Database Profile


BSI data is organized in a relational database. A record is assigned to each font. The font record includes detailed information about the vessel, the subjects and inscriptions ornamenting the font and lid. Each descriptive subject is linked to an image, and if available location code, enabling full pictorial programs to be displayed.

For the sake of consistency and functional retrieval capabilities, the Getty Institute’s Categories for the Description of Works of Art and the Iconclass Classification System’s hierarchical formulation of subject terms and relationships have been used as a basis the database terminology. Controlled vocabulary is utilized for geographic information, mediums, workshops, subject locations and inscription languages.

Font Record

Each font record aims to include the following data:

  • Administrative dates (creation of record, in-situ visits, etc.)
  • Object type (sunken, above ground, holy water stoup, baptistery, fragment, etc.)
  • Location (name of church, patron saint, GIS data, museum, museum inventory number, region, country, historical region, location inside the church, driving directions to site)
  • Origin (workshop, creator, cognate fonts)
  • Date (period, style, century or precise date)
  • Medium (stone, metal, wood, brick and specific type, e.g. sandstone, lead, oak, etc.)
  • Dimensions, number of pieces and drainage information
  • Bibliographical references and sources
  • Inscriptions (language, source, location, date and transcriptions)

We aim to include a full description of the subjects and motifs ornamenting each work with the following:

  • Image files linked to subject field + copyright information and credits
  • Descriptive text of each subject depicted or type of motif
  • Iconographical descriptions (subject field) with location and sequence codes to relay reading direction of images and the location of the motifs on the fonts

Each image or motif ornamenting a font is assigned a location code (designated placement on the vessel) and a number to indicate the order in which the subject appears in pictorial program. This enable full pictorial cycles to be displayed.

Location codes consist of the following:

  • basin
  • underside of basin
  • rim of basin
  • inside of the basin
  • lower base
  • supporting figures around the basin
  • supporting figures around the lower base
  • corner figures on square bases
  • heads encircling lower bases
  • central ring dividing base from basin
  • registers encircling basin
  • registers encircling lower base and upper basin
  • upper band encircling basin
  • lower band encircling basin

The reading direction of the pictorial narratives are noted whenever possible: left to right, right to left, concentric program, no direction.

Object type:

Baptismal Font1 = Above ground font (Grotlingbo, Sweden)
Baptismal Font2 = Above ground piscina (tank) (Lucca, Italy)
Baptismal Font3 = Sunken piscina (Sbeitla, Tunisia)
Baptismal Font4 = Stoup (Kilpeck, England)

Name of Font: The name of the font is the name of the location or site of the font or the name known in bibliographic sources. When there is more than one font per site, a number is used in conjunction 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.

Dates: Centuries, precise dates if known, and periods date the fonts. However, there is little consistency in the dating of fonts and art historical definitions for chronological periods vary between geographical regions. In Britain, for instance, fonts described as Norman correspond roughly in time/period to the Romanesque period 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.

Measurements: 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.

Materials, Drainage & Physical Description: Two categories are entered for the medium.  The Font Material1 is the general type (stone, metal, wood, brick, etc.) and the Font Material2 is the specific type of material, if known (granite, marble, sandstone: lead, bronze; oak, etc.). The number of pieces are noted when known. For sunken fonts other features such as the number of steps into the font are noted. 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 font is assigned a generic term that describes its basic shape. 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. 

Lid Information: Medium, date and description of the lid are included when available if the font has a notable cover.

Location: Church (and location inside), patron saint of church, county, region, administrative division, province, department, country and historical location, museum inventory number, GIS coordinates

Workshop or group, cognate works.

Inscriptions: Language, text, location, source and reference.

Bibliographical references are listed for each font.

Images of each font, details, setting and church (exterior and interior) are linked to each font record.