St Mark's Basilica

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St Mark's Basilica
Venezia Basilica di San Marco Fassade 2.jpg
Main façade
LocationVenice, Italy
DenominationRoman Catholic
Consecrated8 October 1094
Relics heldMark, Peter, John, Matthew, Luke, Bartholomew, Isidore of Chios, others
Current status
DesignationCathedral (minor basilica)
1807–present
Episcopal seePatriarchate of Venice
Prior status
DesignationDucal chapel
c. 836–1797
TutelageDoge of Venice
St Marks Basilica Ceiling 2 (7236759984).jpg
Construction
Builtc. 829c. 836
Rebuiltc. 1063–1094
StylesByzantine, Romanesque, Gothic
Specifics
Length76.5 metres (251 ft)
Width62.6 metres (205 ft)
Outer height
(central dome)
43 metres (141 ft)
Inner height
(central dome)
28.15 metres (92.4 ft)[1]
Saint Mark's Square
  a. St Mark's Basilica
  c. Bell tower and Loggetta
  e. Mint

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Italian: Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), commonly known as St Mark's Basilica (Italian: Basilica di San Marco; Venetian: Baxéłega de San Marco), is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Patriarchate of Venice in northern Italy; it became the episcopal seat of the Patriarch of Venice in 1807, replacing the earlier cathedral of San Pietro di Castello.[2][note 1] It is dedicated to Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of the city, and it holds his relics.

The church is located on the eastern end of Saint Mark's Square, the former political and religious centre of the Republic of Venice, and is attached to the Doge's Palace. Prior to the fall of the republic in 1797, it was the chapel of the Doge and was subject to his jurisdiction, with the concurrence of the procurators of Saint Mark de supra for administrative and financial affairs. As the state sanctuary, it was the site of official religious and civic ceremonies, including the presentation of a new Doge to the people and the consignment to the capitano generale da mar of the banner of Saint Mark, symbol of the supreme authority to defend the republic on the sea in wartime.[3][4] Here, peace treaties and alliances were solemnized and victories celebrated.[5] The church additionally served as the meeting hall of the Concio until the popular assembly's dissolution in 1423.[6][7]

The present structure is the third church, begun probably in 1063 to express Venice's growing civic consciousness and pride. Like the two earlier churches, its model was the sixth-century Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, although accommodations were made to adapt the design to the limitations of the physical site and to meet the specific needs of Venetian state ceremonies. Middle-Byzantine, Romanesque, and limited Islamic influences are also evident, and Gothic elements were later incorporated. To convey the republic's wealth and power, the original brick façades and interior walls were embellished over time with precious stones and rare marbles, primarily in the thirteenth century. Many of the columns, reliefs, and sculptures were spoils stripped from the churches, palaces, and public monuments of Constantinople as a result of the Venetian participation in the Fourth Crusade. Among the plundered artefacts brought back to Venice were the four ancient bronze horses that were placed prominently over the entry.[8]

The interior of the domes, the vaults, and the upper walls were slowly covered with roughly 8,500 square metres (91,000 sq ft) of gold-ground mosaics depicting saints, prophets, and biblical scenes.[9] Many of these mosaics were later retouched or remade as artistic tastes changed and damaged mosaics had to be replaced, such that the mosaics represent eight hundred years of artistic styles. Some of them derive from traditional Byzantine representations; others are based on preparatory drawings made by prominent Renaissance artists from Venice and Florence, including Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian, Paolo Uccello, and Andrea del Castagno. For its singular importance, St Mark's Basilica was defined by the art historian and Byzantinist Otto Demus as "the key to the understanding of all of Venice, of its history, and of its art."[10]

Background[edit]

Aquileia, Grado, and Venice[edit]

Legends that associate the foundation of important episcopal sees with the missionary activities of the apostles or their immediate disciples were common in the early Middle Ages: for Milan, a link was made to Saint Bartholomew, while in Ravenna the first bishop Apollinaris was made a follower of Saint Peter as were Euprepius, the first bishop of Verona, and Prosdocimus, the first bishop of Padua.[11]

For the Patriarchate of Aquileia, located on the northern shore of the Adriatic Sea, such an association was made by Patriarch Paulinus II in the late eighth century when he claimed Saint Mark, the disciple of Saint Peter, as its founder.[12][13] The assertion was aimed at enhancing the prestige of Aquileia, elevating it to the rank of those patriarchates that traditionally traced their origins to the apostles, and even at claiming historical precedence over the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, long believed to have been similarly founded by Mark.[11]

No historical evidence exists to support the claim, nor do any of the early writings about the Aquileian church mention it. The first literary account of Saint Mark's presence in the region and of his evangelization of Aquileia is found in Paul the Deacon's Gesta episcoporum Mettensium, written between 783 and 786. The tradition is narrated, however, in the Passio Sanctorum Hermagorae episcopi et Fortunati diaconi, which may have been written as early as the fifth century, and it must have already been widely accredited by 628/630 when the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius donated the so-called throne of Saint Mark, now in St Mark's treasury, to the rival Patriarch of Grado.[14][15]

The territory of Venetia circa 600 AD (Aquileia, Grado, and Venice (Rivoalto) are shown as underlined)

To Grado, a small island located along the northern shore of the Adriatic, the seat of the Aquileian church had effectively been transferred in 568 when Bishop Paulinus I sought refuge there, escaping from the Lombards at the time of the Byzantine–Lombard wars: the territory of the episcopal see still encompassed Aquileia which was sacked and occupied by the Lombards, but the bishop now resided in Grado which remained a part of the Byzantine Empire. Subsequently, in 607, the Lombard duke of Friuli Gisulf and the Byzantine esarch of Ravenna Smaragdus backed rival candidates to succeed Bishop Severus after his death, and two bishops were elected. The original episcopal see was then formally divided in 716 between the Patriarch of Aquileia, who resided in Cormons under the protection of the Lombards, and the Patriarch of New Aquileia (Grado), who resided in Grado with the backing of Byzantium.[16]

This delicate balance changed after the Franks defeated the Lombards and gained control of the mainland in 774. Anxious to exert influence over Venetia, the Byzantine territories along the coast, the Franks looked with favour upon the initiatives of Patriarch Maxentius of Aquileia to re-establish the original ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the patriarchate in its entirety and to subjugate Grado, which meant extending his authority over Venetia. At the Synod of Mantua (827), convened with the support of the Franks, Maxentius once again appealed to the tradition that Saint Mark had preached in Aquileia and founded the patriarchate.[17] In consequence, he argued, Aquileia was second only to Rome in all of Italy, and Grado was merely a parish. With the backing of the Franks and Rome, the conclusion of Mantua was foregone: Aquileia was recognized as the rightful metropolitan bishop over Venetia.[18][note 2]

For the Venetians, to fall under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of an archbishop who resided outside of their territory and whose principal loyalties lay with the Franks raised grave concerns: the Venetian bishops would have to vow obedience to the Patriarch of Aquileia and undertake a formal act of homage to the Frankish emperor.[17] The adoption as their patron of Saint Mark, the source of Aquileia's legitimacy, consequently became a political expediency, and the appropriation of his relics was specifically the means to distinguish Venice as the true religious centre of the region. Not only would this undermine Aquileia's principal argument and counter Frankish influence, it would lay the groundwork for Venice's ecclesiastical independence.[19][20][21] Simultaneously, the adoption of Saint Mark as patron would provide a unifying symbol for the nascent Venetian Republic by replacing the Greek soldier-saint Saint Theodore, too closely associated with the East and the Byzantine Empire.[2][22]

St Mark's relics[edit]

'Translatio' [edit]

mosaic
Pietro della Vecchia (cartoons), mosaics on the western façade (c. 1660): the removal of the body of Saint Mark from Egypt (above) and the arrival of the body in Venice (below)
mosaic

The relics of Saint Mark are recorded in Venice as early as the ninth-century in both the will of Doge Giustiniano Participazio (in office 827–829) and the travelogue of a Frankish monk on return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.[23] However, the oldest surviving written account of the translatio, the transfer of the relics from Alexandria in Egypt to Venice, dates only to the eleventh century, although earlier writings evidently existed and were used as sources.[24]

As narrated, a fleet of ten Venetian trading vessels seeks shelter in the Muslim-controlled city of Alexandria during a storm. This is said to be "by the will of God"; hence there is no intentional violation of the edict of Emperor Leo V that forbids commercial contact with the Muslims. In Alexandria, two of the Venetian merchants, Buono da Malamocco (Metamaucum) and Rustico da Torcello, go daily to pray at the tomb of Saint Mark, located in a church near the port, and there, they make the acquaintance of Theodore and Stauracius, a priest and monk respectively. Theodore, fearful for the dwindling Christian community under Islamic rule, makes it known that the Caliph Al-Ma'mun has ordered the demolition of the church in order to recover building materials for new mosques, and it is suggested that the body of the saint be safely removed to Venice.[note 3] To avoid raising suspicion, the body is first substituted with the remains of Saint Claudia, which are present in the church. The relics, placed into a basket and covered in pork, are then successfully smuggled past the Muslim customs officials and embarked on the Venetians' ship, which is preserved from shipwreck during the voyage by Saint Mark who appears and warns the sailors of the imminent danger. Other miracles occur, confirming the authenticity of the relics, until finally the ship arrives in Venice where the body is received by the Bishop of Olivolo and then taken in solemn procession to the Doge.[25][26][27]

Independently of the miraculous details and pious inventions, the overall narration serves to justify the right of Venice to possess the relics. It simultaneously affirms the primacy of the Venetian church, the rightful successor of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, even over the ancient metropolitan see of Alexandria. As Buono and Rustico declare, evoking the tradition that Mark preached in northern Italy, the Venetians are the "first-born sons" ("primogeneti filii") of the Evangelist. The translation of the relics to Venice is therefore a return of Mark to his rightful resting place.[28][29][note 4]

Mosaic (nineteenth-century copy) from the former southern entry (now Zen Chapel) depicting the praedestinatio (thirteenth century)

'Praedestinatio' [edit]

With the praedestinatio (also vaticinatio) the possession of the relics is further legitimized, in this case as the fulfillment of a divine plan. Traceable to Martino da Canal's thirteenth century Cronique des Veniciens, the legend in its definitive form narrates that Saint Mark, after his mission to northern Italy and the evangelization of Aquileia, returns to Rome. Passing through the Venetian Lagoon, he beaches his boat for the night, and he has a vision on the very site of the future city of Venice in which an angel appears, greeting him "Peace to you Mark, my Evangelist" ("Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus"). A prophecy follows announcing that his body will one day find rest in Venice ("Hic requiescet corpus tuum") and that it will be venerated by a virtuous and pious people who will build a glorious and eternal city.[30][31]

'Inventio' [edit]

The inventio (also apparitio) confirms the special bond between Saint Mark and the Venetians. The legend concerns the rediscovery of the body at the time of the reconstruction of the church in the eleventh century. Although it is found no earlier than Martino da Canal's thirteenth-century Cronique des Veniciens, it may derive from the actual public exposition of Saint Mark's relics prior to their entombment in the new crypt.[32][33][note 5] As narrated, the body of Saint Mark is hidden to prevent theft during work on the church, and after years all knowledge of its hiding place, known only to the Doge and a few trusted officials, is lost. Finally, after three days of fasting and prayer, an earthquake breaks open a pillar, revealing the body, which in later variations reaches out to the pious Venetians.

