Standing on History in Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) was the hub of Venice, where tourists and locals alike gathered and met.

St. Mark's Square Venice Italy

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!

San Marco Campanile Bell Tower Venice Italy

Another side of the piazzetta was the Doge’s Palace. Despite common belief, Venice is not ruled under a bishop but a doge!

Doge's Palace Venice Italy
Doge’s Palace

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:

St. Mark's Square Venice Italy

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:

venice flooding 2012

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.

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).”

St. Mark's Basilica Venice Italy

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!

The Clocktower with the archway into the Mercerie leading to the Rialto

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.

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  • Ahhh I have to get to Venice one of these days! It’s been on my list forever but somehow gets passed up every time we head to Europe. For now, I’ll just have to stare at your beautiful pictures!

  • Venice is one of my absolute favorite cities and you captured it so well 🙂

  • I do love Venice – and I agree, travelling somewhere is the best way to bring the history alive. #MondayEscapes

  • Hahahahaha that flooding photo! So funny!

  • It looks like your “history eyes” were really opened on this trip. It’s the opposite for me. I know all of this history because I love learning about it ahead of time, then I go to historic places to “live it” afterwards.

    • Oh that’s a good way to reinforce what you’ve learned! I just don’t have the patience to sit down and read about a place’s history beforehand, so the tour groups worked out well for me.

  • I love Venice! I was only there for one day and I’d love to go back with my other half. You got some really lovely photos 🙂 #MondayEscapes

  • Ahh, Venice – love it there and just wandering Piazza San Marco. We were lucky enough to be pretty much by ourselves because it was late at night. I am ashamed to say even though I’ve been twice I don’t know much of the history. So thank you for enlightening me! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • Well lucky you – I had to leave early afternoon = Haha glad you found the historical background enlightening!

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