Sunday, January 15, 2017

Italy | Venice | St. Mark’s Basilica

The morning after the Full Moon I wandered by St. Mark’s Square again.
 Venice, with St. Mark’s Square in center, near the eastern end of the Grand Canal, which snakes its way through the big island (click on photos for enlargement)
St. Mark’s Square, with the basilica of St. Mark to the right. The big U-shaped building below the basilica is the Doge‘s Palace.
St. Mark’ Square, with the Basilica of St. Mark and the 323-foot high Campanile, or Bell Tower, at the far end. Snow had fallen the night before and was still a stiff damp wind whipping around the plaza.Thus the place was pretty much deserted.
Another view of  St. Mark’ Square
 A 1503 etching of St. Mark’s. Not much has changed.
 St. Mark’s Basicila
The first version of St. Mark’s was completed in 832. It had been built to house the relics of St. Mark, which had been stolen and spirited out of Alexandria, Egypt, in 828 by Venetian traders. This church burned in 976 and was later rebuilt. Not much is known about these early versions of the church. About 1063 a new version was constructed. Although oft-modified and added onto, the basic outline of this version has survived to the present day.
 Detail of St. Mark’s
 St. Mark’s Basilica
Some of the more than 500 hundred columns built into the church. Many were loot from elsewhere. It is not clear how many may have come from Constantinople.
Much of the stone plating on the outside of the walls was also looted from elsewhere, includung Constantinople.
Detail of stone plating
 The Pillars of Acre
The so-called Pillars of Acre are located in front of the southern wall of the Basilica. For a long time it was believed they were loot seized by the Venetians in 1258 during the sack of Acre, a seaport in what is now northern Israel. Later research determined that they were actually stripped from the Church of St Polyeuktos in Constantinople) during or shortly after the sack of the city the Venetians and their Crusader cohorts in 1204. The Church of St. Polyeuktos, built between 524 and 527, was commissioned and presumably paid for by the Byzantine princess Anicia Juliana in honor of St. Polyeuktos. Anicia Juliana was related on her mother’s side to Byzantine emperor Theodosius the Great, who was responsible for building the Theodosian Land Wall in Istanbul. The capitals of the columns here in Venice were found by archeologists when the ruins of the Church of St Polyeuktos were excavated in the 1990s. The columns were supposedly placed in their current location in 1258, which may be why it was long thought they were seized during the sack of Acre in the same year. For more on the provenance of the pillars see The Pillars of Acre: Masterpieces of A Proud Sixth-Century Princess.
 One of the Column of Acre
 Detail of the one of the columns
 Detail of the one of the columns
 At one corner of the church, where it joins the Doge’s  Palace, stand the so-called Tetrarchs. 
Carved from Porphyry, a kind of granite, the statues, according to one theory, represent the four joint rulers of the Roman Empire during the time of Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305). In 286 Diocletian appointed his fellow army officer Maximian as co-ruler of the empire, and then in 293 he appointed Galerius and Constantius  as junior co-emperors. Thus the Roman Empire was ruled by a 'tetrarchy', or "group of four”. The statues originally stood in the Philadelphion (Place of Brotherly Love) in Constantinople, however, which has lead to speculation that the statutes actually represent the four sons of Emperor Constantine, founder of Constantinople, who were famous for cooperating when their father died in 337. In any case, the statues were looted during the 1204 show in Constantinople and brought back here to Venice, where they were embedded in the wall of St. Mark’s.
 The Tetrarchs
 The Tetrarchs
 The Tetrarchs
During the looting of the statues one foot was broken off. When the statues got to Venice the missing foot was replaced by a white stone foot. Amazingly the broken-off foot was eventually found and can now be seen in a museum in Istanbul.
 Walking back to my guesthouse I spotted this Chinese couple celebrating their wedding in a gondola.
 Get a room!
My guesthouse is located on this narrow passageway. Actually it is a large apartment that has been separated into four rooms: a bed and breakfast without the breakfast. Very cozy however, and each room has is own espresso maker!

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