This is the best known area of Venice, dominated by the enchanting
Piazza S. Marco and by its marvellous Basilica. Piazza S.
Marco has been the scene of some of the most important
religious and political activities of the Serenissima as well as
the center of Venetian social life for almost a millennium. A small
new Square (the Piazzetta) was later built with
the columns of S. Marco and S.Todaro, the city's patron saints,
overlooking St. Mark's Basilica. The alteration of the Square was
all done over the course of one century, adapting to the growing
power and wealth of Venice.
The Basilica of S. Marco is
certainly the symbol of Venice, with more than two square kilometres
of beautiful mosaics ant its multicoloured marbles inside the church.
The church was first built in the 9 century to
host St. Mark's body, and later was damaged by a fire and modified
many times to adapt to Venice's evolution of power and wealth. The
modifications to the Basilica continued on through an entire century,
therefore the results of the construction exhibit a mixture of different
styles. St. Mark's Basilica is also well known for the Pala d'Oro,
masterpiece of Gothic-Byzantine goldsmith's art and one of the richest
and most precious altar screens in the world, covered with more
than 3000 precious stones and glasses.
Basilica di San Marco
In the corner of the piazzetta, in front of the Basilica, stands
the Bell tower (Campanile), from whose top visitors
can admire Venice and the evocative view composed of little islands.
The Campanile had been very important in the
story of the city: his bells' were rung to inform the Venetian of
all the main events of the city. Unexpectedly, on July 14th 1902,
it crumbled onto himself and miraculously no one was killed, nothing
was damaged, and the Angel was safe as is the same now. The city
council decided that the tower was to rise again and nine years
later, in 1912, it was inaugurated. The Clock Tower (Torre
dell’Orologio) built in 1499, shows the hours in
Roman numerals, the phases of the moon and the Zodiac. The two Moors
striking the bell atop this Renaissance clock tower, are one of
the most characteristic Venetian scenes. The "Moors" originally
represented two European shepherds, but after having been reproduced
in bronze, they've grown darker with the passing of time. As a consequence,
they came to be called Moors by the Venetians.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza S.Marco is surrounded by some arcaded buildings, called Le
Procuratie, that once housed the Procuratori of San Marco,
the highest representative magistrates after the Doge himself. Today
under their arcades are many fine shops of all kinds, the world
famous Caffé Florian, the historical Venetian
bar opened on 29 December 1720, and the most luxurious jewellers
of Venice. In the area you could also visit the famous Harry’s
Bar, opened in 1931 by the Cipriani Family, where many
writers, artists, celebrities and aristocrats have passed.
In the Square stand also the Libreria Sansoviniana
and the Museo Correr. The Libreria Sansoviana is one of the greater
architectonic work of art of Jacopo Sansovino, begun in 1537. There
is a very beatiful salon, planned from the Sansovino, where it is
possible to admire works of art by Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto,
Sustris and Andrea Schiavone. Between all the paintings of the ceiling,
The library has been in great part constituted with the donation
of Bessarione Cardinal, coming from religious orders. The Library
today houses the national library of St. Mark, the Biblioteca Marciana.
The Museo Correr is the City museum and the historical
Risorgimento museum. The Museo Correr, which comprehends the collection
of works of art of the wealthy Teodoro Correr, is entirely dedicated
to Venice, its political and military history and its presence in
every line of the art. The museum presents an overview of the old
Venetian Serenissima Republic and Venetian paintings from its origins
to today. The imponent Palazzo Ducale, stands near
the St. Mark’s Basilica: at once light yet solid with its
light-pink facade and rectangular plan, the Ducal Palace was the
seat of Government of the Serenissima Republic. It was the Doge’s
residence, the main administrative building, the public archives
and the Palace of Justice; the most decisive events in the history
of the thousand years old Republic took place between its walls.
With his impressive stature, it embodies the highest expression
of the glory and the power of the Serenissima in its splendour and
magnificence. Marvellous example of Gothic architecture, it Is possible
to admire inside precious paintings by Tintoretto, Tiziano and Veronese
and take a tour of the ancient prisons where Casanova "lived"
for some years before escaping.
In St. Mark’s piazzetta, facing the lagoon, stand the two
Columns of Mark and Todaro, two splendid monoliths
of red and grey oriental granite, surmounted by Veneto byzantine-type
capitals: on one stands the bronze Lion of St Mark,
once shimmering with gold; on the other a marble figure of San Todaro,
the Greek saint who was the first patron saint of the Veneto people;
this statue is an exact copy of the original, which now kept in
the Ducal Palace.
In front of the palazzo Ducale there is the Archaeological
Museum of Venice keeps an important collection of Greek
and Roman sculpture including several Greek originals from the classic
period that once gave importance to the collections of noble venetian
families active in the antique dealer market of the colonies.
Walking in the S. Marco area the visitor could also visit Campo
San Bartolomeo, a venetian campo close to Rialto, well-know
meeting point for the young people thanks to its cafès and
bars. The square is characterised by the statue of Carlo Goldoni,
the Venice’s most know playwright.
In S. Marco area you will also discover various ancient and beautiful
churches, such as the Church of San Zulian, whose
façade was designed by Jacopo Sansovino. The interior is
rich of paintings and sculptures of the 16th-17th centuries. The
Church of San Salvador has also ancient origins: on the altar there's
an urn keeping the Saint Teodoro's ashes who has been the first
patron of Venice. The interior keeps many precious paintings by
Tiziano Vecellio and by painters of the Bellini's school. Not very
far, in one of the most characteristic Venetian campi, Campo S.
Maria Formosa, you can visit the Church of S. Maria Formosa, one
of the eight churches that were built, according to the tradition,
by San Magno, bishop of Oderzo, in the 7th century to whom the Madonna
is said to have appeared in the guise of a buxom matron (formosa
in Italian) . Also you can visit the Church of San Moisé
, dedicated to homonym saint by Moisè Venier who took charge
of rebuilding it in the Middle Age.
Lion of San Mark