baptistery

A separate building or portion of the church set apart for the administration of Baptism, usually dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and placed in the atrium or forecourt to signify that without Baptism man cannot enter the Church. Attached at first only to cathedrals they multiplied rapidly, and by the 11th century were erected in almost every parish. Buildings were mainly octagonal or circular with a central chamber containing a pool, surrounded by an ambulatory for ministers and witnesses, and an ante-room; later chapels for Communion and Confirmation were introduced. They are found throughout the Orient and in Italy especially after the 11th-century revival in architecture. The finest are those of Parma, Florence, and Pisa; there is one at Cranbrook, Kent, England.