Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale
The text below about the San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale was written by Roos Stalpers and Fee van ’t Veen.
|Piazza San Marco aerial Youtube Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale by drone|
|Entrance San Marco large size|
|Piazza San Marco big size San Marco aerial|
|San Marco facade open Cross section Video Khan Academy San Marco (4.52 minutes)|
|Upper part southern side wall|
|Gentile Bellini ‘Procession of the True Cross in Piazza San Marco, 1496 detail big size Canaletto Piazza 1740-1750 San Marco detail Facade Whole painting|
In this church it is clearly visible that Venice and Byzantium (Turkey) maintained close contacts. The Byzantine traditions and styles have mingled with western elements, resulting in a unique combination. The name and the emblem of San Marco – a lion with wings – are found all over Venice.
|Large size Marcus on the top|
Legend goes that Saint Marcus the evangelist came to Venice when he was going from Aquileia to Rome in the ninth century. Marcus received a vision from an angel who predicted that Venice would be the city he would die in. The prediction came true. The dead body of Marcus was found by two Venetian merchants in Alexandria in Egypt who smuggled it, hidden beneath pork, to Venice (in the rich decoration of the façade of the San Marco is a mosaic that pictures the transport of the dead body of Marcus)
|Porta San Alipio big size Coffin with Saint Marcus is carried inside Mosaic 1265|
The dead body was entrusted to Doge Giustiniano Particiaco. He gave an order to build a church in honour to the Saint Evangelist. This first church was lost in a fire in 976. A second church was built, and was broken down in the eleventh century to make room for an even more impressive basilica. The church that is in Venice today was built in 1063, and was based on the shape of the first church. The architect is unknown. The basilica has undergone some alterations over the centuries, after it served as a private chapel for the doges, it became the cathedral of Venice. The ground plan of the church exists out of a Greek cross, crowned by five cupolas. The design was strongly influenced by the Church of the holy Apostles in Constantinople (Istanbul) from the sixth century.
|Click [here] for the ground floor of San Marco|
|1. Double ambo, 14th century|
2. Iconostasis with statues, 14th century
3. Ambo of the relics, 14th century
4. Bronze reliefs of Sansovino
5. Altar of H. Paulus, 15th century
6. Madonna Nicopeia, Byzantine icon, 13th century
7. Chapel of St. Isidorus 1354-1355
8. Chapel of Madonna dei Mascoli
9. Relief Madonna dello Schioppo, early 14th century
10. Capitello del Crocifisso 13e eeuw
11. Porphyry holy water basin
12. Altar of San Giacomo 1462-1471
13. Altar of Sacrements 1617
14. Iconostasis statues, 14th century
|15. Chapel of San Clemente|
16. High Altar
17. Pala d’Oro
18. Door Sacristy, Sansovino
19. Treasure room
21. Zen chapel
A. 12th century mosaics
B. 13th century mosaics
C. 14th century mosaics
D. 15th century mosaics
E. 16th century mosaics
F. 17th century mosaics
G. 19th century mosaics
|Zen Chapel early 16th century|
Tomb of cardinal Giovanni Battista Zen Mary
Vincenzo Abbati ‘Interno Cappella Zen San Marco Venezia’ 19th century
|Altar of San Giacomo and Chapel of Saint Clemens|
|Baptistery big size Detail Antonietta Brandeis ‘Battistero’ 1910|
Over the centuries, the sanctuary was decorated with all sorts of decorations, like mosaics, marble and statues. The church contains many art treasures, which are certainly worth your effort. Many of these treasures were brought to Venice as spoils of war after the Fourth Crusade and the Fall of Constantinopel. The Madonna Nicopeia, a Byzantine icon from the 13th century, was very special. This icon went on war with the Byzantines and always brought good luck. This precious treasury got a prominent place in the basilica with a baldachin as crown.
|San Marco Madonna Nicopeia|
|A prayer by Madonna Nicopia and the icon|
The famous Bronze Horses were also part of the loot. If you climb the stairs in the church, you can still see the replicas of the four horses. You can also enjoy a great view over the Piazza San Maco. The church just oozes wealth. That’s why this was the place in which the doge was presented after the elections and where heads of State, popes and princes were received.
