Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) was the hub of Venice, where tourists and locals alike gathered and met.
While I’m not a huge history buff, I’ve taken a liking to hearing stories of importance places. For example, the winged lion and human statue on top of the two columns that mark the “entrance” into Venice from the sea. These two symbols represent the two patron saints of Venice, St. Theodore and St. Mark. It did not occur to me that this was the same Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark in the Bible. How nuts is that?!
Another interesting piece of architecture is St. Mark’s Campanile – bell tower – that has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. After a bunch of disasters and damage, the new campanile was inaugurated in 1912, 1000 years after the foundations of the original building had allegedly been laid. This kind of history blows me away!
Another side of the piazzetta was the Doge’s Palace. Despite common belief, Venice is not ruled under a bishop but a doge!
One standout question that the tour guide asked was whether the bottom columns looked aesthetically pleasing. Well they do look a bit squat and stunted…this is because the city had to be constantly rebuilt and repaired due to flooding damages. So layers upon layers of old Venice lay beneath the stones on which I stood… It did not occur to me that I could go inside these beautiful buildings. The palace is now a museum, which I’ll have to visit another time!
Moving on to the heart of the square:
This is actually the lowest part of the city which experiences the worst flooding each year. Since Venice is built on marshland and is situated right next to the sea, the city has to battle with a lot of natural forces, one of which flooding. One of the most memorable pictures our guide showed us illustrating the severity of flooding:
Now that’s insane! Especially when I’ve only seen the place nice and dry.
Finally, there’s the most famous church in the city across from where I was standing – St. Mark’s Basilica.
Of course it was opulent and beautiful. I mean, look at the exotic, patterned marble those pillars are made of! “Mosaics with scenes showing the history of the relics of Saint Mark from right to left fill the lunettes of the lateral portals (Wiki).”
From what I understood, it depicted the story of how his bones were acquired, aka how Venetians stole the bones of St. Mark from the Egyptians. The Egyptians were outraged (naturally) and only recently (in the 60’s) did the two parties come to an agreement. Which was, Venice gave Mark’s skull back to Egypt and got to keep the rest of the bones. What a deal.
So I actually went into this building. However, I wasn’t anticipating a trip into the basilica, so I had to buy a “shawl” to cover up before going it. It was more like a crinkly paper tablecloth, lol. To be honest, I don’t have much recollection about what inside looked like (no photos, boo). But I do distinctly remember the uneven marble mosaic floor tiles that were a result of the flooding. It was the perfect example of just how damaging salt water can be.
I learned a surprising amount of history for someone who’s not into history, ha. But I will say, history is a lot more interesting when you’re standing on the grounds of where it took place!
Are there any historical cities or sites that you really enjoyed? What about it stayed with you?
Thanks for reading!
P.S. This post is also linked up on Monday Escapes.