History[edit]

Participazio church (c. 829–976)[edit]

The medieval Chronicon Venetum by John the Deacon narrates that the relics of Saint Mark were initially placed in a corner tower of the castrum (also castellum), the fortified residence of the Doge and seat of government located on the site of the present Doge's Palace.[34][note 6] Doge Giustiniano Participazio subsequently stipulated in his will that his widow Felicita and his younger brother and successor Giovanni (in office 829–832) were to erect a church dedicated to Saint Mark wherein the relics of the Evangelist would ultimately be housed. Giustiniano further specified that the new church was to be built between the castrum and the Church of Saint Theodore to the north, on property that served as the garden of the monastery of San Zaccaria.[note 7] Provisions were also made to utilize some of the stones and building materials that Giustiniano had recuperated from Roman ruins on the mainland and destined for a family house on the island of Torcello and for the Abbey of Sant'Ilario [it] on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon.[35][36][note 8] Construction of the new church may have already been underway during Giustinian's lifetime, as attested by John the Deacon, and was completed by 836 when the relics of Saint Mark were transferred.[37][note 9]

The entry to St Mark's, believed to date to the Participazio church

Although the Participazio church was long believed to have been a rectangular structure with a single apse and a wooden roof, comparable to the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, Santa Maria Assunta in Parentium, and the local cathedrals of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia, Sant'Eufemia in Grado, and Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello, soundings and excavations conducted in 1950 demonstrated that St Mark's was from the beginning a cruciform church with at least a central dome, likely in wood.[38][39][note 10] It has not been unequivocally established if each of the four arms of the church had a similar dome or were instead covered with gabled wooden roofs.[40]

The prototype was the Church of the Holy Apostles (demolished 1461) in Constantinople, the structure erected by Justinian that served as the imperial mausoleum.[41] This radical break with the local architectural tradition of a rectangular plan in favour of a centrally planned Byzantine model reflected the growing commercial presence of Venetian merchants in the imperial capital as well as Venice's political ties with Byzantium, which were renewed in the early ninth century as a means of countering Carolingian influence.[note 11] More importantly, it underscored that the Church of St Mark was intended not as an ecclesiastical seat but as a state sanctuary.[42]

Remnants of the Participazio church likely survive and are generally believed to include the foundations and lower parts of several of the principal walls, including the western wall between the nave and the narthex, which underneath the subsequent marble encrustation shows signs of prolonged exposure to the outside. The great entry portal in the narthex may also date to the early church as well as the western portion of the crypt, under the central dome, which seems to have served as the base for a raised dais upon which the original altar was located.[39][43][note 12]

Orseolo church (976–c. 1063)[edit]

The Participazio church was severely damaged in 976 during the popular uprising against Doge Pietro IV Candiano (in office 959–976) when the fire that angry crowds had set to drive the Doge from the castrum spread to the adjoining church. Although the structure was not completely destroyed, it was compromised to the point that the Concio, the general assembly, had to alternatively convene in the cathedral of San Pietro di Castello to elect Candiano's successor, Pietro I Orseolo (in office 976–978).[44] Within two years, the church was repaired and at the sole expense of the Orseolo family, indications that the actual damage to the structure was relatively limited. Most likely, the wooden components had been consumed, but the walls and supports remained largely intact.[45][note 13]

Nothing certain is known of the appearance of the Orseolo church. But given the short duration of the reconstruction, it is probable that work was limited to repairing damage with little innovation.[41][46] It was at this time, however, that the tomb of Saint Mark, located in the main apse, was surmounted with brick vaults, creating the semi-enclosed shrine that would later be incorporated into the crypt when the floor of the chancel was raised during the construction of the third church.[47]

Contarini church (c. 1063–present)[edit]

Construction[edit]

Main façade of the original Contarini church
Antonio Pellanda, reconstruction of the western façade of the Contarini church (1881)
Floorplan of the Basilica of Saint Mark
(A) Altar of Nicopeia, (B) Chapel of St Isidore, (C) Mascoli Chapel, (D) Zen Chapel, (E) Baptistery, (F) Treasury, (G) Altar of St Leonard, (H) Altar of St Clement, (I) Chancel, (J) Altar of St Peter, (K) Sacristy

Civic pride led many Italian cities in the mid-eleventh century to begin erecting or rebuild their cathedrals on a grand scale.[48] Venice was similarly interested in demonstrating its growing commercial wealth and power, and probably in 1063, under Doge Domenico I Contarini (in office 1043–1071), St Mark's was substantially rebuilt and enlarged to the extent that the resulting structure appeared entirely new.[49][note 14] Under the direction of an anonymous Greek architect from Constantinople, the church was once again modelled after the Holy Apostles, but more closely than had been possible in the early ninth century when Venice lacked both the technical skills and the financial means necessary to equal the great church of the imperial capital.[50][note 15] The northern transept was lengthened, likely by incorporating the southern lateral nave of the Church of Saint Theodore.[51][note 16] Similarly, the southern transept was extended, perhaps by integrating a corner tower of the castrum. Most significantly, the wooden domes were rebuilt in brick. This required strengthening the walls and piers in order to support the new heavy barrel vaults, which in turn were reinforced by arcades along the sides of the northern, southern, and western arms. The vaults of the eastern arm were supported instead by inserting single arches that also served to divide the chancel from the choir chapels in the lateral apses.[52][53]

In front of the western façade, a narthex was built. To accommodate the height of the existing great entry, likely dating to the ninth-century Participazio church, the vaulting system of the new narthex had to be interrupted in correspondence to the portal, thus creating the shaft that opens above to the interior of the church.[note 17] Of the mosaics made at this time to adorn the entry, the four evangelists flanking the portal survive and are the oldest in the church.[54]

The crypt was also enlarged to the east, and the high altar was moved from under the central dome to the chancel, which was raised, supported by a network of fifty-six columns and vaults in the underlying crypt.[55] By 1071, work had progressed far enough that the investiture of Doge Domenico Selvo (in office 1071–1084) could take place in the unfinished church.[49]

Work on the interior began under Selvo who collected fine marbles and stones for the embellishment of the church and personally financed the mosaic decoration, hiring a master mosaicist from Constantinople.[56][57] The Pala d'Oro (golden altarpiece), ordered from Constantinople in 1102, was installed on the high altar in 1105.[58][59] For the consecration under Doge Vitale Falier Dodoni (in office 1084–1095), various dates are recorded, most likely reflecting a series of consecrations of different sections.[60] The consecration on 8 October 1094 is considered to be the dedication of the church and is commemorated as such in the Venetian liturgical calendar.[61] On that day, the relics of Saint Mark were also placed into the new crypt.[33]

Embellishment[edit]

Altar of the Nicopeia in St Mark's Basilica
The juncture of the southern and western crossarms, showing the original brickwork and the subsequent embellishment
Detail of the southern façade of St Mark's Basilica
Detail of the southern façade with encrustation of Preconnesian marble, Verd antique, Cipollino Rosso, and Rosso antico

As built, the Contarini church was a severe brick structure. Adornment inside was limited to the columns of the arcades, the balusters and parapets of the galleries, and the lattice altar screens. The wall surfaces were decorated with moulded arches that alternated with engaged brickwork columns as well as niches and a few cornices in relief with black 'niello' inlay.[62] With the exception of the outside of the apse and the western façade that faced Saint Mark's Square, the stark brick exterior was enlivened only by receding concentric arches in contrasting brick around the windows.[63] The western façade, comparable to middle-Byzantine churches erected in the tenth and eleventh centuries, was characterized by a series of arches set between protruding pillars.[64] Similar to Panagia Chalkeon in Thessalonica, the walls were pierced by windows set in larger blind arches, while the intervening pillars were adorned with niches and circular patere made of rare marbles and stones that were surrounded with ornamental frames.[65] Other decorative details, including friezes and corbel tables, reflected Romanesque trends, an indication of the taste and craftsmanship of the Italian workers.[66]

With few exceptions, most notably the juncture of the southern and western crossarms, both the exterior and interior of the church were subsequently sheathed with revetments of marble and precious stones and enriched with columns, reliefs, and sculptures.[67] Many of these ornamental elements were spolia taken from ancient or Byzantine buildings.[68] Particularly in the period of the Latin Empire (1204–1261), following the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians pillaged the churches, palaces, and public monuments of Constantinople and stripped them of polychrome columns and stones, including black and white Aquitaine marble, both red and green Cipollino marble, Proconnesian marble [it] from the Sea of Marmara, Pavonazzo marble from Anatolia, precious Verd antique, found exclusively in the Peloponnese, both red and black porphyry from Egypt, Portasanta marble [it] from Chios, and Hereke puddingstone.[69] As was customary, these artefacts could be used as ballast on board the Venetian trading vessels that were carrying lightweight merchandise back from the Eastern Mediterranean.[69] Once in Venice, some of the columns were sliced for revetmets and patere; others were paired and spread across the façades or used as altars.[70][note 18] In addition to aesthetic considerations, the placement of the stones was determined by their rarity and symbolism to indicate the more important parts of the church: red porphyry, associated with the regality and divinity of Christ, was used to mark the principal entry and to underscore the most sacred areas inside.[71]

Despoliation continued in later centuries, notably during the Venetian–Genoese Wars.[72][73] The Venetian architect Tommaso Temanza also attests in Vite dei più celebri architetti e scrittori veneziani (1778) that from the dilapidated Basilica of Santa Maria del Canneto in Pola, Jacopo Sansovino removed columns and marbles in 1550 and 1551 for St Mark's and the Doge's Palace.[74] Venetian sculptors also integrated the spoils with local productions, copying the Byzantine capitals and friezes so effectively that some of their work can only be distinguished with difficulty from the originals.[75]

Later modifications[edit]

The lateral aisle of the western crossarm, showing the arcade that strengthens the vault and the walkways above which were created with the removal of the galleries

In addition to the sixteen windows in each of the five domes, the church was originally lit by three or seven windows in the apse and probably eight in each of the lunettes of the eleven walls which, together with the apse, form the four crossarms.[76] But many of these windows were later walled up to create more surface space for the mosaic decoration, with the result that the interior received insufficient sunlight, particularly the areas under the galleries which remained in relative darkness. The galleries were consequently reduced to narrow walkways with the exception of the ends of the northern, southern, and western crossarms where they remain.[note 19] These walkways maintain the original relief panels of the galleries on the side facing the central section of the church. On the opposite side, new balustrades were erected. They have either Romanesque or Gothic protomes, suggesting that the reduction of the galleries occurred in two stages towards the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries.[77] With the removal of the wooden floors of the galleries, the holes in the walls that once supported the beams were covered with friezes and corbel tables that were later integrated into the marble encrustation.[78]

Studies of the masonry underlying the revetments, made possible during restoration, as well as stylistic considerations indicate that the narthex of the Contarini church was originally limited to the western side. As with other Byzantine churches, it extended laterally beyond the façade on both sides and terminated in niches, of which the northern remains. The southern terminus was separated by a wall in the early twelfth century, thus creating an entry hall that opened on the southern façade toward the Doge's Palace and the waterfront.[79] In the early thirteenth century, the narthex was extended along the northern and southern sides to completely surround the western crossarm, perhaps in conjunction with work to repair structural damage from an earthquake in 1223.[80]

Also, in the first half of the thirteenth century, the original low-lying brick domes, typical of Byzantine churches, were surmounted with higher, outer shells supporting bulbous lanterns with crosses.[81][note 20] These wooden frames covered in lead provided more protection from weathering to the actual domes below and gave greater visual prominence to the church, necessary after Saint Mark's Square was enlarged in the late twelfth century.[82][83][84][note 21] Various Near-Eastern models have been suggested as sources of inspiration and construction techniques for the heightened domes, including the Al-Aqsa and Qubbat aṣ-Ṣakhra mosques in Jerusalem and the conical frame erected over the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early thirteenth century.[85]

Architecture[edit]

Exterior[edit]

The three exposed façades of St Mark's are the result of a long and complex evolution. The nature and extent of any modifications made to the exterior of the Contarini church during the twelfth century are not known. But in the thirteenth century, roughly between 1225 and 1275, the exterior of the church was profoundly transformed: the patterned marble encrustation was added, and a multitude of columns and sculptural elements was applied to enrich the state church. It is probable that structural elements were also added to the façades or modified.[86]

Western façade[edit]

Western façade

The exterior of the basilica is divided into two registers. On the western façade, the lower register is dominated by five deeply recessed portals that alternate with large piers, comparable to the arcaded pillars of middle-Byzantine churches erected in the tenth and eleventh centuries, such as Myrelaion and the Kilisse Camii, as well as the twelfth-century Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople.[64] The lower register was later completely covered with two tiers of precious columns, largely spoils from the Fourth Crusade.