|The four original horses big size Four horses (replicas) on the facade Two horses (replicas) on the facade|
|‘’Every horse is made of two parts: the body and legs, and the head. Some say the Venetians severed the heads from the bodies themselves, for the purpose of transport from Constantinople to Venice. Their collars hide the ‘seams’. Apparently, the heads were then placed on the wrong bodies.’|
Cited and translated uit: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p.84
The gold mosaics that cover a big part of the cupolas, walls and floors were started in 1063. These early mosaics were made by mosaic workers from the East. A combination of western and Byzantine styles originated because the Venetians took over from the eastern mosaic workers. The most beautiful mosaics in the church are in the Cupola of Ascension (the central cupola) and in the Pentecostal Cupola from the 12th century. In the vestibule are on entry (west side) and on the left mosaics visible from the 12th and 13th century. These mosaics depict several events from the Old Testament, such as Creation and the lives of Abraham and Joseph.
|Narthex north and west side|
|Exterior Mosaics in the four cupolas Mosaic big size|
photo domes: Jonathan ☂ James
|Cupola of Ascension and Pentecost Christ Topside and dome|
|Cupola of Pentecost big size|
|Carlo Grubas ‘Nave of the San Marco’ whole painting 19th century|
Canaletto ‘Interior San Marco’ c. 1755 Interior today nave 2019
The end of the mosaic art was heralded when a lot of well-known Venetian painters (Titian, Tinoretto, Salviati) started to make designs for mosaics and a part of the original mosaics was replaced. The artists forgot that a good mosaic does not have the same requirements as a good painting.
Mosaics became paintings effected in mosaic. Despite the many additions and destructions, the original medieval scheme has largely been preserved (see map a till g). The mosaics were cleaned and restored to their original state in the 1970s. Furthermore, art historian Otto Demus conducted a large study. In the cathedral, we will not only pay attention to the mosaics above us, but also to the 12th century floor, comprised of a colourful geometric mosaic of antique marble, purple stone and glass with pictures of animals and birds. Click here at Web Gallery of Art for more images of the mosaics (11th-13th centuries).
|San Marco view on left transept|
Mosaic view of altar
|Choir screen big size Ambo Choir screen Canaletto Choir about 1755 detail|
|‘There are two PULPITS in the church. The one to the right of the choir was predominantly used to introduce the newly elected doge to the public, and is still used today by the patriarch of Venice when he delivers a speech. The one to the left is a very rare pulpit because it has two floors, which may very well be the only one in the world. The top floor is meant for lectures from the gospels, the bottom floor for reading Old Testament texts or Apostolic Letters.|
Cited and translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p.89
The choir of the church was built over a crypt and is being separated of the rest of the church by a roodscreen. The main altar in the choir is covered with a baldachin that is supported by four sculptured alabaster columns with scenes from the New Testament.
|Main altar with a baldachin|
The sarcophagus in which Saint Marcus is buried is kept beneath the altar. You can see the sarcophagus through a bronze gate. According to legend, the body of Saint Marcus was lost in the fire of 976, but appeared miraculously when the new church was consecrated in 1094.
|Paolo Veneziano ‘Rediscover the relics of Mark’ 1345 big size|
|“According to popular belief, after a long period of praying and fasting during Holy Mass at the inauguration of the new basilisk on June 26, 1094, a scratching noise was heard coming from a pillar in the right transept, with the stone beginning to flake and a vibration was felt. Slowly, the startled crowd started to realize what was happening. First they saw a finger, then a hand, then an entire arm and finally the entire body of the saint emerged from the pillar. The gathered crowd, priests and canons, even the doge himself; all stood witness to this extraordinary event. A marble plate on the inside of the left pillar across from the Sacrament altar (left in the side aisle, immediately left behind the altar of San Giacomo) indicate this miracle’s location. The remains were then first placed in a crypt below the church, but placed underneath the main altar in the nineteenth century.”|
Cited and translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p.83
Behind the main altar is the most precious treasure of the basilica: the Pala d’Oro.
|Altar with the Pala d’Oro|
|‘According to an inventory taken in 1796, the altarpiece [Pala d’Oro] has eighty enamel depictions and is set with thirteen-hundred pearls, four-hundred garnets (a dark-red semi-precious stone), three-hundred sapphires (blue), three-hundred emeralds (green), ninety rubies (red), ninety amethysts (purple), four topazes (greyish blue or firey yellow) and two antique cameos (relief carving). That makes for a total of 2486, but Napoleon took some in 1797, leaving the current count of the Pala d’Oro at 1927 precious stones. Start counting!”|
Cited and translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p.89
This is an altar screen covered with gold foil on which various scenes are being depicted. The artwork is covered with over 2600 pearls, emeralds, rubies and other gems. It is seen as the most sensational work created by medieval goldsmiths. The altarpiece was made in 976 in Constantinople, but was expanded later on.
