St. Mark’s Basilica – San Marco, Venice

November 10, 2011 – St. Mark’s Basilica

No trip to Venice would be complete without a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica in Piazza San Marco.  We visited both today on our own, and will return tomorrow with the tour guide.  The images are from both days.

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The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (officially known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica) is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge’s Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello. For its opulent design, gilded Byzantine mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold)

The Horses of Saint Mark were installed on the 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 Doge Enrico Dandolo 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. After a long restoration, since the 1990s they have been kept in St Mark’s Museum (inside the basilica). The horses now on the facade of the cathedral are bronze replicas.

In an attempt to stabilize the Roman Empire after the crisis of the third century, the Emperor Diocletian imposed a new Imperial office structure: a four co-emperor ruling plan called The Tetrarchy. This porphyry statue represents the inter-dependence of the four rulers. It was taken from Constantinople, during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and set into the south-west corner of the basilica (the above mentioned low tower) at the level of the Piazza San Marco. The missing foot of one of the figures was discovered in Istanbul in the 1960s, where it is still on display.