Consistent with Byzantine traditions, the sculptural elements are largely decorative: only in the arches that frame the doorways is there a functional use of sculpture that articulates the architectural lines.[87] In the spandrels between the portals, six relief sculptures were inserted. Of these, the reliefs of Hercules with the Erymanthian boar and Saint Demetrius are ancient spoils, whereas the remaining four depicting Hercules with both the Ceryneian hind and the Lernean hydra, Saint George, the Virgin, and the Archangel Gabriel were carved locally in imitation of eastern prototypes.[88] Together, the six reliefs present tutelary saints and heroes, the mythical Hercules allegorizing moral virtue that conquers vice.[89] In addition to these reliefs, the sculpture at the lower level, relatively limited, includes narrow Romanesque bands, statues reminiscent of the Antelami school in northern Italy, and richly carved borders of foliage mixed with figures derived from Byzantine and Islamic traditions. The eastern influence is most pronounced in the tympana over the northern-most and southern-most portals, the decoration of the remaining two lateral portals having been lost in the fourteenth century when Gothic windows were inserted to allow more light into the narthex.[90]

Mosaic on the western façade depicting the deposition of the relics of Saint Mark (thirteenth century)
Spoils from the Fourth Crusade
Quadriga
pillar from the Church of St Polyeuctus in Constantinople
porphyry statue of four tetrarchs
Quadriga from the Hippodrome (above), one of two pillars from the Church of St Polyeuctus (lower left), statue of the 'Four Tetrarchs', possibly from the Philadelphion (lower right)

The iconographic programme is expressed primarily in the mosaics in the lunettes. In the lower register, those of the lateral portals narrate the translation of Saint Mark's relics from Alexandria to Venice. From right to left, they show the removal of the saint's body from Egypt, its arrival in Venice, its veneration by the Doge, and its deposition in the church.[91] This last mosaic is the only one on the façade that survives from the thirteenth century; the others were remade in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries on the basis of preliminary designs by Maffeo Verona, Pietro della Vecchia, Sebastiano Ricci, and Lattanzio Querena.[92][93] The general appearance of the lost compositions is recorded in Gentile Bellini's Procession in Piazza San Marco (1496), which also documents the earlier gilding on the façade.[91]

The upper register is enriched with an elaborate Gothic crowning, executed in the late-fourteenth/early-fifteenth centuries by Venetian and Tuscan sculptors, including Niccolò di Piero Lamberti. The original lunettes, transformed into ogee arches, are outlined with foliage and topped with statues of four military saints over the lateral lunettes and of Saint Mark flanked by angels over the central lunette, the point of which contains the winged lion of Saint Mark holding a book with the angelic salutation of the praedestinatio: "Peace to you Mark, my Evangelist" ("Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus").[note 22] The intervening aediculae with pinnacles house figures of the four evangelists and on the extremities, facing one another, the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel in allusion to Venice's legendary foundation on the 25 March 421, the feast of the Annunciation.[94][note 23]

Culminating in the Last Judgment over the main portal, the sequence of mosaics in the lateral lunettes of the upper register present scenes of Christ's victory over death: from left to right, the Descent from the Cross, the Harrowing of Hell, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.[91] The central lunette was originally blind and may have been pierced by several smaller windows; the present large window was inserted after the fire of 1419 destroyed the earlier structure, of which the four columns remain in place.[95] The reliefs of Christ and the four evangelists, now inserted into the northern façade, may also survive from the original decoration of the central lunette.[96]

The four gilded bronze horses were among the early spoils brought from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade.[97] Most likely of Roman origin, but influenced by earlier Greek statues, they were part of a quadriga adorning the Hippodrome and are the only equestrian team to survive from classical Antiquity.[98] In Venice, they initially remained in the Arsenal, the government shipyard, with proposals to fuse them for their metal content. But in the mid-thirteenth century, they were installed prominently on the main façade of St Mark's as symbols of Venice's military triumph over Byzantium and of its newfound imperial status as the successor of the Byzantine Empire.[99] Placed in relation to the reliefs of Christ and the evangelists in the central lunette, they were possibly intended to also evoke the image of the quadriga domini, the popular medieval allegory originating with Saint Jerome (Episotola LIII) that saw the four evangelists as the four-horse chariot of the Lord, carrying the Christian message throughout the world.[note 24] Since 1974 the original four horses are preserved inside, having been substituted with copies on the balcony over the central portal.[100]

Northern façade[edit]

The aediculae on the northern façade contain statues of the four original Latin Doctors of the Church: Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and Gregory the Great. Allegorical figures of Prudence, Temperance, Faith, and Charity top the lunettes.[101]

Southern façade[edit]

The Gothic crowning continues in the upper register of the southern façade, the lunettes being topped with the allegorical figures of Justice and Fortitude and the aediculae housing statues of Saint Anthony Abbot and Saint Paul the Hermit.[102]

The southern façade, the only side of the basilica visible from the water, was the principal vehicle for the Venetians to express the wealth and power of the republic: it is the most richly encrusted façade with rare marbles, spoils, and trophies, including the so-called pillars of Acre, the statue of the four tetrarchs embedded into the external wall of the treasury, and the porphyry imperial head on the south-west corner of the balcony, traditionally believed to represent Justinian II and popularly identified as Francesco Bussone da Carmagnola.[103][104]

After a section of the narthex was partitioned off between 1100 and 1150 to create an entry hall, the niche that had previously marked the southern end of the narthex was removed, and the corresponding arch on the southern façade was opened to establish a second entry, which was given a monumental aspect suitable for the processions of the Doge and government officials arriving from the Doge's Palace on the occasion of important holy days and commemorative ceremonies.[105] Like the entry on the western façade, the passage was distinguished with precious porphyry columns.[106] On either side, couchant lions and griffins were placed. Presumably, the southern entry was also flanked by the two carved pillars long believed to have been brought to Venice from the Genoese quarter in St Jean d'Acre as booty of the first Venetian–Genoese war (1256–1270) but actually spoils of the Fourth Crusade, taken from the Church of St Polyeuctus in Constantinople.[note 25]

Former southern entry

Between 1503 and 1515, the entry hall was transformed into the funerary chapel of Giovanni Battista Cardinal Zen, bishop of Vicenza, who had bequeathed a large portion of his wealth to the Venetian Republic, asking to be entombed in St Mark's.[107] The southern entrance was consequently closed, blocked by the altar and a window above, and although the griffins remain, much of the decoration was transferred or destroyed.[108] The pillars were moved slightly eastward.[109]

Entry hall (Zen Chapel)[edit]

The decoration of the southern entry hall to the church was redone in the thirteenth century in conjunction with work in the adjoining narthex; of the original appearance of the entry hall, nothing is known. The present mosaic cycle in the barrel vault forms the prelude to the mosaic cycle on the main façade, which narrates the translation of Saint Mark's relics from Alexandria in Egypt to Venice. The events depicted include the praedestinatio, the angelic prophecy that Mark would one day be buried in Venice, as a means of affirming Venice's divinely sanctioned right to possess the relics. The authority of Saint Mark is demonstrated in the scenes that show the writing of his gospel which is then presented to Saint Peter. Particular relevance is also given to the departure of Saint Mark for Egypt and his miracles there, which creates continuity with the opening scene on the façade, depicting the removal of the body from Alexandria.[110]

Although largely redone in the nineteenth century, the apse above the doorway that leads into the narthex probably maintains the overall aspect of the decoration from the first half of the twelfth century with the Virgin flanked by angels, a theme common in middle-Byzantine churches.[111]

Narthex[edit]

The decorative programme of the western and northern wings of the narthex seems to have been planned in its entirety in the thirteenth century when the eleventh-century narthex was extended along the northern and southern sides of the western crossarm. However, a stylistic change in the mosaics is evident in the northern wing, indicating that the execution of the programme was interrupted, presumably to await the completion of the vaulting system.[80]

The Dome of the Creation in the narthex (thirteenth century)

Unlike in middle-Byzantine churches where the theme of the Last Judgement is often represented in the narthex, the decorative programme narrates the stories of Genesis and Exodus: the main subjects are the Creation and the Tower of Babel along with the lives of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses.[112] Special emphasis is given to the stories of the sacrifice of Abel and the hospitality of Abraham, located prominently in the lunettes on either side of the entry to the church, due to the analogies with Christ's death and the Eucharistic meal.[113]

It has long been recognized that the individual scenes are very close to those of the Cotton Genesis, an important fourth or fifth-century Greek illuminated manuscript copy of the Book of Genesis: about a hundred of the 359 miniatures in the manuscript were used. Of Egyptian Origen, the manuscript may have reached Venice as a result of the commercial relations of the Venetians in the Eastern Mediterranean or as booty of the Fourth Crusade.[114] The sixth-century Vienna Genesis was also in Venice in the early thirteenth century and may have influenced artistic choices.[115] With regard to the Dome of Moses, the scenes most closely resemble Palaeologan art, suggesting an unknown manuscript from the third quarter of the thirteenth century as the iconographic source.[116]

While the Byzantine renderings of the Old-Testament stories in illuminated manuscripts provided suitable models, Byzantine churches themselves did not generally give importance to the Old Testament in their decoration, considering the stories to be shadows of the history of salvation, inferior to the reality of the New Testament. The impetus for the Venetians to choose the Old Testament as the theme of the narthex was instead of western derivation and reflected an interest that had developed in Rome beginning in the late eleventh century.[117]

The narration begins in correspondence to the former southern entry of the church with the Dome of the Creation, which opens with the spirit of God hovering above the waters and concludes with Adam and Eve cast out from the Garden of Eden. As in the Cotton Genesis, Christ is portrayed as the agent of creation. The arrangement of the twenty-four stories in three concentric circles likely derives from ancient and medieval cosmological representations and alludes to the Holy Trinity.[118] Underneath, the pendentives contain cherubim, the guardians of Eden, and the lunettes illustrate the story of Cain and Abel.[119] The stories of Noah and of the Tower of Babel with the confusion of tongues and the dispertion of the nations occupy the vaults on either side of the entry to the church.[120] Sixteen scenes from the Cotton Genesis were used for the Dome of Abraham where the patriarch is intended as an Old-Testament type of Christ.[121] The story of Joseph, also a type of Christ, occupies three domes, whereas the story of Moses is limited to the final bay.[122]

Interior[edit]

