The Piazza San Marco

Published: 2021-09-13 23:20:09
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The Piazza San Marco

The Piazza San Marco has been the center of Venice for centuries, as the city's most important public buildings surround the plaza. The structure and façade that is seen today in the Piazza both have been drastically altered from their original state. Today, the Basilica of Saint Mark, the Procurative Nuove, the Procuratie Vecchie, the Torre dell'Orologio, and the Ala Napolenica are the monumental buildings that make up the Piazza. The importance of these monumental buildings has never changed, but each of the buildings has its own history of alterations. The result is that each building has its own unique characteristics and stylistic elements.
The original Basilica of Saint Mark church was built during 832 after the dead body of Saint Mark (or San Marco) arrived in Venice. Little of the original church is visible today, but the present structure is broadly similar to the original core. The Basilica went through three major phases of construction that altered the original church. It is known that during the year 976 there was a large fire that caused major damage. Doge Pietro Orseolo carried out reconstructions, which only took two years as the damage from the fire didn't completely destroy the building. In the 11th century the church was rebuilt again, this time to enlarge both the north and south sides of the church. Right around the 13th century the five domes were added to the building to make the skyline of the building more prominent. The original design had flatter cupolas, which was typical for Byzantine churches and was probably inspired by Constantinople. In addition, during this time a narthex was added and the two Eastern smaller apses. These dramatic and decorative additions add gothic elements to the Basilica.
By the end of the 15th century, the exterior of the basilica of San Marco had more or less reached its final formal. The evidence from this is the painting of the "Corpus Domini Procession in San Marco" by Gentile Bellini. This painting provides a detailed and precise view of the basilica in 1496. From his painting one can deduce that the gothic pinnacles, statues and cusps added to the lower lunettes were 14th and 15th century additions. Changes can also be seen in the Porta Sant' Alippio Mosaic, as spoils from the 4th crusade victory of sculptures and reliefs were added and gave an Eastern aspect to the façade walls.

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