Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Italy | Venice | St. Mark’s Basilica | Four Horses

Of all the treasures looted by Doge Enrico Dandolo and the Venetians during the sack of Constantinople in 1204 perhaps the most famous are the four horses now on display in St. Mark’s Basilica Museum in Venice. Where these horses were originally made and by whom is a matter of great scholarly debate. I intend to investigate this matter in due course. For the moment suffice it to say that they eventually ended up on top of one of the gates of the immense stadium in Constantinople known as the Hippodrome. After being seized by the Venetians in 1204 they stood for centuries on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica. When Napoleon Bonaparte seized Venice in 1797 he had them carted off the Paris, a fittingly prize for what he considered to be the new center of world civilization. After the Little General met his Waterloo they were returned to Venice and placed back on the facade of St. Mark’s. Air pollution from industries on the mainland, however, wrecked havoc on the copper statues. In the 1970s copies were made and placed on the facade. The originals are now in the museum on the second floor of the basilica, just behind the facade. 
Artist’s rendering of the Hippodrome in Constantinople. It seated about 100,000 people. The four horses were probably atop the center gate at the upper right of the photo. The Hippodrome is gone but many of the monuments in the center can still be seen today (click on photos for enlargements).
Artist’s rendering of the gate, center, with the horses atop
The area where the Hippodrome stood is now occupied by Sultanahmet Square. The photo was taken roughly where the gate stood that supported the horses. The obelisk in the middle of the photo can be seen in the artist’s rendering above.
St. Mark’s Basilica
Facade of St. Mark’s Basilica
Horses on the loggia of St. Mark’s Basilica
Another view of the horses on the loggia of St. Mark’s Basilica
The horses of St. Mark’s Basilica
The horses of St. Mark’s Basilica
The horses of St. Mark’s Basilica
The horses of St. Mark’s Basilica
The original horses now the Basilica museum. Not my photo. If you take photos in the museum you are thrown into the cell that legendary lover Casanova once occupied in the dungeon of the nearby Ducal Palace.
Horse’s view of St. Mark’s Square
Horse’s view of St. Mark’s Square
Horse’s view of the Ducal Palace. Casanova was once locked up here. He was under arrest for being a world-class cad and an insufferable douchebag.
St. Mark atop his basilica
St. Mark: “Oh Lord, what have I wrought?”
St. Mark’s at twilight