The Baptistery mosaics of Florence will be open to visitors during their restoration, giving a lucky few a chance to see them up close. Very close.

The intricate mosaics of the Baptistery of San Giovanni, one of Florence, Italy’s most iconic monuments, are scheduled to undergo a six-year restoration project, cleaning them, re-affixing lost stones, and evaluating anything else that needs doing. It’s the first time they’ve been touched in over a century.

″(This first phase) is a bit like the diagnosis of a patient: a whole series of diagnostic investigations are carried out to understand what pathologies of degradation are present on the mosaic material but also on the whole attachment package that holds this mosaic material to the structure behind it,” Beatrice Agostini, who is in charge of the restoration work, said.

The mosaic ceiling is over 105 feet off the ground, making it difficult to work on safely. For the project, a scaffold floor will be built at the center of the Baptistery for workers to use. It blocks the view of much of the luxurious gold-and-gem artwork from the floor. But rather than simply leaving visitors in the dark for six years, officials are using it as an opportunity for people to connect even more closely with the incredible work.

“We had to turn this occasion into an opportunity to make it even more accessible and usable by the public through special routes that would bring visitors into direct contact with the mosaics,” Samuele Caciagli, the architect in charge of the restoration site, said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Caciagli called the new scaffolding tour of the baptistery vault “a unique opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated in the coming decades.”

The Baptistery, a striking hexagonal building of white and green marble bridging two of the famous Piazzas of Florence, was built between 1059 and 1128 on much older structures. The mosaic, done by many artists, was begun in 1225.

Photo: Caterina Belova / Shutterstock