Ultimo Giorno een Venizia

23 July 2013

Our last day in Venice; and I think we’ve pretty much had enough now. The heat and crowds are making me cranky — unreasonably so — such a shame in such a pretty and significant part of the world.

Today we waited in the long in distance but short in time queue to get into St Mark’s Basilica. Entry to the church is free, but if you want to enter the museum part upstairs, there is a five euro fee. You can pay three euro to see the ‘treasures’; and two euro to see the front part (sacristy?) of the church. We spent some time upstairs in the museum, but didn’t bother with the other two pay-to-view elements.

The church itself (right next to the Doge’s Palace) is splendid; much different in style to much of what we have seen before. It has very, very old origins and exhibits a strong Byzantine influence in the decorations. Inside there are mosaics rather than frescoes — apparently because the climate takes a heavy toll on non-humidity-resilient art forms.

The mosaics tell a number of stories, most notably that of the transfer of St Mark’s body from Alexandria to Venice. The colours remain strong, and all of the ‘backgrounds’ are gold: apparently real gold leaf all over the (tiny) mosaic tiles that are all over the ceiling and much of the walls. The cost of such an endeavour is beyond mind-boggling. But what better way for the Venetians to show the world their political and economic superiority and strength (and get the clerics onside at the same time)?

The floors are elaborate and intricate inlaid marble of many, many colours. Mum, you would like the geometric patterns — they’d make great inspiration for a patchwork quilt.

Over the main door on the outside stand four gigantic bronze horses, the originals of which are inside. Carbon dating places their construction in the second century BC; although it is thought they made their way to St Mark’s Basilica somewhere in the 1200s as spoils of war.

Again, no photos allowed inside. Although that prohibition was being blatantly disregarded by so many people. It really got my goat this morning: I would love to have taken photos inside as well, but I was being respectful of someone else’s place of worship. As an atheist, I don’t hold sacred anything within this church — and, indeed, view with a large amount of cynicism the exorbitant amount of poor people’s money spent by the Catholic Church on elaborate decorations here and elsewhere — but that doesn’t mean I disrespect their rules in their sacred place. I actually told off a couple of people who were taking photos right next to me, but it’s a lost cause. If I was a Venetian and it was my church, I’d be pissed off.

The crowds were definitely bigger and more dense today; whether it is a product of the cruise ship we saw arriving yesterday, I’m not sure, but in my cranky state of mind everyone was in MY way! So we came home and had a mid-afternoon feast of fresh strawberries and cherries from the markets. Yum.

Snapshots from today:

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One of the mosaics on the outside of St Mark’s Basilica.

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The cut-away, scale model of the basilica. The only place in the museum (other than outside on the balcony) where photography was permitted.

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St Mark’s Square from the balcony on St Mark’s Basilica, with one of three large flag poles unavoidably in the left of the shot. You can see the shadow from the campanile that we went up yesterday.

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The entrance to St Mark’s Square from the waterfront at St Mark’s Basin. The Doge’s Palace is to the left.

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Part of the outside of St Mark’s Basilica, showing the different colours of marble. On other parts there was also green marble. Very pretty. But also lots of cracks — as in the Doge’s Palace facade, and those of many other buildings. Somewhat disconcerting.

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We walked home a completely different way today, walking past the entrance to the naval base, and past a hospital. We have seen these waterborne ambulances all over the place — they have the same loud and oft-heard siren of their more-familiar wheeled counterparts. This one was full steam astern down the narrow canal by the hospital — seemingly a normal thing to do.

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