View of the longitudinal axis from the western gallery toward the east

Although St Mark's was modelled after the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, ceremonial needs as well as the limitations posed by the physical site and the pre-existing walls and foundations made it necessary to adapt the design.[123] The overall cruciform plan with five domes was maintained. But the Holy Apostles was a true centrally planned church: the central dome, larger than the others, was alone pierced with windows, and the altar was located underneath. Also, there was no distinction between the four crossarms: no apse existed, and double-tiered arcades surrounded the interior on all sides. In contrast, the longitudinal axis was emphasized in St Mark's so as to create the space appropriate for the processions associated with state ceremonies. Both the central and western domes are larger, accentuating the progression along the nave, and by means of a series of increasingly smaller arches, the nave visually narrows towards the raised chancel in the eastern crossarm, where the altar stands.[66] The crossarms of the transept are shorter and narrower. Optically, their height and width are further reduced by the insertion of arches, supported on double columns, within the barrel vaults. The domes of the transept and the chancel are also smaller.[124][note 26]

As with the Holy Apostles, each of the domes rests on four barrel vaults, those of the central dome rising from quadripartite (four-legged) piers. But the two-tiered arcades that reinforced the vaults in the Holy Apostles were modified. In St Mark's there are no upper arcades, and as a result the aisles are less isolated from the central part of the church. The effect overall is of more unified sense of space and an openness that have parallels in other Byzantine churches constructed in the eleventh century, an indication that the chief architect was influenced by middle-Byzantine architectural models in addition to the sixth-century Church of the Holy Apostles.[64][125]

Decorative programme[edit]

Petrus F., mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in the semi-dome of the apse with the Christogram ICXC (1506)

The location of the main altar within the apse necessarily affected the decorative programme.[126] The Christ Pantocrator, customarily located in the central dome over the altar, was placed in the semi-dome of the apse, where normally the Virgin in prayer was depicted in middle-Byzantine churches.[127] The large seated figure, now a sixteenth-century recreation, is surrounded with the inscription: "The King of all, made flesh for the love of sinners, do not despair of forgiveness while you have time." (SUB REX CUNCTORUM CARO FACTUS AMORE REORUM · NE DESPERATIS VENIE DUM TEMPUS HABETIS). Below, interspersed with three windows, are late-eleventh and early-twelfth-century mosaics that portray Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Peter, Saint Mark, and Saint Hermagoras of Aquileia as the protectors and patrons of the state, Saint Nicholas being specifically the protector of seafarers. Saint Peter, Saint Mark, and Saint Hermagorus also indicate the apostolic foundation of the Aquileian church, of which Venice is understood to be the legitimate successor.[128]

Over the high altar in the eastern crossarm is the Dome of Immanuel (God with us), which concerns the Incarnation. It presents a young, beardless Christ in the centre, surrounded by stars in allusion to his divine nature. Radially arranged underneath are standing figures of the Virgin, as the mother of Incarnate God (ΜΡ ΘΥ), and Old-Testament prophets, the latter bearing scrolls with passages that largely refer to the Incarnation.[129][note 27] Rather than seraphim as was customary in middle-Byzantine churches, the pendentives of the dome show the symbols of the four evangelists.[130]

An extensive cycle narrating the Life of Christ covers much of the interior, with the principal events located along the longitudinal axis. The eastern vault, between the central dome and the chancel, contains the major events of the infancy (Annunciation, Adoration of the Magi, Presentation in the Temple) along with the Baptism of Christ and the Transfiguration. In their present form, these mosaics date from the sixteenth century and are based on preliminary drawings by Tintoretto.[131] The western vault depicts the events of the Passion of Jesus on one side (the kiss of Judas, the trial before Pilate, and the Crucifixion) and the Resurrection on the other side (the Harrowing of Hell and the post-resurrection appearances). Consistent with middle-Byzantine decorative programmes, the Crucifixion and the Harrowing of Hell, are placed opposite one another, and the resurrected Christ is portrayed as if walking toward the altar.[130] A secondary series illustrating Christ's miracles is located in the transepts, but the arrangement of the episodes is not always chronological.[132] The series, originally consisting of twenty-nine scenes, seems to have derived from an eleventh-century Byzantine Gospel.[133] The transepts also contain a detailed cycle of the Life of the Virgin: these scenes were probably derived from an eleventh-century illuminated manuscript of the Protogospel of James from Constantinople.[134][135] As a prelude, a Tree of Jesse showing the ancestors of Christ was added to the end wall of the northern crossarm between 1542 and 1551.[136] Throughout the various narrative cycles, Old-Testament prophets are portrayed holding texts that relate to the New-Testament scenes nearby.[137]

The Dome of the Ascension occupies the central position, whereas in the Church of the Holy Apostles it was located over the southern crossarm.[138] The prominence given to the representation of the Ascension of Christ into heaven may have had political connotations as a reference to the civic celebrations on Ascension Day, which began with solemn mass in St Mark's and involved the Doge's ceremonial marriage of the Adriatic as a symbol of Venice's dominion on the sea.[139] The dome, executed in the late twelfth century, is exemplary of middle-Byzantine prototypes in Constantinople.[140] In the centre Christ ascends, accompanied by four angels and surrounded by standing figures of the Virgin, two angels, and the twelve apostles. As tradition in Byzantine art, two of the apostles have been substituted with Mark and Luke in order to have, together with Matthew and John, all four of the evangelists. The inscription derives from Acts 1:10 and anticipates the return of Christ and the Last Judgement: "Say, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Son of God, Jesus, o men of Galilee, as he departs from you, so shall he come as judge of the world, with right judgement to give all their due" (DICITE QUID STATIS IN AETHERE CONSIDERATIS · FILIUS ISTE D[E]I I[ESU]S CIVIS GALILEI · SUMPTUS UT A VOB[IS] ABIIT ET SIC ARBITER ORBIS · JUDICII CURA VENIET DARE DEBITA JURA). As customary for the central dome in middle-Byzantine churches, the pendentives contain the four evangelists, each with his gospel.[130][note 28] The addition, underneath, of the representations of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden indicates a western influence. Thematically, these rivers allegorize the live-giving water that flows from the Gospel.[141] Distinctly western is also the inclusion of the virtues and beatitudes that alternate with the windows.[139][note 29]

Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right) in the Dome of Pentecost with the inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Judea underneath

As in the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Dome of Pentecost is located over the western crossarm.[142] In the centre is an hetoimasia, an empty throne with a book and dove. Radiating outward are silver rays which fall on the heads of the apostles and evangelists seated around the outer rim of the dome, each with a flame on his head.[note 30] The circular inscription describes the infusion of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost: "The Spirit pours over them, strengthening them by filling the heart of each and uniting them by bonds of love. Then the nations become believers, seeing the miracle of the speaking in various tongues" (SPIRITUS IN FLAMMIS SUP[ER] HOS DISTILLAT UT AMNIS CORDA REPLENS MUNIT ET AMORIS NEXIBUS UNIT HINC VARIE GENTES MIRACULA CONSPICIENTES FIUNT CREDENTES VIM LINGUE PERCIPIENTES). The nations are represented by the groups of figures that are interspersed with the windows below, whereas the pendentives, rather than the nations as was typical for the Pentecost dome in Byzantine churches, contain angels.[130][note 31]

In keeping with Pentecost, as the institution of the Church, the side vaults and walls of the western crossarm largely illustrate the subsequent missionary activities of all twelve of the apostles and their deaths as martyrs.[138] The specific events in the lives of the various apostles and the manner of their deaths adhere to Western traditions, as narrated in Latin martyrologies that derive in part from the Book of Acts but to a greater extent from apocryphal sources. However, the single representations and the overall concept of presenting the lives of the saints in a composition that combines several events together in one scene have their parallels in Greek manuscript illustrations of the middle-Byzantine period.[143] A number of the mosaics were later remade, using preliminary drawings by Antonio Vassilacchi, Palma Giovane, and Alessandro Varotari.[144]

The western vault illustrates Saint John's vision of the Apocalypse and, as the end of the decorative programme, the Last Judgement. Several of these mosaics are no longer the originals, having been remade on the basis of preliminary drawings by Tintoretto, Domenico Tintoretto, Maffeo Verona, and Antonio Vassilacchi.[145] On the wall below there is a thirteenth-century deesis with Christ enthroned between the Virgin and Saint Mark.[146]

Floor[edit]

Detail of the floor, executed in opus sectile and opus tessellatum (in the corners)

The floor dates to the first half of the twelfth century, perhaps to as early as the very late eleventh century.[147] It is composed of geometric patterns and animal designs made from a wide variety of coloured limestones and marbles, serpentinite, and porphyry imported from Greece, Syria, Africa, Istria, the Alps, Verona, and Tuscany. It is executed primarily in opus sectile and to a lesser extent in opus tessellatum.[148][149][note 32]

Although certain similarities exist with Romanesque floors found in Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia and Pomposa Abbey, namely the use of polychrome and the compresence of geometric, vegetal, and zoomorphic elements, the inclusion of large slabs of marble surrounded with decorative cornices also suggests an influence from eastern prototypes: it is reminiscent of sixth-century Byzantine floors in the Holy Apostles, Hagia Irene, Hagia Sophia, and Hagia Euphemia as well as middle-Byzantine examples, most notably in Hosios Loukas and the Koimesis church in Nicaea.[150][151] At St Mark's the large slabs are placed in correspondence to the central and western domes to emphasize the longitudinal axis. The frequent use of intertwined circles recalls medieval Italian cosmatesque floors, but close examples are also found in Hagia Sophia in Nicaea and the Church of Saint Nicholas in Myra.[152] The animals represented, including lions, eagles, griffons, deer, dogs, peacocks, and others, largely derive from medieval bestiaries and have symbolic meanings.[153]

Chancel and choir chapels[edit]

Entry to the chancel with the Dome of Immanuel above the high altar

The chancel is enclosed by a Gothic altar screen, dated 1394. The work of Pierpaolo dalle Masegne [it] and his brother Jacobello dalle Masegne [it], it is formed by eight columns made of marbles from southern France, Lesbos, and Anatolia and is surmounted by a bronze and silver Crucifix, flanked by statues of the Virgin and Saint Mark, together with the twelve apostles.[154][155] On the left of the screen is the ambo for readings from Scripture. On the right is the platform from which the newly elected Doge was presented to the people.[156] From here, important relics were also displayed on major holidays, notably the relic of the Precious Blood which was shown to the faithful on Maundy Thursday and again during the Easter Vigil.[156][157]

Behind the screen, marble banisters with Jacopo Sansovino's bronze statues of the Evangelists and Girolamo Paliari's of the four Latin Doctors of the Church mark the limit of the choir, which after the reorganization by Doge Andrea Gritti (in office 1523–1538) was utilized by the Doge, civic leaders, foreign ambassadors, and the knights of Saint Mark.[158][159] The backs of the seats (dispersed) were inlaid with allegories of the theological and cardinal virtues and were covered for ceremonies with silk and gold thread tapestries by Jan Rost of Flanders [it]. The tribunes above, for musicians and singers, are faced with bronze reliefs by Sansovino that portray events in the life of Saint Mark and his miracles.

