Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Traveler in Piazza San Marco in Venice

I spent the day seeing the sights in and around the famous Piazza San Marco. There is so much to see here...

Piazza San Marco (also known as St Mark's Square), is the principal public square of Venice.

The two great granite columns in the Piazzetta (the entrance to the Piazza) were most likely erected about 1172 AD. The statue on the right is topped by a statue of Saint Theodore, the first patron saint of Venice. The statue on the left is the winged lion which has come to symbolize Venice as well as Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. The space between the columns has long been a meeting ground and a spot for public executions. I didn't stick around here long- not with Sally near by!

St Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica, is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. The tower is 323 feet tall...

It is here, on August 21st, 1609, at the top of the tower, that Galileo introduced his Telescope to the Senate of Venice and to the Doge (the representitive of the State of Venice).

The views are spectacular from up here!

You can see everything and you can really see why the original inhabitants settled on the islands to protect themselves from the invading barbarians. There are no man made fortresses on the islands- the lagoon itself was the fortress...

These lines in the pavement back down in the square are from the 13th century. They were used in setting up market stalls and ceremonial processions.

This is the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, commonly known as Saint Mark's Basilica. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture.

The first St Mark's was constructed in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria. The basilica was consecrated in 1094.

The plan of the interior is based on a Greek cross floorplan with a raised choir and a crypt beneath. I went inside to explore but I couldn't take photos...

These are the Horses of Saint Mark, installed on the facade of basilica in about 1254. They date to Classical Antiquity, by some accounts they once adorned the Arch of Trajan. The horses were long displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and in 1204 they were sent them back to Venice as part of the loot sacked from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. They were taken to Paris by Napoleon in 1797 but returned to Venice in 1815. These are replicas, the originals are exhibited inside.

I have to share this touching story- my friend, Sarah (Jill's sister) had tears in her eyes after seeing the originals. It is amazing that a work of art like these incredible horses sculpted 2000 year's ago, can so move a horse lover today. Whoever sculpted them so many years ago had an obvious love for horses, each face is different and expressive and their proportions are perfect...

These four horses reminded me of my fellow horses' place and importance in the history of the world...

Here is the Doge Palace or the Palazzo Ducale. The current palace was largely constructed from 1309 to 1424. As well as being the ducal residence, the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until the Napoleonic occupation of the city in 1797.

The palazzo's principal function was to provide a space for the government to carry out its civic responsibilities to its people. The doge did, in fact, reside in the palazzo, however, he held no real power and was a representative figurehead for the Republic.

The famous Bridge of Sighs, the Ponte dei Sospiri. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. It was built in 1602.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

Lord Byron wrote, "I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand".

I looked out as I crossed and sighed...

- Posted from the road on my iPhone!

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