Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Venice: St Mark's Basilica

Hello! Europe posts are back, and I really apologize for the delay! My next city is Venice!

I have been to Venice three times, and each time I have been captured by its unique beauty. This last time, Venice was even more fun because I had the knowledge from my Art History major to appreciate the architecture and art of the city. We were only in Venice for 24 hours, but it was a fun quick trip!

One thing that Venice is famous for, besides the whole being suspended on water thing, is Saint Mark's Basilica. What I really I love about the basilica is the byzantine art that is inside. When I was studying Art History at BYU,  I had the option of either taking Medieval Art or Byzantine Art class. I ended up choosing Medieval art, which ended up working out great because it is where I got the idea for my ORCA grant (side note: would you guys like to learn about my experience with that?), but ever since then I have felt sad that I haven't taken the time to really get into Byzantine Art. So this post is great because I had to push myself to learn more!

When I was researching St Mark's Basilica, I was shocked to learn that the story behind the Basilica's patron name. In 828, merchants from Venice snuck into Egypt and stole the body of St Mark the Evangelist. When they were sailing back to Venice, there was an awful storm that almost caused them to drown. They were luckily saved because they said that St Mark appeared to them and told them to lower their sails, therefore they said that St Mark saved their lives through this great miracle. This  tale is showed in one of the mosaics in the Basilica - see below:

On the right side, you can see them carrying out St Mark's body. 

There are so many mosaics inside St Mark's Basilica that it can apparently cover 1.5 football fields! Isn't that so bizarre?? Gold is my favorite color and I just love looking at all the gold in the basilica. It is so amazing that they were able to make such intricate mosaic ceilings centuries ago! The gold in Byzantine art is supposed to reflect eternal life, and it was what they believed heaven would look like, and it really is so beautiful and heaven-like when you look at it! 

Along with their being so many mosaics, there are also 500 columns inside and on the exterior of the Basilica. In my photo below, you can even see some of them! Pretty amazing. Along with the columns, there are statues on the basilica that come from the many crusades lead by Constantine in the 1200s.

Lastly, inside the basilica there is the Pala d'Oro, which is an altar made out of byzantine enamelwork. This altar is fantastic because it has almost 2,000 gems on it and is made of gold. This altar was commissioned by the Doge originally in 976, but was altered a bit overtime by different Doges. You may be wondering why so much money was put into this piece of art, and that was because altarpieces were a sacred and important part of the catholic faith. The imagery on altarpieces act as guides for the worship of Christ and for the sacrament. Members depended on the imagery to evoke certain feelings and in some cases they would use them to imagine themselves as Christ. I love studying altarpieces and seeing how the artist interpreted different stories in the faith.  In this particular altarpiece - there is the life of Christ shown, and also Christ in Majesty. These two images help guide the sacrament and are often in altarpieces. There is also the life of St Mark on the altarpiece, which also isn't surprising since he is the patron saint for the Basilica. There is a lot of imagery going on in this altarpiece (enough for a blog post), and so I will just leave it at that haha. 

This post turned out to be focused a lot on St Mark's Basilica, and I hope it didn't bore you too much! I hopefully can find time in the future to talk about the basic history of Venice, especially since it is a really unique city. 

In a non-history subject, Venice is also now home to my favorite gelato ever, Suso. I loved this gelato so much that I wanted to go back before we left in the morning, but it opened at 11 and we had to leave at 10:30 :( so close! Also, my cute dress in these photos is actually vintage! I got it from one of my favorite vintage shops - elberta vintage - check them out! :) 



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