Beyond the banisters is the presbytery, reserved for the clergy, with the high altar which since 1835 contains the relics of Saint Mark, previously located in the crypt.[160] The ciborium above the altar is composed of a canopy in verde antico supported by four intricately carved columns, in Proconnesian marble, with scenes that narrate the lives of Christ and the Virgin. The age and provenance of the columns is disputed, with proposals ranging from sixth-century Byzantium to thirteenth-century Venice.[161] According to tradition, they are spoils taken from the Basilica of Santa Maria del Cannetto in Pola by Doge Pietro II Orseolo (in office 991–1009).[162] The altarpiece, originally designed as an antependium, is the Pala d'Oro, a masterpiece of Byzantine enamels on gilded silver that incorporates 1,300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, 400 garnets, 90 amethysts, 15 rubies, 75 spinels, and 4 topazes, all highly polished, unfaceted gems.[163] The altarpiece was ordered from Constantinople in 1102 by Doge Ordelafo Faliero Dodoni (in office 1102–1118).[59] It was enlarged in 1209 with enamels taken from the Monastery of Pantocrator in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. In its present form, the altarpiece dates to 1345 when the enamels were reorganized and the Gothic frame was added. Some of the enamels may come from the first altarpiece, ordered in Constantinople by Doge Pietro I Orseolo in 976.[164][165]

Altar of the Nicopeia in St Mark's Basilica
Detail of the Pala d'Oro
Icon of the Madonna Nicopeia
The high altar with the tomb of Saint Mark

The two choir chapels, located on either side of the chancel, occupy the space corresponding to the lateral aisles in the other crossarms. They are connected to the chancel through archways which also serve to reinforce the barrel vaults supporting the dome above.[166]

The choir chapel on the northern side is dedicated to Saint Peter. Historically, it was the principal area for the clergy, probably in consideration of its proximity to the residences of the clerics to the north of the church.[167][168] The altar contains the relics of Saints Peter, John the Evangelist, Matthew, Luke, and Bartholomew, which were likely acquired in the ninth century for the Participazio church.[169] This was consistent with the tradition, that began with Saint Ambrose's fourth-century Basilica Apostolorum in Milan, whereby the possession of important relics, specifically those of the apostles, was necessary to distinguish the political and ecclesiastical importance of a city.[170]

The mosaic decoration in the vault above the chapel largely narrates the life of Saint Mark in order to demonstrate the apostolic origins of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. It begins with Saint Peter's unhistorical consecration of Saint Mark as bishop of Aquileia and later of Saint Hermagoras as his successor and concludes with Saint Mark's departure for Alexandria, his martyrdom, and burial.[171] The figures of 'Patriarch' Helias of Grado and Pope Pelagius II, located on the arch that connects the chapel to the chancel, refer to the alleged papal recognition of Grado as Aquileia's successor and of Grado's metropolitan jurisdiction over Venetia.[note 33] Beginning in 1156, the Patriarch of Grado (after 1451 Patriarch of Venice) resided in Venice, and from at least the twelfth century, he had a seat on the northern side of the chancel of St Mark's, near the entry to the choir chapel of Saint Peter, from which he could assist at mass on the high altar.[172]

Prior to the sixteenth century, the Doge's throne was located on the opposite side of the chancel, near the choir chapel of Saint Pope Clement I, which through the doorway opens to the courtyard of the Doge's Palace. The chapel was particularly reserved for the Doge's private use.[173] From the window above, which communicates with his private apartments, it was also possible for the Doge to assist at mass in the church. Around the perimeter of the chapel, the inscription reminds the Doge that he shall be judged for his actions after his death, and it specifically exhorts him to love justice and to give everyone his due; to be a patron and benefactor of paupers, widows, minors, and orphans; and to not be influenced by fear, desire, hate, or greed.[174]

Above the chapel, the mosaics in the vault continue to illustrate the story of Saint Mark with the events of the translatio. They constitute the oldest surviving representation of the transfer of Saint Mark's relics to Venice and serve to demonstrate Venice's legitimate right to possess the relics. They also symbolically indicate the transfer of metropolitan authority from Aquileia/Grado to Venice.[175] The altar contains the relics of early martyrs of the Roman Empire, particularly of Aquileia.[176]

Side altars and chapels[edit]

Altar of the Nicopeia in St Mark's Basilica
Icon of the Madonna Nicopeia
Altar and icon of the Madonna Nicopeia

The side altars in the transept were used primarily by the faithful. In the northern crossarm, the altar was originally dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist: the mosaics in the dome above show the aged figure of Saint John in an orant position, surrounded by five scenes of his life in Ephesus, including the destruction of the Temple of Artemis and the conversion of the Ephesians.[177] The stone relief of Saint John, placed on the eastern wall of the crossarm in the thirteenth century, was later moved to the northern façade of the church, probably when the altar was rededicated in 1617 to the Madonna Nicopeia, a venerated Byzantine icon from the late-eleventh/early-twelfth century.[178][103] The date and the circumstances of the icon's arrival in Venice are not documentable.[179] Most likely one of many sacred images taken from Constantinople at the time of the Latin Empire, it was deposited in St Mark's treasury, with no specific importance associated.[180] It began to acquire significance for the Venetians in the fourteenth century when it was framed with sixteen Byzantine enamels looted from the Pantokrator in Contantinople. At that time, it may have been first carried in public procession to invoke the Virgin's intercession in ridding the city of the Black Death.[181] Certainly it was carried in procession on the Feast of the Assumption as early as 1500, and increasingly it was displayed for public veneration on other Marian feast days, including the Visitation, the Nativity of the Virgin, and the Annunciation.[182] The icon acquired a political role as the palladium of Venice in the sixteenth century when it came to be identified as the sacred image that had been carried into battle by various Byzantine emperors.[183][180][note 34] In 1589, the icon was transferred to the small Chapel of Saint Isidore where it was made accessible to the public, and subsequently it was placed on the side altar in the northern crossarm.[184] It was first referred to as the Madonna Nicopeia (Nikopoios, Bringer of Victory) in 1645.[180]

Altar of Saint James (left) and Altar of the Blessed Sacrament (right)

The altar in the southern crossarm was initially dedicated to Saint Leonard, the sixth-century Frankish saint who became widely popular at the time of the Crusades as his intercession was sought to liberate prisoners from the Muslims. He is shown in the dome above, together with other saints particularly venerated in Venice: Blaise, Nicholas, and Clement I.[185] The altar was rededicated in 1617 to the True Cross, and since 1810, it has been the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament.[186]

The Shrine of the Crucifix was placed in the nave in 1290, having been moved inside from Saint Mark's Square according to tradition.[187]

The long-neglected relics of Saint Isidore of Chios, brought to Venice in 1125 by Doge Domenico Michiel (in office 1117–1130) on return from his military expedition in the Aegean, were rediscovered in the mid-fourteenth century, and upon the initiative of Doge Andrea Dandolo (in office 1343–1354), the Chapel of Saint Isidore was constructed between 1348 and 1355 to house them.[188][note 35][note 36] An annual feast (16 April) was also established in the Venetian liturgical calendar to commemorate the translation of the relics to Venice.[189] Early Venetian chronicles and martyrologies do not indicate a particular devotion to Saint Isidore on the part of the Venetians, despite the possession of his relics.[190] The newfound interest in the mid-fourteenth century seems to have been connected to the increasing military and commercial tensions in the Aegean between Venice and the Republic of Genoa, which in 1346 had seized the island of Chios from the Byzantines. In this context, the veneration of Saint Isidore, a military saint with ties to Chios, was intended to invoke divine favour and affirm Venice's historical rights in the Aegean. Hence the chapel's decorative program, beyond narrating the martyrdom of the saint during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Decius, emphasizes Domenico Michiel's expedition in the Aegean and the translation of the saint's relics to Venice.[191]

The Mascoli Chapel, utilized by the homonymous confraternity after 1618, was decorated under Doge Francesco Foscari (in office 1423–1457) and dedicated in 1430.[192][193]

Against the giant piers that support the central dome, on either side of the chancel, Doge Cristoforo Moro (in office 1462–1471) erected at his personal expense two Renaissance altars dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint James. The pier behind the Altar of Saint James is where the relics of Saint Mark are said to have been rediscovered in 1094: the miraculous event is depicted in the mosaics on the opposite side of the crossarm.

Baptistery[edit]

Thomas Stuart Smith, Interior [Baptistery] of San Marco (1845)

The Chronica Agostini records that the southern wing of the narthex was the 'place of the infants' (i.e. baptistery) in the early fourteenth century, although a baptismal font may have been located there even earlier.[194] Accessible to the general public, it served as one of the five baptisteries for the seventy parishes of the city.[195][note 37][note 38] The date of construction is not known, but it is likely to have been under Doge Giovanni Soranzo (in office 1312–1328), whose tomb is located in the baptistery, an indication that he was responsible for the architectural adaptation. Similarly entombed in the baptistery is Doge Andrea Dandolo who carried out the decorative programme at his personal expense.[194]

Following a tradition that began with the baptistery of the Cathedral of Parma, consecrated in 1270, the mosaics present scenes from the life of Saint John the Baptist on the walls and, in the ante-baptistery, the infancy of Christ.[196] Directly above the bronze font, designed by Sansovino, the dome contains the dispersion of the apostles, each shown in the act of baptizing a different nationality in reference to Christ's command to preach the Gospel to all people.[197] While the representation of the apostles in a baptistery became commonplace in the Middle Ages, following earlier examples in the fifth-century Orthodox baptistery and the sixth-century Arian baptistery in Ravenna, the specific composition, emphasizing the missionary activity of the apostles, seems to derive from a ninth-century Greek manuscript.[198] The second dome, above the altar, presents Christ in glory surrounded by the nine angelic choirs.[note 39] The altar is a large granite rock, which according to tradition was brought to Venice from Tyre following the Venetian conquest. It is said to be the rock upon which Christ stood to preach to the people of Tyre.[199]

Sacristy[edit]

In 1486, Giorgio Spavento, as proto (consultant architect and buildings manager), designed a new sacristy, connected to both the presbytery and the choir chapel of Saint Peter; the location of the earlier sacristy is not known. It was Spavento's first project and the only one he oversaw to completion. Decoration began in 1493. The cabinets, used for storing reliquaries, monstrances, vestments, and liturgical objects and books, were inlaid by Antonio della Mola and his brother Paolo and show scenes from the life of Saint Mark. The mosaic decoration of the vault, depicting Old-Testament prophets, was designed by Titian and executed between 1524 and 1530 by Francesco Zuccato, Marco Luciano Riccio, and Alberto Zio.[200][201]

Behind the sacristy is the church, also by Spavento, dedicated to Saint Theodore, the first patron saint of Venice. Constructed between 1486 and 1493 in an austere Renaissance style, it served as the private chapel for the canons attached to the basilica and, later, as the seat of the Venetian Inquisition.[202]

Assessment[edit]

In describing the basilica, Francesco Sansovino mentions primarily individual artefacts. Travel writers such as Philippe de Commynes and Baron Montesquieu similarly reserve their praise for the single items in the treasury and only reference the overall splendour of the mosaics and the richness of the marbles in the church itself.[203] But most critical assessments of St Mark's Basilica focus on the opulence of the decoration and the profusion of various forms and colours.[204] Enlightenment writers largely condemn the medieval confusion. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe describes the basilica as "a giant crab" ("einen kolossalen Taschenkrebs"); for Tommaso Temanza, it is a "magnificent grottesque" ("grottesco magnifico").[205] Jacob Burckhardt, although tolerant of medieval tendencies, inclines toward the geometry of Renaissance architecture and the organic unity of northern Gothic.[206] As a result, he criticizes the façade of St Mark's, considering it to be "insignificant and clumsy" ("nichtig und ungeschickt"). "The domes", he writes, "cancel each other out in effect; the facade is the most restless and scattered there is, without truly dominant lines and pronounced forces." ("Die Kuppeln heben sich in der Wirkung gegenseitig auf; die Fassade ist die unruhigste und zerstreuteste die es giebt, ohne wahrhaft herrschende Linien und ausgesprochene Kräfte.").[207] Harsher is Mark Twain who, albeit fascinated by the basilica, sees it as "nobly" and "augustly ugly". Judging St Mark's to uniformly lack beauty, he considers it to be perfect: "… for its details are masterfully ugly, no misplaced and impertinent beauties are intruded anywhere; and the consequent result is a grand harmonious whole, of soothing, entrancing, tranquilizing soul-satisfying ugliness." He concludes that "Propped on its long row of low, thick-legged columns, its back knobbed with domes, it seemed like a vast warty bug taking a meditative walk."[208] Of a different opinion is John Ruskin who reassessing Gothic architecture in The Stones of Venice writes that St Mark's is a "confusion of delight": "a multitude of pillars and white domes, clustered into a long low pyramid of colored light; a treasure heap, it seems, partly of gold and partly of opal and mother-of-pearl, hollowed beneath into five great vaulted porches, ceiled with fair mosaic and beset with sculpture of alabaster, clear as amber and delicate as ivory".[209]

