The Churches Of Venice: Sacred Places Or Museum Spaces?

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The lower register of walls and pillars is completely covered with polychrome marble slabs. The transition between the lower and the upper register is delimited all around the basilica by passageways which largely substituted the former galleries. Unlike most Italian churches, San Marco never made the transition to fresco wall paintings around the 13th century, and continued to add them until the 19th century. This was probably partly due to a wish to support the local Murano glass industry, which supplied the tesserae , and also to Venetian conservatism.

The upper levels of the interior are completely covered with bright mosaics covering an area of about m 2. The great majority use the traditional background of gold glass tesserae, creating the shimmering overall effect. Unfortunately, the Doge retained a workshop of mosaicists until the late 18th century, and in the 19th century contracted a mosaic workshop run by the Salviati glassmaking firm, and the majority of the medieval mosaics have been "restored" by removing and resetting, usually with a considerable loss of quality, so that "only about one-third of the mosaic surface can be regarded as original".

The earliest surviving work, in the main porch, perhaps dates to as early as , and was probably by a workshop that had left Constantinople in the midth century and worked at Torcello Cathedral. The main work on the interior mosaics was apparently complete by the s, with work on the atrium continuing into the s.

After that the St Marks workshop seems to have been disbanded, so that when a fire in caused serious damage, the only Venetian capable of the work had just died and the Signoria of Florence had to be asked for help; they sent Paolo Uccello. From the s a series of Venetian painters were able to get commissions for the replacement of undamaged areas in what was considered to be superior modern style, until from a number of conservation-minded decrees attempted to restrain the process.

The large and complicated programme of the decoration centres on the seated large Christ Pantocrator in the main apse now a 15th-century recreation above patron saints of Venice.

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The East dome over the high altar has a bust of Christ in the centre surrounded by standing prophets and the Virgin Mary, with the Four Evangelists in the pendentives. A large and comprehensive cycle of the Life of Christ occupies much of the roof, with usually extensive coverage for the Middle Ages of his miracles, originally shown in 29 scenes in the transepts.

It includes the Ascension of Christ in the central dome and Pentecost in the west dome. The centre is an etimasia "empty throne" with book and dove, with the twelve apostles seated round the outer rims, with flames on their heads and rays connecting them to the central throne. Below the apostles pairs of figures representing the "nations", with tituli , stand between the windows. Similar images are found in the Chludov Psalter and elsewhere.


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As well as the miracles the transepts contain cycles of the Life of the Virgin before and during the Infancy of Christ. As well as many saints, church fathers, virtues and angels, there are scenes from the lives of Saints Mark, Clement, Peter, and John with many scenes in post-Renaissance versions. The west wall has a 13th-century deesis below a Last Judgement in the vault, and a huge Tree of Jesse was added to the end wall of the north transept in The origin of the iconography of the Old Testament cycle in the porch in the Cotton Genesis manuscript has been described above; similar relationships have been traced for parts of the interior mosaics, in particular with the cycle of the Life of the Virgin and Infancy of Christ sharing a common Byzantine model with a fresco cycle in the cathedral at the Mirozhsky Monastery in Pskov in Russia.

As mentioned above, restorations and replacements were often necessary thereafter, or done even when not necessary, and great painters such as Paolo Uccello , Andrea del Castagno , Paolo Veronese , Jacopo Tintoretto and his son Domenico were among those who produced the designs for the mosaicists. Titian and the Padovanino prepared the cartoons for the sacristy, built in the late 15th century. Other mosaics decorate the Baptistery, the Mascoli Chapel, St Isidor Chapel and the Zen Chapel, which has scenes from the life of St Mark, perhaps from the s, and among the latest work of the original programme to be done.

The eastern arm has a raised presbytery with a crypt beneath. The presbytery is separated by an altar screen formed by eight red marble columns crowned with a high Crucifix and statues by Pier Paolo and Jacobello Dalle Masegne, masterpiece of Gothic sculpture late 14th century. Behind the screen, marble banisters with Sansovino's bronze statues of the Evangelists and Paliari 's of the Four Doctors mark the access to the high altar , which contains St Mark's relics. The altarpiece is the famous Pala d'Oro , a masterpiece of Byzantine craftsmanship, originally designed for an antependium.


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This masterpiece incorporates 1, pearls, sapphires, emeralds, and garnets. They are all original and highly polished, unfaceted gems. The original altar frontal is now in the treasury. The choir stalls are embellished with inlay by Fra Sebastiano Schiavone , and above them on both sides are three reliefs by Sansovino. Behind the presbytery are the sacristy and a 15th-century church consecrated to St Theodore the first patron saint of Venice where is displayed a painting Child's Adoration by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Art and Sacred Places

The treasury contains what is now a unique collection of Byzantine portable objects in metalwork, enamel and hardstone carving , most looted from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade although there was a serious fire in the treasury in , with probably a new influx after the "Franks" were expelled in Selections have toured internationally. Most of the church plate was ordered to be surrendered to the state immediately after the end of the Venetian Republic in , and was melted down for coining; there were only objects in an inventory ordered by the Austrians in , many in materials that could not be recycled for cash.

The 6th-century "throne-reliquary" in rather crudely carved alabaster , the Sedia di San Marco , was moved from the high altar to the Treasury in It would only fit a bishop with a slight figure, and has a large compartment for relics below the seat. It may have functioned as a "throne-lectern" or resting place for a gospel book , making actual the hetoimasia "empty throne" images with open books that are found in art of the period.

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The treasury "now houses the best single collection of Byzantine metalwork, and particularly of enameling, that survives", including two imperial chalices of antique sardonyx with Byzantine gold and enamel mounts, marked "Romanos", the name of four emperors. On the right of the screen is the platform from which the newly elected doge appeared. The spacious interior of the building with its multiple choir lofts was the inspiration for the development of a Venetian polychoral style among the composers appointed maestro di cappella at the choir of St Mark's.

The style was first developed by a foreigner, Adrian Willaert , and was continued by Italian organists and composers: Andrea Gabrieli , his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli , and Claudio Monteverdi. Their music took advantage of the spacious architecture and led to the development of polychoral and antiphonal textures.

An example of this technique is found in In Ecclesiis by Giovanni Gabrieli. The authors, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin , argue that the spandrels are the inevitable spaces that exist when a dome is placed above arches rather than design elements and that many biological traits are similarly the side effects of functional traits rather than adaptive traits in themselves. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Church in Venice, Italy. Main article: Cappella Marciana. Archived from the original on 5 March Retrieved 10 February Random House Digital, Inc.

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Archived from the original on 4 October Retrieved 28 July Retrieved 20 August Retrieved 22 July Pullan Venice: A Documentary History, Renaissance Society of America. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. Piazza San Marco. Piazzetta dei Leoncini.

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Top 7 Museums to Visit - Venice Travel

Maestri di cappella at Saint Mark's Basilica. The aim of the study is to investigate the role of current on-site interpretations of the churches and relate them to the visitors' perceptions and experiences. The evaluation relies on qualitative methods such as case studies, visitors' surveys, site observations, and interviews. The results are analyzed through the framework of the constructivist-learning theory, which affirms that people create their own meanings based on previous knowledge.

The findings demonstrate that the interpretive methods on-sites present the visitors with experiences not usually associated with religious sites. The churches are experienced as tourist attractions rather then sacred sites--a perception that clearly interferes with their original purpose. Copyright of Journal of Interpretation Research is the property of National Association for Interpretation and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission.

However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy.