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Traditional architecture of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice

Traditional architecture of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice


St. Mark's Cathedral Basilica (in Italian: Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco) in Venice is the most important basilica in Venice. Built in 828, rebuilt after the fire which ravaged the ducal palace in 976, it is, since 1807, the cathedral of the patriarch of Venice. It is located in Piazza San Marco, in the San Marco district, which owes its name to it.

St. Mark's Church is a domed church, modeled after Byzantine buildings: it forms a Greek cross plan 76.5 m long and 62.6 m wide. The central cupola covers the cross of the four branches, each surmounted by its own dome. The main cupolas reach a height of 45 m. It is to the close ties of the Republic of Venice with Byzantium that we owe this recourse of every instant to the models of Byzantine art. The influence of the Church of the Holy Apostles of Constantinople (536-546) seems most striking. Saint-Marc is therefore in no way inspired by contemporary Italian constructions, but remains strictly faithful to the hieratic forms of his model. The additions of the thirteenth century remained in conformity with this spirit of Byzantine art, while the fourteenth century saw St. Mark's deliberate introduction of the Gothic style.

The splitting of the two-storey main facade affirms the recognition of St. Mark of Venice as a state church, but it also symbolizes the triumph over Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade. The sumptuous decoration, by the abundance of ancient columns of marble, porphyry, jasper, serpentine, alabaster, the innumerable sculptures of different periods and the mosaics of the portals leave an impression of immense wealth. As early as the thirteenth century, the sculptures of the archivolts of the five middle gates showed the opulence of the Venetian corporations, with the representations of the twelve months and the allegories of the Virtues. The original mosaics of the 13th century have been preserved only above the Sant'Alipio gate to the north. The gallery, on the upper floor, is dominated by copies of the famous antique gilt bronze quadriga of St. Mark's Horses, which, like many columns and sculptures, were removed to Constantinople in 1204. © Photo of Emmanuel Buchot

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