Influence[edit]

As the state church, St Mark's was a point of reference for Venetian architects. During the Gothic period, influence seems to have been limited to decorative patterns and details, such as the portal and painted wall decoration in the Church of Santo Stefano and the portal of the Church of the Madonna dell'Orto, consisting of an ogee arch with flame-like relief sculture reminiscent of the crockets on St Mark's.[210]

In the early Renaissance, despite the introduction of classical elements into Venetian architecture by Lombard stonecutters, faithfulness to local building traditions remained strong.[211] In the façades of Ca' Dario and the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, surface decoration in emulation of St Mark's is the principal characteristic, and the overall effect derives from the rich encrustration of shimmering coloured marbles and the circular patterns, derived from the basilica.[212] Similarly, the Foscari Arch in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace is based on ancient triumphal arches but owes its detailing to the nearby basilica: the superimposed columns clustered together, the Gothic pinnacles, and the crowning statuary.[213][214] At the Scuola Grande di San Marco, the reference to St Mark's is made in the series of lunettes along the roofline which recalls the profile of the basilica.[215]


Mosaics[edit]

The oldest mosaics in St Mark's, located in the niches of the entry porch in the narthex, may date to as early as 1070.[216] Although Byzantine in style, they are somewhat antiquated with respect to contemporary trends in Byzantium. They are dependent on late Macedonian art, having their closest parallel in the earlier mosaics of Hosios Loukas, and do not reflect the later developments of the Komnenian period. Most likely, they were executed by mosaicists who had left Constantinople in the mid-eleventh century to work on the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello and then remained in the local area.[217] More modern but still archaic in style are the figures in the main apse of the church which were done in the late-eleventh and early-twelfth centuries.[218]

Mosaics in the Dome of Immanuel: the prophet Jeremiah, dating to the first quarter of the twefth century, (left) and the prophet Isaiah, probably executed between 1170 and 1180 (right)

The most important period of decoration was the twelfth century when Venice's relations with Byzantium alternated between political tensions that limited artistic influence from the East and moments of intense trade and cooperation that favoured the Venetians' awareness of eastern prototypes as well as the influx of Byzantine mosaicists and materials.[219] The three figures in the Dome of Immanuel that date to the first quarter of the century (Jeremiah, Hosea, and Habakkuk) are the work of highly skilled mosaicists, likely Greek-trained. They demonstrate the greater classicism and realism of middle-Byzantine painting in Constantinople but also local trends in the harsher and broken lines.[220][note 40] In succeeding phases of work in the choir chapels and the transept, Byzantine miniatures were copied more or less faithfully for the mosaics, but any eastern influence that could reflect the latest artistic developments in Constantinople is hardly traceable.[221] A new and direct awareness of artistic developments in Constantinople is indicated in the style of the Dome of Pentecost, executed sometime in the first half of the twelfth century.[222]

In the last third of the twelfth century, a large portion of the mosaics in the Dome of Immanuel and the entirety of the Dome of the Ascension and of several vaults in the western crossarm had to be completely redone in consequence of a catastrophic event, the nature and date of which are not known.[223] Local influence is evident. But the more vigorous poses, agitated draperies, expressiveness, and heightened contrast show the partial assimilation of the developing dynamic style in Constantinople.[224] The mosaics in the Dome of the Ascension and those depicting the Passion in the nearby vault represent the maturity of the Venetian mosaic school and are one of the great achievements of Medieval art.[225]

Mosaic in the right lateral nave depicting the Agony in the Garden (early thirteenth century)
Andrea del Castagno (cartoon), mosaic in the Mascoli Chapel depicting the Dormition of the Virgin (c. 1442–1443)

After the removal of the galleries, the mosaic decoration was extended onto the lower walls, beginning in the thirteenth century. The first mosaic, depicting the Agony in the Garden, represents a synthesizing of various traditions, both eastern and western. Traces remain of the complicated patterns of the late Komnenian period. But the statuesque quality of the figures, which are also more rounded, reflect contemporary developments in Byzantine art such as can be seen at Studenica Monastery. Concurrently, an elegance associated with western Gothic appears and is fused with the Byzantine traditions. The Gothic influence becomes more pronounced in later mosaics of the period with patterned backgrounds that derive from the stained-glass windows in French churches.[226]

The interior mosaics were apparently complete by the 1270s, with work on the narthex continuing into the 1290s. Although some activity must have still been underway in 1308 when the Great Council allowed a glass furnace on Murano to produce mosaic material for St Mark's during the summer, by 1419 no competent mosaicist remained to repair the extensive damage to the main apse and western dome caused by a fire that year. The Venetian government had to consequently seek assistance from the Signoria of Florence which sent Paolo Uccello.[227] Other Florentine artists, including Andrea del Castagno, were also active in St Mark's in the mid-fifteenth century, introducing a sense of perspective largely achieved with architectural settings. In this same period, Michele Giambono executed mosaics as did the Greek Byzantine painter Nikolaos Philanthropinos of Constantinople.[228][note 41]

By the time a new fire in 1439 made repairs once again necessary, a number of Venetian mosaicists had been trained. Some of the replacement mosaics they created show a Florentine influence; others reflect Renaissance developments in the detailing and the modelling of the figures. But overall the replacement mosaics in this period closely imitated the design of the damaged works and were intended to look medieval.[229]

Tintoretto workshop (cartoon), mosaic in the central nave depicting the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (sixteenth century)

Efforts to maintain the stylistic integrity of the medieval works whenever repairs and restorations became necessary were largely abandoned in the sixteenth century. Often in the absence of any need to restore mosaics but under the sole pretense of replacing old and outdated mosaics with Renaissance and Mannerist ones, renowned artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Giuseppe Salviati, Palma Giovane increasingly competed for work in the church, preparing preliminary sketches for 'modern' mosaics, considered artistically superior, with little attempt to stylistically integrate the new figures and scenes into the older compositions.[230] Beginning in 1610, several decrees were emanated aimed at curbing the phenomenon, the primary objectives being to limit cost and to preserve the inscriptions of the decorative programme which were attributed to Joachim of Fiore and said to contain prophecies concerning the republic.[231]

In addition to damage from fire and earthquake as well as from the vibrations that resulted whenever cannon and mortar were fired in salute from ships in the lagoon, the normal decay of the underlying masonry made it necessary to repeatedly repair the mosaics.[231] In 1716, Leopoldo dal Pozzo, a mosaicist from Rome, was commissioned to assume responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the mosaics in St Mark's, the local craftsmen having once again largely died out. Dal Pozzo also executed a few new mosaics based on preliminary drawings by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and Sebastiano Ricci.[231] An exclusive contract for restoration was stipulated in 1867 with the mosaic workshop run by the Salviati glassmaking firm, whose highly criticized restoration work often involved removing and resetting the mosaics, usually with a considerable loss of quality. Although the original iconographic programme has been largely preserved, despite centuries of restoration and renewal, and roughly three-fourths of the mosaics maintain their earlier compositions and styles, only about a third can be considered original.[232][note 42]

Administration[edit]

Under the Venetian Republic, St Mark's was the private chapel of the Doge: he was its patron (patronus) and governor (gubernator). The primicerius, responsible for the religious functions, was nominated by the Doge personally, and despite several attempts by the Bishop of Olivolo/Castello (after 1451 Patriarch of Venice) to claim jurisdiction over St Mark's, the primicerius remained subject to the Doge alone.[note 43] After 1251, by concession of Pope Innocent IV, he was entitled to wear a mitre and ring and to carry a crosier for certain occasions.[233][234] The Doge additionally appointed the vicar, the canons, the sacristan, and the sub-sacristans.[235]

Beginning in the ninth century, the Doge also nominated a procurator operis ecclesiae Sancti Marci, responsible for the financial administration of the church, its upkeep, and its decoration.[236] By the mid-thirteenth century there were two procurators in charge of the church, denominated de supra (Ecclesiam sancti Marci). Elected by the Great Council, they supervised the church in temporalibus, limiting the authority of the Doge. In 1442, there were three procurators de supra who administered the church and its treasury.[237][238] The procurators in turn nominated the sub-cannons, deacons, and sub-deacons.[235] They also hired and paid the proto (consultant architect and buildings manager), directly responsible for overseeing construction, maintenance, and restoration.[239] However, a decree of the Great Council in 1556 forbade the Doge and the procurators to undertake any construction in the church without the approval of the Minor Council, consisting in the Doge's counsellors, and the Council of Forty, responsible for fiscal affairs.[240]

St Mark's ceased to be the private chapel of the Doge as a result of the fall of the Republic of Venice to the French in 1797, and the primicerius was required to take an oath of office under the provisional municipal government. At that time, plans began to transfer the seat of the Patriarch of Venice from San Pietro di Castello to St Mark's.[241] However, no action was taken before Venice passed under Austrian control in 1798 by terms of the Treaty of Campo Formio. During the first period of Austrian rule (1798–1805), it was alternatively suggested that the episcopal seat be moved to the Church of San Salvador, but again no action was taken until 1807 when, during the second period of French domination (1805–1814), St Mark's became the patriarchal cathedral. The new status was confirmed by Emperor Francis I of Austria in 1816 during the second period of Austrian rule (1814–1866) and by Pope Pius VII in 1821.[242][note 44]

Liturgy[edit]

Rite[edit]

From the Patriarchates of Aquileia and Grado, Venice inherited the patriarchal rite (rito patriarchino), which adhered closer than other western rites to the ancient liturgical rite of the Church. It also included adaptations for local and political circumstances as well as limited Greek features that reflected Venice's contacts in the East.[243] Until 1456, the patriarchal rite was practiced throughout Venice, after which, by papal brief of Pope Callixtus III, it remained the state liturgy of St Mark's only.[244][note 45] It was replaced by the Roman rite on 19 October 1807 when St Mark's became the cathedral church of the Patriarchate of Venice.[245]

In practice, the patriarchal rite with respect to the Roman rite varied the use of liturgical colours, limiting black to periods of misfortune, particularly during the plague. A further distinction was made for female saints with the use of green for those who were neither virgins (white) nor martyrs (red). Most sacred services were longer in the patriarchal rite with forty-one invocations to the Virgin and more litanies of the saints sung in connection with the benedictions of sacred objects.[246] There were also additions to specific rites and sacraments, notably the benediction of water on the vigil of Epiphany following Byzantine custom.[247]

