Friday, April 26, 2013

Venice Part IV--St Mark's Square

The photo above is of St. Mark's Square from the west end looking towards the Basilica of St Mark's on the east. St. Mark's Campanile right center and the Doge's palace has a small piece visible to the right of the Campanile. The buildings on the north, south and west sides are office buildings with shopping arcades and restaurants on the street level. There is an extensioin of the Piazza that runs between the buildings on the south side and the Doge's palace to the lagoon. This is called the Piazzetti. Thus what is generally called St Mark's square is in reality sort of L shaped.(See blog of 4/6/2013, Venice Part I for additional photos of this from the lagoon.) Below is a photo of the main part of the Piazza taken from St. Mark's Basilica looking west. The tables on the right belong to a restaurant.

 The photo below is of the main Piazza taken from the Campanile.

The photo above is taken from San Marcos Basilica looking south across the Piazzetti to the lagoon. To the left is the Doge's Palace, built in stages between 1340 and 1424. The building to the right is a library. The photo below shows a closer view of the two columns. These granite columns date to 1268.

When these columns were erected the lagoon was closer than it is now.  The column on the right supports a man with a spear, St. Theodore, and a crocodile. The crocodile  represents a dragon that St. Theodore was supposed to have slain. The Lion of Venice is on the left column; this lion also represents St. Mark. Gambling was allowed between the two columns and public executions also took place here. If you were a visitor to Venice back in the heyday of the Republic of Venice this is were you alighted. You were supposed to be impressed and intimidated. Going into the Doge's Palace was supposed to make you even more impressed with the might and power of Venice.

This is on the second story directly over the main entrance to the Doge's Palace.

The above shows where the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's join. St. Mark's started life as a private church for the Doge, and was not the Cathedral for the Archbishop of the Venice Diocese until quite recently. Below is the courtyard inside the palace, with St. Mark's at the far end.

The bridge shown below is the famous or infamous Bridge of Sighs, so named by the poet Lord Byron. The bridge connects the court of the Doge's palace to the prison. Supposedly when a prisoner was convicted and lead across the bridge, he would sigh because he was getting his last look at Venice.

The photo above is taken from the Campanile. The Campanile is open to the public, for a small fee, and has an elevator. This photo is looking east northeast, with some of the domes of St. Marks in the left foreground. The photo below, taken from the Campanile, looks almost due east. The first clock tower was built on this spot in about 900. A campanile was built here in 1513, which collapsed in 1902. An exact copy was built in its place in 1912.

The photo above is looking southwest from the Campanile, showing the mouth of the Grand Canal and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. The photo below is from the Campanile looking south with the Church of San Georgio Maggiore on the island of San Maggiore.
The two photos below show the clock tower on the north side of the main Piazza. This clock tower dates to 1499. The archway beneath the clock leads to a main shopping street called the Mercenia, which leads to the Rialto district. When it is time for the bell to ring, the figures swing their hammers striking the bell and thus ringing it. Note the prominence of the Lion of Venice.

Above is the Basilica viewed from about midway in the main Piazza. The three huge flagpoles were erected in 1376 and the bronze bases for them were cast in 1505. This photo is looking due east. The photo below is taken from the Piazzetti,  looking north.

The photo above is a closer look at the west facade. Note the bronze flagpole base.
Above is the upper part of the north facade. Below is a closeup of figures on the top of the north facade and mosaics from the north portal.

West facade shown above.
Above is a closeup of the top of the central portal. St. Mark is the central, topmost figure.
Above are mosaics of the central portal.

The three photos above show mosaics and figures of the western facade.

There are four bronze horses on the west facade, seen in the above photo. These horsees are from antiquity; there exact origin is unknown. Some people believe they came from the Arch of Trajan in Rome. What is known is that the Venetians brought them from Constantinople in about 1205. They were placed on the Basilica at a later date and remained there until Napoleon Bonaparte sent them to France in 1797. When Venice again came under Hapsburg control, they were returned in about 1815. These are replicas; the originals are in the San Marco Basilica Museum.

In 828 some Venetian merchants stole the remains of St Mark from Alexandria. The first St. Mark's was built on this site in 832 to house those remains. It was rebuilt in 978 and again in 1647. There was a lot of gilding over the years and many artifacts added to it by Venetians returning from ventures particularly Byzantine. Thus it has a very Byzantine look and feel to it.

This last photo is from right near the lagoon end of the Piazzetti and shows a Gondola hiring point with San Maggiore in the background. Included here just for fun.


  1. Again, beautiful ! I love that last gondola picture.

  2. Great photos Cous !
    The way to see the Doge's Palace is in a wheelchair.
    # 1 - Admission is free.
    # 2 - You are escorted to a private side entrance and an ancient (1800's) elevator then taken through room after room of art and artifacts not on public display to join up with the.regular tour areas. The journey being better than the destination. Thank you John Linford for our genetic deletion !

  3. Planning to do an Italy trip fall of 2014 after Rome Temple include that new "historic" site.
    Cousin John

  4. Love the colors in that inset mural.