Basilica di San Marco

Photo by Andrea Tile (GNU)

“A vast and warty bug taking a meditative walk.”
Mark Twain

A local legend relates the tale of two Venetian merchangs who smuggled the remains of St. Mark, the Evangelist, from Egypt by packing him in pickled pork to bypass Muslim guards. St. Mark would replace St. Theodore as the patron saint of Venice and a small chapel was built in his honor.

St. Mark’s was originally a Romanesque church built in the 9th Century but it was destroyed by a fire in 967 AD. It was rebuilt by Byzantine architects with the main core completed in 1071 AD.

In the 12th through 14th Centuries, the ornamentation become even more splendid after many wealthy politicans and merchants donated much of their wealth towards decorating the church.

In the 14th Century, a Gothic facade was added to the Church.

Floor Plan

The basilica, similar to many Romanesque buildings, is built int the shape of the cross. Each arm of the cross has three aisles separated from one another.

The main door of the Church faces the west, which is the direction that the sun rises from.

As you walk through the basilica, the mosaics take you through a series of Biblical stories: the prophets, the ascension, the pentecost, the apocalypse and the last judgement.

The Mosaics
photo of mosaics
Photo by Maria Schnitzmeier (GNU)

Decorating the marble walls are fabulous mosaics and carvings. These mosaics cover the wall and floor of the Basilica, the earliest of which is from the 12th Century.

Notable is the interior of the central dome of the building is called the Ascension dome and it depicts the ascension. Created in the 13th Century it was influenced by Byzantine art and made of gold panels adorned with stones.

Architectural Details
Initially the chruch was a combination of Byzantine and Roman styles, but today it also has Gothic and Moorish influences.
-The Gothic facade has five rounded arch portals.
-The mosaics were evidence of Oriental refining.
-After the entrance is the atrium, which has pointed archs, which are the earliest example of the archs in Italy.
-There are six small domes on in the ceiling.

The sculpture in St. Mark’s is widely eclectic, since half of the sculptures that adorn the building are taken from other places and supplanted onto the basilica.

A notable statue is the tetarch. Τετράρχης or tetrarch, means ruler of a quarter in Greek. (i.e. four rulers)

photo of the tetrarch
Photo by Nino Barbieri (GNU)

When Rome began sliding towards its eventual decline, the Emperor Diocletian–in an attempt to salvage the situation–established a tetrarchy. He became the Emperor of the East and Maxmilian became the ruler of the west and each had a vice-ruler who was also their heir. This can be comparable to the current Executive Branch in the United States, where the vice-president governs in conjunction with the President and is first in line for the presidency.

The statue, crafted in the Roman style, embodies this co-rulership in that all four figures are extremely similar looking, as if the artist strived so that they were exactly the same.

The statue was taken from Constantinople by the Venetians in 1204 AD and placed on the south side of the building.

By Vivian Chen, Linda Yu, Abhinav Agrawal and Anthony Ko