How an ornate Italian font taught me big things about Baptism

by Tom Eggebrecht

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to the Tuscany region of central Italy, where each day we explored one of the many fascinating cities or towns Tuscany has to offer. If you’ve been to Italy, you know that around nearly every corner you can find a centuries’ old church with incredible architecture and almost ancient art.

We were in Lucca when we discovered the Basilica of San Frediano. There are a number of fascinating things to see in this church, including the mummified remains(!) of Saint Zita. But what really caught my eye was the baptismal font.  Sculpted with scenes from the Exodus, the prophets, the Good Shepherd, and the apostles, it is easily the largest baptismal font I have ever seen.

The baptismal font at the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Italy; photo credit: Tom Eggebrecht

The baptismal font at the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Italy

That beautiful, large, ornate font brought two thoughts to my mind that have stayed with me ever since:

1. Baptism is big.

The baptismal font at the Basilica of San Frediano is so large that I, a grown man, could fit into it. It’s a reminder to me that my Baptism is big enough to carry me through every day. To say it more accurately, my Jesus is big enough to carry me through every day with His love and forgiveness. I need that knowledge, because I’m certain that if I poured all of my sins into that giant font, the thing would overflow throughout the church, into the streets and around the world.

But my sins are more than covered over by the death and resurrection of Jesus poured into my life at my baptism. St. Paul assures me of this: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

2. Baptism is a big deal.

The baptismal font at the Basilica of San Frediano is so ornate that some might deem it over the top. But to my eye, the elaborate stonework bears witness to the significance of the sacrament for which it is used. After all, the sacrament of Holy Baptism delivers life and salvation.

An ornate font is certainly appropriate and a good reminder not to take baptism lightly. But it is also important to remember that an ornate font is not at all necessary. As the Small Catechism says, “For without God’s Word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” All that is necessary is water and the Word. The baptismal font could be gold plated or a simple glass bowl. It matters not. The majesty and grandeur of baptism, so beautifully displayed in the ornate font at San Frediano, are spiritually present wherever water and the Word of God together deliver forgiveness, life and salvation.

Rejoice in the lavish love of your Savior delivered to you abundantly and ornately in, with and through your baptism.

The Rev. Tom Eggebrecht is senior pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Florida.

The Lutheran Witness — Providing Missouri Synod laypeople with stories and information that
complement congregational life, foster personal growth in faith, and help interpret the
contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.

One Response to How an ornate Italian font taught me big things about Baptism

  1. September 2, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

    Thank you for this reminder of the power of baptism to change our sinful lives into Spirit-filled lives. Baptism is a gift from God.

Leave a Reply

LCMS News & Information