St. Mark's Basilica, located in Venice, Italy, is one of the most revered and beautiful churches in the world. It has an interesting history and some fun facts about it that many people may not know. Here are five fun facts about St. Mark's Basilica that you might enjoy learning about:
The 4 St Mark's Horses Were In Constantinople And Paris
The 4 horses of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice are over 4m high.
- The original horses were looted from the Hippodrome in Constantinople in 1204.
- They were again looted by Napoleon when in 1797 he conquered much of Italy. The horses, along with a vast war booty, were paraded before Parisians, in much the same way that Roman Emperors commemorated their victories. To provide a permanent commemoration of his victories, Napoleon had the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel built, which was modeled on the Arch of Constantine in Rome
- The originals were returned in 1814 and a replica of the horses can be seen inside Saint Mark's Basilica
It was Flooded Over 9 TimesSt. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy is located in an area that is particularly susceptible to flooding due to its low elevation and proximity to the lagoon. To protect St Mark's Basilica from flooding, Venice authorities have installed glass barriers around the church but the near-record flooding in November 2019 caused thigh-deep water in St Mark's Square and damaged the basilica.
It Has Enough Mosaic To Cover 1.5 American Football Fields
The ceiling of St Mark’s Basilica features two types of mosaics - one made with gold tesserae (geometric pieces used to make mosaic designs) and another made with purely white marble ones.
There is enough mosaic to cover 1.5 American football fields. The mosaics were created by Byzantine goldsmiths in 976 and further embellished over the centuries
The mosaics reflect different periods in the building’s history — older sections are composed entirely of colored glass while the newest sections incorporate both colored glass and stone tesserae, reflecting more contemporary trends in mosaic-making.
The Bell Tower Stands At 98.6m (323ft)
The bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica, known as the Campanile, offers panoramic views of Venice and is one of the city's tallest structures. The Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, stands at a height of 98.6 meters (323 ft)
Its Treasures Include A Gems-Clad Gold Panel
The interior of the Basilica features a wealth of treasures, including the Pala d'Oro, an altarpiece made of gold and precious gems, the basilica's organ, and the Treasure of St. Mark, which contains a collection of Byzantine artifacts.
Pala d’Oro (Golden Pall), a panel of gold embedded with gems, incorporates 1,300 pearls 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, and 400 garnets. It was commissioned from Byzantine goldsmiths in 976 and further embellished over the centuries. Napoleon stole some of the precious stones in 1797, but there are still plenty left, gleaming behind protective glass.
The Wooden Cupolas Were Covered With Lead
The wooden cupolas were roofed with lead in the 13th century making them more visible from the sea and also protecting the below structure from the weather and fire. The basilica's distinctive onion-domed cupolas, which are visible from many parts of the city are now considered one of its most recognizable features.
Rumors of St Mark's Body
According to legend, 2 Venetian merchants stole the body of St. Mark from Alexandria and brought it back safely to Venice in 828 AD guided by St Mark's spirit. Another rumor was that the body of Alexander the Great was rebranded as St. Mark.
- Alexander’s body had disappeared, when the Roman Emperor made paganism illegal in AD392 and a tomb of St Mark appeared at the same time in the area previously occupied by Alexander’s tomb.
- The Star-Shield Block, part of a high-status Macedonian tomb found embedded in the foundations of St Mark's Basilica, is a precise fit for Alexander the Great's tomb
It Was Built on the Servitude of Recycled Materials
The arcades and mosaics we admire today were actually built from material borrowed from other buildings or salvaged from antique sources throughout Venezia. Materials included ancient columns from Rome, working metal recycled from Byzantine buildings, and reworked pavement retrieved from older structures.
Contains Artworks From Prominent Artists
The interior designs, decorations, and artworks adorning St Mark’s Basilica were by such prominent artists as Paolo Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto during the 15th and 16th centuries. Even Michelangelo contributed to the design with his iconic Pietà which resides here to this day.
Was Home to Many Venetian Religious Rituals
St. Mark's Basilica is also famous for its various ceremonies, including the marriage of the sea, where the Doge would throw a ring into the sea to symbolize Venice's power over the sea. It is believed that a ring found in recent times in Saint Mark's Basilica is evidence of this ancient ceremony.
Throughout its long history, St Mark’s Basilica was home to many religious rituals linked to important events involving a multitude of Venetian families including weddings, funerals as well as special Masses are given prior to major battles fought between Venice and wealthier city-states such as Genoa or Padua.
It Was A Chapel For Doge's Palace
The basilica was originally built as a chapel for the Doge's Palace, the residence of the powerful Doges of Venice, and was later expanded to become the city's cathedral. It was built in 1063 under the auspices of Domenico Contarini.
Is Still Undergoing Restoration Work Over 800 Years Later
The chapel was destroyed by a fire in 976 AD and was rebuilt in 978 AD. The cathedral in its current form was built around 1063 to 1094.
The recently completed restoration efforts also took over 10 years to complete due to complexities associated with uncovering paintings hidden for centuries beneath layers upon layers of newer paintwork covering parts of several walls inside St Mark’s Basilica.
Modernized electrical systems were also installed so visitors can now fully appreciate the intricate detail that went into crafting this stunningly beautiful place of worship located near one of Europe’s oldest cities.
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