A special role in liturgical celebrations was exercised by the Doge. In some instances, such as the ceremonial washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, this role mirrored the functions performed by monarchs elsewhere in Europe.[248] But other practices were unique to the patriarchal rite, which could be amended to reflect the wishes of the Doge.[249][note 46]

Calendar[edit]

In addition to the Christian holy days of the Roman calendar, the Venetian liturgical calendar included specifically Venetian feasts that commemorated the translatio (31 January) and the inventio (25 June). The Feast of Saint Mark (25 April) was solemnly celebrated, as was the vigil. The feasts of Saint Pietro Orseolo (14 January) and of Saint Isidore (16 April) were also observed in St Mark's.[250][note 47] For some holy days, the Doge attended mass in specific churches to commemorate historical events but then returned to St Mark's for a formal procession.[note 48]


Matteo Pagan, Procession of the Doge on Palm Sunday (1556–1560)


For major solemnities, the ducal cortege descended from the Doge's Palace and entered the church. The procession opened with eight standard bearers, followed by heralds and six trumpeters. Next came the squires of the foreign ambassadors, musicians, the cavalier of the Doge and sixteen ducal squires, the canons of St Mark's, and the Patriarch. The ducal symbols of the white candle and the corno ducale were carried, as was a faldstool. Ducal stewards, notaries of the Great Council, the Doge's chaplain, the Grand Chancellor, and the young Ballotino preceded the Doge who walked under a golden umbrella and was typically accompanied by the papal nuncio and the imperial orator, as the two highest-ranking ambassadors, and by a sword-bearer. The cortege concluded with the Signoria, the procurators, and other high-ranking government officials.[251][252][253]

Music[edit]

Canaletto, Ceremony of the Easter Mass in San Marco, showing the choir in the pulpitum magnum cantorum

An expense note for repairs from 1316 indicates that St Mark's already possessed more than one organ, presumably two located in the galleries on either side of the chancel. Over time, they were repeatedly renewed and replaced. Of the organs rebuilt in 1766 by Gaetano Callido [it], the 'small organ' (organum parvum) in the southern gallery remains, whereas the 'big organ' organum magnum in the northern gallery was again rebuilt in 1893, with components from Callido's organ.[note 49] A smaller third organ for concerts was located on the floor level after 1588.[254][255]

Documents also record the use of other instruments for liturgical celebrations, including violins, violas, viole da braccio, violoni, theorbos, cornetts, sackbuts, bassoons, and later flutes, trumpets, and oboes. The number of instruments was fixed at thirty-four in 1685, adjusted to thirty-five in 1786.[256][note 50] Organists, singers, and instrumentalists were selected by the procurators of Saint Mark on the basis of a rigorous examination.[257][258][note 51] Many of the early instrumentalists and singers were members of the clergy, but from the mid-seventeenth century, the orphanages attached to the four state hospices supplied the best musicians.[259] Renowned musicians were also invited to perform for special functions.[260]

Beginning in 1491, the procurators also appointed a choirmaster (maestro di cappella) who supervised and conducted all performances.[261] He was assisted by the vice-maestro di cappella and by the maestro di concerti, the directors of the two choirs. The maestro di coro, established in 1514, supervised the plainchant sung by the clergy.[262][263]

All musicians and singers were obligated to be present whenever the Doge attended mass for solemn occasions.[264] They were positioned in the tribunes on either side of the chancel or in the pulpitum magnum cantorum, the large raised platform in front of the altarscreen on the right.[note 52] For more elaborate compositions with multiple choirs in the seventeenth century, singers and musicians could also be positioned in the upper galleries.[265]

