This morning we are on a mission through the quiet streets to take pictures and then head over to St Mark’s Square, (Piazza San Marco) the grand square surrounded by the historic buildings of the Doge’s Palace, Campanile Bell Tower, and St Mark’s Basilica, before the crowds commence. Over two football fields long, this is the only square in Venice to be called a “piazza.” With your back to St Mark’s, to the right are the “old offices,” (16th century Renaissance) to the left “new office’s.” (17th century high renaissance) At the opposite end is the Correr Museum and Nepoleon’s Wing. The Clock Tower built in 1696 marks the entry to the main shopping area (Mercerie) and connects St Mark’s Square with the Rialto Bridge area.
The Doge’s Palace was the seat of the Venetian government and home of the ruling duke or doge. For over 400 years this was the most powerful half-acre in Europe! The doge lived with his family on the first floor, near the halls of power.
I think the best spot in the entire complex is the Bridge of Sighs, a corridor built in 1614 to link the Doge’s Palace to the structure intended to house the New Prisons. The Bridge contains two separate corridors that run next to each other, both enclosed and covered on all sides except for the stone windows. Through these windows the prisoners supposedly sighed, taking their last look at freedom as they were led off to their cells.
Relics of St Mark the Evangelist, were stolen by Venetian merchants in 828 from Alexandria and brought to Venice. The church is filled with loot from returning sea captains, providing an architectural trophy chest. The inside of the church glows with gold mosaics and colored marble. Upstairs you can get a great view of the Piazza and see the bronze horses (outside) and inside, in their own room, the original bronze horses. No one knows the exact age of the horses, but these well traveled horses were taken to Constantinople (Istanbul) by Constantine, to Venice by the crusaders, to Paris by Napoleon, and back to Venice when Napoleon fell, and finally to a room of their own inside from the acidic air. Whew, I bet they are glad to get some rest!
We attended Mass at St Mark’s and be warned; if you are not appropriately dressed, shoulders covered and no shorts or short skirts, an attendant, who admits you, will be glad to sell you a paper purple stole to cover yourself up with, otherwise you will not be attending Mass. Going out of the church you walk a plank literally, to the outside of the church. I couldn’t figure out if this was to keep the marble intact, from so many people treading on it, or to avoid the low stairways. Always a mystery ! Enjoy!