|Pala d’Oro big size Christ on the throne|
There is a small door in the south transept that leads to the treasure house of the basilica. The treasure house contains a large amount of war booty from after the Fall of Constantinople in 1204. Many of the treasures were melted in times of crisis.
|Archangel Michael 10th century gold and enamel big size|
A big part was robbed after the fall of the Republic. In the 19th century some of the treasure had to be sold by the government to get money. Nevertheless this treasure house contains one of the most important collections Byzantine gold forging. Besides gold forging this treasure house contains valuable icons, censers, reliquaries and goblets.
|View: Zecca, Biblioteca Marciana, Piazzetta and Palazzo Ducale big size Canaletto’s view|
|Luca Carlevarijs ‘The Bucintoro Departing from the Bacino di San Marco’ 1710 Paul Getty Museum, 5121.9 x 182.8 cm large size|
Canaletto ‘The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day’ c.1740, 121.9 x 182.8 cm, oil on canvas large size
‘Marriage of the Sea‘To this ancient ceremony a quasi-sacramental character was given by Pope Alexander III in 1177, in return for the services rendered by Venice in the struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. The pope drew a ring from his finger and, giving it to the doge, bade him cast such a one into the sea each year on Ascension Day, and so wed the sea. Henceforth the ceremonial, instead of placatory and expiatory, became nuptial.|
Every year the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the sea, and with the Latin words “Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique dominii” (“We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination”) declared Venice and the sea to be indissolubly one.’”
|Palace of the Doges or Palazzo Ducale big size Detail Youtube Palazzo Ducale and a reconstruction (2.43 minutes)|
|Palazzo Ducale big size|
photo: Paul Fernansez
|Entance Porta della Carta large|
Antonietta Brandeis ‘Porta della Carta’ 1886
|“The main entrance of the Doge palace, to the right of the San Marco, is called the PORTA DELLA CARTA (The Door of the Paper), and it owes this name to an ancient tradition. In olden times, this is where documents and public announcements were posted to make them public. After the fall of the Republic, ‘writers’ would be posted below the portico, with a portable lectern, who, against payment, would act on behalf of the illiterate by writing petitions, applications, appeals, but also personal letters.”|
Cited and translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 228
The Palazzo Ducale or Palace of the Doges is the former residence of the Doges, and the former seat of power of the Republic. For centuries it was the only building in all of Venice that was allowed to carry the title of palace. Other buildings were called Ca […] : the shortened version of casa (house). The Palazzo contains several big offices, courtrooms, torture rooms, and cells. It was built in 814 as a gloomy fort. Just as the Basilica it was destroyed multiple times and rebuilt an equal amount of times. The current Palazzo dates from about the 14th century. De façades, mainly made out of pink marble, are a perfect example of the gothic architecture.
|Palazzo Ducale facade: the Molo and the Piazzetta Piazzetta facade details: eaves and middle part|
|Palazzo Ducale piazzetta facade middle part|
The main entrance of the complex is formed by the elegant Porta della Carta (a gate) crowned by a personification of Venice and leads to the courtyard of the Palace. In the centre of the courtyard are two beautiful 16th century bronze wells.
|Two faces on the Piazetta (detail) of the painter from Amersfoort Caspar Adriaans van Wittel Dated approximately 1700 whole painting|
Doge Marco Barbarigo gave instructions to build a big ceremonial staircase in 1485, that should provide a fitting environment for the crowning ceremonial of the Doges. The Doges were crowned on the landing of the staircase with a corno ducale or doge hood covered in jewels, which was an important symbol of status. The staircase was designed by Antonio Rizzi, who had it decorated with a various scheme of reliefs and statues. The name of the staircase was inspired by the two gigantic statues of Mars and Neptune by Jacopo Sansovino. The statues symbolised the power of the Republic at land and at sea.
|Francesco Guardi ‘Ceremonial staircase with the crowning ritual’ big size 1775-1780 Scala Giganti detail: the staircase|
|Scala Giganti Mars Neptunes|
|“At the top of the staircase [ Gigianti = Giants] lies the arch with the lion, between the statues of Mars (left) and Neptune (both on the pedestal signed by Jacopo Sansovino), a kind of terrace. That is where a newly elected doge was inaugurated. He would take the oath of office (containing a long list of promises and allegiances), and would receive the zoia or ducal cap from the senior adviser.”|
Cited and translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 229
The Scala dei Censori leads the visitor on the other side of the courtyard inside. Inside we’ll take the Scala d’Oro (gold staircase) upstairs. This staircase was designed by Sansovino in 1558 and derives its name from the plastered and gilded vault by Alessandro Vittoria. This staircase leads to the Primo Piano Nobile and the apartments of the doges. The second part of the Scala d’Oro leads to the third floor and the board rooms. The Atrio Quadrato (square atrium) is upstairs. The wooden ceiling was painted by Tintoretto.