This division of the choir into parts and their physical separation, coro spezzato, was integral to the Venetian polychoral style, the development of which was favoured by the particular acoustic qualities of St Mark's.[266][note 53] The style was characterized by two groups, each having a self-sufficient four-part harmony without dissonance, singing alternatively or simultaneously for effect, particularly at the end of a composition.[267] It originated in the early sixteenth century in several cities of the Venetian mainland, including Padua, Bergamo, Treviso, and was introduced into St Mark's by Adrian Willaert who was nominated choirmaster in 1527 at the behest of Doge Andrea Gritti.[268] The style continued to develop and was popularized throughout Europe by means of the compositions of various choirmasters, including Cipriano de Rore, Gioseffo Zarlino, Giovanni Croce, and Claudio Monteverdi, as well as organists such as Claudio Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli.[269] Although plainchant and falsobordone continued to be used, psalms sung with coro spezzato were common for vespers and were specifically required for all major holy days.[270][271]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The conventional title of basilica is traceable to as early as 979. See Pompeo G. Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges' p. 86.
  2. ^ Despite the decision of the Synod of Mantua in 827, Pope Gregory IV continued to recognize Grado's episcopal status. The metropolitan title was changed, however, from Patriarch of New Aquileia to Patriarch of Grado. Attempts by the patriarchs of Aquileia to invade Grado militarily in 880 and 944 and enforce the decision were unsuccessful, and in 967 a new synod recognized Grado's metropolitan jurisdiction over Venice. Grado's status was confirmed in 1024. But renewed efforts by Aquileia led to a synod in 1027 that reversed the decision and striped Grado completely of its episcopal status. This new decision was largely without effect due to the resistance of the Venetians who came to the military defense of Grado. A new synod in 1044 once again recognized the metropolitan rights and privileges of Grado with the title of New Aquileia, and in 1153, the Patriarch of New Aquileia (Grado) was acknowledged as the only legitimate successor of the original Patriarch of Aquileia and, as such, was due the honor of the second oldest church in Italy, after Rome. See Renato D'Antiga, 'Origini del culto marciano…', p. 232 and Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, pp. 34–37.
  3. ^ In some versions of the translatio the suggestion to remove the body of Saint Mark is made by Theodore, in others by the Venetian merchants. See Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, p. 81, note 42.
  4. ^ Beginning in the eleventh century, the translatio was commemorated in the Venetian liturgical calendar on 31 January. See John Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, p. 84. It is also recorded in three mosaic cycles: on the western façade of the basilica, in the Zen Chapel, and above the right choir. See Michela Agazzi, 'San Marco…', p. 25.
  5. ^ The inventio was consistent with medieval hagiography which often narrated three events for important saints: the martyrdom, the translation of the body, and the miraculous rediscovery of the relics. See Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, p. 87. The relics of Saint Luke were similarly rediscovered at the Church of Saint Justine in Padua on 14 April 1117. See Joseph M. Holden, The Harvest Handbook of Apologetics (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2018), pp. 207–208 ISBN 9780736974288. See also Elena Ene Draghici-Vasilescu's discussion on the legendary rediscovery of sacred relics in 'The Church of San Marco...', p. 701, note 20.
  6. ^ The tower is traditionally identified with the structure, now incorporated into the basilica, that houses the treasury of St Mark's. See John Warren, 'La prima chiesa di san Marco…', p. 190.
  7. ^ The property, donated to the monastery around 824 by Doge Agnello Participazio (in office 810–827), was partially ceded back for the purpose. See John Warren, 'La prima chiesa di san Marco…', p. 189.
  8. ^ Samples extracted from the crypt and some pillasters suggest that the Participazio church was primarily constructed in brick and local stones, including Rosso ammonitico [it] from Verona, trachyte from the Euganean hills, sandstone from the foothills of the Alps, and Marble of Aurisina [it]. These were likely spolia from Altino, Oderzo, Conordia, Padua, and Ravenna and perhaps more distant ruins around the Adriatic and Mediterranean. Some rare marbles, such as cipollino marble and Proconnesian marble [it], were imported to adorn doorframes, architraves, and cornices. See Lorenzo Lazzarini, 'Le pietre e i marmi colorati della basilica di San Marco a Venezia', p. 310.
  9. ^ The date is recorded by John the Deacon in the Chronicon Venetum.
  10. ^ No traces of foundations to support lateral walls or colonnades exist at the juncture of the nave and transept, indicating that the walls and colonnades were not continuous and that the nave of the Participazio church was in fact intersected by a transept. Further, building materials and techniques indicate that the transept walls are contemporary to the walls of the nave. With regard to the foundation stones of the pillars that support the central dome, which are similar to the foundations of the ninth-century campanile, the Roman workmanship suggests that they are ancient spolia. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, pp. 65–66.
  11. ^ Otto Demus notes that the rapprochement of Venice and Byzantium was manifest in the interest of Byzantine emperors to found and build churches in Venice, many of which were dedicated to eastern saints. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, pp. 5 and 67.
  12. ^ Wladimiro Dorigo alternatively hypothesizes that the Participizio church corresponded only to the crypt, including the section, now walled, under the central dome, which Dorigo interprets as the remains of an early westwork. See Wladimiro Dorigo, Venezia romanica, I, pp. 20–21.
  13. ^ That the work was limited in scope seems confirmed in several chronicles which refer to "reintegrate" (redintegrare), "rebuild" (redifichar), "repair" (reparare), "restore" (restaurare), "complete" (complere). See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 69.
  14. ^ The date is given in the sixteenth-century chronicle of Stefano Magno, which derives from earlier annals. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 72
  15. ^ The identification of the Church of the Holy Apostles as the model for St Mark's is recorded in the early twelfth-century Translatio Sci Nicolai, composed by a monk from the Monastery of San Nicolò al Lido. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 90
  16. ^ The wall that separates the northern crossarm from the Chapel of Saint Isidore is generally believed to have been the southern wall of the Church of Saint Theodore. It contains two barred windows under the marble encrustation. The Church of Saint Theodore was built on the site corresponding to the Piazzetta dei Leoncini in the early years of the ninth century, probably 810–819, and served as the first ducal chapel. It was demolished at the time that the Contarini church was built, and space was annexed to St Mark's. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 73 and Wladimiro Dorigo, 'Fabbriche antiche del quartiere marciano', pp. 40–42
  17. ^ John Warren alternatively hypothecizes that the shaft dates to the ninth-century Participazio church and that it was part of a sentry post to protect the entry to the Doge's chapel. See John Warren, 'La prima chiesa di san Marco…', pp. 190–191.
  18. ^ See Lorenzo Lazzarini, 'Le pietre e i marmi colorati della basilica di San Marco a Venezia', pp. 317–326 for the catalogue of the stones used in St Mark's.
  19. ^ No gallery existed in the apse where there was an external passage that made it possible to walk around the entire perimeter of the church. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 88
  20. ^ The higher domes built in the early thirteenth century were replaced with the current domes after the fire of 6 March 1419, which destroyed the entire roof of the church. See Mario Piana,'Le sovracupole lignee di San Marco', p. 189
  21. ^ Chronicles date the enlargement of the square alternatively to the reigns of Vitale II Michiel (1156–1172) or Sebastiano Ziani (1172–1178). See Agazzi, Platea Sancti Marci…, p. 79.
  22. ^ The current statues were carved by Girolamo Albanese in 1618 in substitution of the originals, destroyed in the earthquake of 1511. See Giulio Lorenzetti, Venezia e il suo estuario..., p. 167
  23. ^ The legend of Venice's birth on 21 March 421 is traceable to at least the thirteenth-century chronicler Martino da Canal, Les estoires de Venise. It appears in the writings of Jacopo Dondi (Liber partium consilii magnifice comunitatis Padue, fourteenth century), Andrea Dandolo, Bernardo Giustiniani, Marin Sanudo, Marc'Antonio Sabellico, and Francesco Sansovino. See Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, pp. 70–71. In Venetian historiography, the legend conflates the beginning of the Christian era with the birth of Venice as a Christian republic and affirmed Venice's unique place and role in history as an act of divine grace. See David Rosand, Myths of Venice..., pp. 12–16
  24. ^ Michael Jacoff's proposed interpretation of the placement of the horses as an allusion to the quadriga domini is controversial. For the original thesis, see Michael Jacoff, The Horses of San Marco and the quadriga of the Lord (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) ISBN 9780691032702. See also the following reviews: Marshall, Louise, Parergon, Volume 13, Number 2 (January 1996), 260-262, ISSN 0313-6221; Russo, Daniel,Revue de l'Art, 105 (Année 1994), 75, ISSN 0035-1326; Diemer, Peter, Speculum, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Oct 1996), 965–967, ISSN 2040-8072; Carabell, Paula, Renaissance Quarterly, 49, 33 (1996), 680–681, ISSN 0034-4338.
  25. ^ For the history of the pillars, see Robert S. Nelson, 'The History of Legends and the Legends of History: The Pilastri Acritani in Venice', in Henry Maguire and Robert S. Nelson, ed., San Marco, Byzantium, and the Myths of Venice, (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, 2010) pp. 63–90 ISBN 9780884023609.
  26. ^ The central and western domes measure approximately 13 metres (43 ft) in diameter, whereas the eastern, northern, and southern domes range from around 10 metres (33 ft) to 11 metres (36 ft). See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, p. 88.
  27. ^ The depicted prophets are Isaiah, King David, King Solomon, Malachi, Zechariah, Haggai, Jeremiah, Daniel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jonah, and Hosea. The scrolls of Zephaniah and Jonah refer to the Last Judgement, whereas the scroll of Hosea references the Resurrection. See Otto Demus, Demus, The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco Venice, p. 58
  28. ^ The pendentives of the central dome were the inspiration for the "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme", one of the most well-known and widely cited papers in biology (Google Scholar [accessed 8 January 2022]). It is based on an analogy between the spandrels [recte pendentives], which sit between the arches and support the domes, and various biological traits and features. The authors, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, argue that the spandrels are the inevitable spaces that exist when a dome is placed above arches rather than design elements and that many biological traits are similarly the side effects of functional traits rather than adaptive traits in themselves. See Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, 'The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 205.1161 (21 September 1979), 581–598 ISSN 0370-1662.
  29. ^ In addition to the theological virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) and the cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence, Justice) the dome includes the beatitudes of Humility, Kindness, Compunction, Abstinence, Mercy, Patience, Chastity, Modesty, and Constancy. See Otto Demus, The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco Venice, p. 66.
  30. ^ The apostles and evangelists are (counter clockwise) Peter, Mark, James, Simon, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Luke, Andrew, Bartholomew, John, and Paul. The four evangelists and Paul hold books in reference to their biblical writings.
  31. ^ The nations depicted are (counter clockwise) the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, the Elamites, the Medes, the Parthians, the Arabs, the Cretans, the Jews, the Romans, the Libyans, the Egyptians, the Pamphylians, the Phrygians, the Pontics, the Cappadocians, and the inhabitants of Judea.
  32. ^ Examples from Antiquity of opus sectile and opus tessellatum used together exist at Zliten and Ostia Antica. In Venice, the combination of techniques is also found in Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello, Santi Maria e Donato on Murano, and San Zaccaria. See Yvette Florent-Goudouneix, 'I pavimenti in «opus sectile» nelle chiese di Venezia e della laguna', p. 26
  33. ^ The accompanying inscriptions present as legitimate excepts from documents that were actually falsified by the Patriarchate of Grado to validate its claims to metropolitan jurisdiction over Venice, Istria, and Dalmatia. For a discussion of the 'Grado Theory', see Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, pp. 37–39.
  34. ^ The new role of the Madonna Nicopeia followed the translation of De la Conquête de Constantinople, a thirteenth-century eyewitness account of the fall of Constantinople to the crusaders and Venetians in 1204 by Geoffrey of Villehardouin. The sixteenth-century translation, by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, is an historical reconstruction that gives a greater role to the Venetians than the original text. It relates that the icon, carried into battle by the Byzantines, falls into their hands. See Stefan Samerski, La Nikopeia..., pp. 29–32.
  35. ^ The exact date of the rediscovery of the body in the mid-fourteenth century is not known, nor are the circumstances. See Michele Tomasi, 'Prima, dopo, attorno la cappella...', p. 17.
  36. ^ The body was stolen on 7 December 1124 by the Venetian cleric Cerbano Cerbani, together with soldiers under Michiel's command, and then consigned to the Doge. See Michele Tomasi, 'Prima, dopo, attorno la cappella...', p. 16.
  37. ^ The other baptisteries were in San Pietro di Castello, San Silvestro, Santa Maria Formosa, and Santa Maria del Giglio. The baptistery of San Marco also served the associated churches of San Basso, San Geminiano, and San Giuliano. See Debra Pincus, 'Geografia e politica nel battistero di san Marco…', p. 459.
  38. ^ Access was possible through the southern entry to the church. The door that now opens directly onto the Piazzetta seems to have been created after the southern entry was closed in the early sixteenth century. See Holger A. Klein, 'Refashioning Byzantium in Venice...', p. 207, note 42.
  39. ^ The Seraph is depicted with a sword, the Cherub with ten wings, the Throne with crown and sceptre, the Domination with a rod and a weight scale, the Virtue with a column of fire, the Power with keys and chains, and the Principality with armour. The Archangel and the Angel deliver souls from bondage. See Giulio Lorenzetti, Venezia e il suo estuario..., p. 207.
  40. ^ The upper part of Daniel also dates to the first part of the twelfth century. See Otto Demus, The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco Venice, p. 25
  41. ^ Philanthropinos is mentioned as the master mosaicist (prothomagister) in the early 1430s. See Michael Angold, The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans Context and Consequences (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2014), pp. 50–51 ISBN 9781317880516 and Lynn Jones, Byzantine Images and Their Afterlives Essays in Honor of Annemarie Weyl Carr (London: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014, p. 172 ISBN 9781409442912.
  42. ^ To aid in future restorations, a mapping of all the mosaic surfaces was completed in 2017 using photogrammetry and orthophotos. It was realized a web navigable path providing 2D and 3D high resolution images, ordered into a continuous plane of light, devoid of any shadow zone. See Andrea Adami and others, 'Image-based Techniques for the Survey of Mosaics...', pp. 16–17.
  43. ^ The chapter of the basilica chose five of its members who in turn selected for the Doge's approval a nominee who had to be of noble and legitimate birth and at least twenty-five years of age. If a layman, he was first ordained and then invested by the Doge. See Apollonio, 'The Primicerj of Saint Mark's', p. 155–156.
  44. ^ The Austrian emperor maintained high patronage of the basilica until 1821. See Pompeo G. Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', p. 89 note 1.
  45. ^ The patriarchal rite remained in use for the formal annual visits of the Doge to select churches. See Deborah Howard, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 22
  46. ^ The Doge responded to the introit at the beginning of the liturgical ceremony; and assisted by six canons, he recited the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, and the Agnus Dei. He also kissed the Gospel before the officiating priest and was incensed. See Antonio Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', p. 187.
  47. ^ On the Feast of Saint Isidore, the Doge also commemorated the deliverance of the city from the Falier conspiracy on 14 April 1355. See Pompeo Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', p. 94.
  48. ^ Among other annual visits, the Doge attended masses followed by processions in St Mark's at the Church of Saints Vitus and Modestus [it] (15 June) to record the failed conspiracy of Baimonte Tiepolo in 1310, the Basilica of Saints John and Paul (26 June) to commemorate the victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of the Dardanelles in 1656, the Church of Saint Marina (17 July) to celebrate the reconquest of Padua in 1512 during the War of the League of Cambrai, the Church of Saint Justine (7 October) to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, and the Basilica of the Most Holy Redeemer (third Sunday in July) to honour a vow made to invoke the end of the plague in 1576. See Pompeo Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', pp. 94–96.
  49. ^ Acoustic studies, conducted in 2007, revealed that from the galleries, the sound of the organs is loud and resonant. See Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 30.
  50. ^ The 1685 decree of the procurators, confirmed in 1714, stipulated 8 violins, 11 violas, 2 viole da braccio, 3 violoni, 4 theorbos, 2 cornetts, 1 bassoon, and 3 sackbuts. After 1786, the instruments were 12 violins, 6 violas, 4 violincellos, 5 violoni, 4 oboes and flutes, and 4 horns and trumpets. The cornett could be used to substitute the voice of a soprano or contralto, whereas the sackbut was used in substitution of a bass voice. The bassoon frequently gave the pitch to the choir and was useful for blending harmonies together. See Francesco Fapanni and Gabriele Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 199–201.
  51. ^ The standard examination for organists, probably from the late sixteenth century, consisted in three tests. The first involved the random extraction of a Kyrie movement or another motet, in polyphony, which the candidate was expected to extemporize with various rhythms and melodies as if for four singers. The second test consisted in the random extraction of plainsong which was to then be played for a bass, a tenor, and a soprano with appropriate fugues. For the third test, the choir sung an uncommon polyphonic piece and the candidate was to improvise the music. See Francesco Fapanni and Gabriele Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 208 and, in general, Arnaldo Morelli, 'Concorsi organistici a san Marco...'.
  52. ^ Acoustic studies in 2007 revealed that from the tribunes, the sound is clear and focused. It reverberates within a relatively enclosed space and is then projected outward. Also, the space between the opposing tribunes is ideal for a split choir, but not so great as to create problems of time lag and intonation. From the raised platform in front of the altarscreen, the sound is projected into the chancel, the altarscreen helping to block later sound reflections from the main part of the church. See Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 39, 41.
  53. ^ As demonstrated by acoustic studies in 2007, the configuration of the church makes it possible for sound to flow through the smaller, interconnected domed spaces, allowing for later reflections from the resonant surface of the marble revetments yet avoiding the excessive reverberation of larger churches. Also the slightly irregular surface of the mosaics diminishes the otherwise disturbing focus of sound under the domes. See Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., pp. 19–20

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  238. ^ Da Mosto, Andrea, L'Archivio di Stato di Venezia, indice generale, storico, descrittivo ed analitico, Archived 2021-11-13 at the Wayback Machine (Roma: Biblioteca d'Arte editrice, 1937), p. 25
  239. ^ Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., pp. 8–9
  240. ^ Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', pp. 89–90
  241. ^ Scarabello, 'Il primiceriato di San Marco...', pp. 153–154
  242. ^ Scarabello, 'Il primiceriato di San Marco...', pp. 155–156
  243. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', p. 175
  244. ^ Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, p. 77
  245. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', p. 174
  246. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', pp. 177, 180
  247. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', pp. 182–183
  248. ^ Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, p. 261
  249. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', p. 176
  250. ^ Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', pp. 94–96
  251. ^ Molmenti, 'The Giuspatronato of the Doges', pp. 84–85
  252. ^ Pasini, 'Ancient Rite and Ceremonial of the Basilica', p. 188
  253. ^ Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, pp. 189–200
  254. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., pp. 24, 28
  255. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 196–198
  256. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', pp. 199–201
  257. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 208
  258. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 25
  259. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 207
  260. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 200
  261. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 209
  262. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 24
  263. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 202
  264. ^ Fapanni and Fantoni, 'The Cappella Musicale', p. 203
  265. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 38
  266. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 41
  267. ^ Moretti, 'Architectural Spaces for Music'..., pp. 154–155
  268. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., pp. 26–28
  269. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 27
  270. ^ Howard and Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice..., p. 28
  271. ^ Moretti, 'Architectural Spaces for Music'..., p. 154

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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°26′04″N 12°20′23″E / 45.43444°N 12.33972°E / 45.43444; 12.33972