to develop an accurate system of classification by "form", i.e. shape of the font. None of them has fully succeeded. Ours aims at being functional and giving the user a descriptive guide rather than a canon. For example, an above ground font may be described as being chalice-shaped, cauldron-type, rectangular or bucket-shaped. A sunken font may be described as cross-shaped or rectangular.
In this category several features of inscriptions are noted in the database:
Medium, date and description of the lid are included when available if the font has a notable cover.
A general notation on the condition of the object is entered: evidence of paint, damaged or missing parts are noted and any visible deterioration of the object is entered on the font record. This notation may be accompanied by a date to indicate when the condition was recorded (e.g. 1844, July 2000, etc). When the site was visited by BSI researchers, the date of the visit is noted on the font record.
This general category consists of several sections:
For information about location codes used in the database for location of images on works see the SUBJECT MATTER section.
Some works have specific copyright restrictions. For informaton on this section see Copyright.
The focus of the database is iconography. Iconography is the identification of the subject matter depicted whether it is figural or symbolic motif or an abstract ornamental design. If a font is plain and unadorned, it is still included in the database and noted as such.
In order to determine the order and location of images on a particular object, location codes and sequential numbers are assigned to each motif or image identified. For example, there may be a sequence of seven scenes carved around the basin of a font. Each image is assigned the location code for "basin" (which is "B") and given a number (e.g. B01, B02, etc.). If there are sequences of motifs on the underside of the basin, they are assigned the code "BU" and given a number indicating the order in which they appear. In this way it is possible to provide an orderly list giving the location of all motifs or images on a particular work.
Visual documentation consists of references to images in the bibliography for each work and digitized images in the electronic index. Information on the source of the image, image ownership and copyright restrictions are maintained for each image. Further information about the digitizing process can be obtained at IMAGE ARCHIVE.
Attribution to a particular workshop, artist or group of fonts is listed in this field.
The names of known cognate fonts from other regions may be listed in this field.
Baptisteria Sacra provides a bibliography on each work.
Project Information | Database | Font Inventory | Subscriptions | Related Research | Contact Us | Home
Iter: Gateway to the Middle
Ages and Renaissance
All contents copyright © Baptisteria Sacra, 2006. All rights reserved.