The Sala delle Quattro Porte is to the right. The ceiling of this room was designed by the builder Palladio and repainted by Tintoretto. The room next to the Sala delle Quattro Porte is called the Anticollegio and functioned as waiting room. A few walls of this room were provided with mythological images. The Sala del Collegio is the most valuable room of the Palazzo and is filled with gorgeous paintings of Tintoretto and Veronese. In the Sala del Senato, the room in which the doges spoke with the Senate about important state business, murals and ceiling paintings made by Tintoretto and his students can be found.
The Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci was the meeting room of the Council of Ten. This council was established to investigate crimes against the state and to persecute criminals. Veronese made a few marvellous paintings for this room. These paintings were so beautiful that they were taken by Napoleon to Brussels in 1797. The two most beautiful were returned to the Palazzo in 1920.
The Sala della Bussola grants access to the cells. The Bocca di Leone (mouth of the lion) is in this room. This is a mailbox in which secret messages could be thrown from the outside. There are several of these mailboxes in the Palazzo. These were only to be emptied in presence of three chairmen of the Council of Ten.
|Sala del Maggior Consiglio big size|
‘Faliero was already a Doge, but the power limitations weighed heavily on him. He attempted a coup in his first year of service (1355). His hatred towards the aristocrats, who thought so little of him, is what drove this daring act: he wanted to become a prince.|
In the subsequent trial, he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to death. His body was mutilated and hanged on display from the Ducal palace together with ten fellow instigators.
His name was condemned to Damnatio memoriae (English: condemnation of memory): what this meant in practice is that his statues and legacies were removed and his name became associated with ill fortune. Faliero is therefore the first Doge whose portrait is no longer seen in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of the Great Council) at the Palazzo Ducale. The spot that would usually be reserved for his portrait, now has a black cloth with the text: “Hic est locus Marini Falieri decapitati pro criminibus” (English: This is the location of Marino Faliero, who was beheaded for his crimes). Source Wikipedia Dutch
“[…] chronicler Mario Sanudo the Younger, who between 1496 and 1533 kept a detailed diary of which the fourty-seven parts are kept in the Biblioteca Marciana, revealed the reason [for the coup]. In 1354, a young aristocrat, Michele Steno, hassled a lady-in-waiting or the dogaressa at the Palazzo Ducale in a drunken stupor. When the doge had him removed from the hall, he saw an opportunity for revenge by writing some defamatory words above the ducal throne: ‘Marin Falier de la bella mujer – Lu la mantien e altri la galde.’ (Marino Falier with the beautiful wife; other men enjoy her while he maintains her.’ According to another chronicler, it said: ‘The doge’s wife gets screwed for her pleasure.’) This degrading incident and the mild punishment for Steno (he spent a month in jail) pushed the doge to attempt a coup, which was supposed to grant him more power so he could decide on these penalties. (According to another source, Falier wanted to execute all aristocrats who commented on his beautiful, young wife (Alcuina Gradenigo) and that was the reason for his beheading.) Later on, from 1400 to 1413, Michele Steno himself was a doge.” Luc Verhuyck
Cited and translated fromt: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 pp. 239-240
The Great Council came together in this room to make legislative acts. This room also hosted parties. For this room Tinteretto painted together with a few assistents Il Paradiso (the paradise), the biggest oil cloth in the world (7.45 by 24.65 meter). For many details of Il Paradiso (very large) click here Wikimedia.
The ceiling of the room is very interesting too. It is divided by 35 compartments that have been painted. The most important compartments are the central ones that were painted by Veronese (Apotheosis of Venice), Tintoretto and Palma Giovane (Venice with the conquered areas around her throne).
Through the signs, Prigioni, in the Palace of the Doges and the Ponte dei Sospiri (bridge of sighs) we go to the infamous dungeons, next to the Palace of the Doges. Casanova found this romantic city to be an important hunting ground. He escaped from these dungeons, but he was one of few.
|Canaletto f.l.t.r. Palazzo Ducale, Ponte dei Sospiri and the Palazzo delle Prigioni|
|Palazzo delle Prigioni prison|
|Prigioni torture chamber big size|
|View from Ponte dei Sospiri and inside the Ponte dei Sospiri|