The Basilica of San Marco

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History of St. Mark’s Basilica First established in 828 to hold the stolen remains of St. Mark, the Basilica of San Marco stands, in the Piazza of San Marco, Venice, today as one of the the prime examples of early Byzantine architecture. After a fire destroyed most of the church’s structure in 976, the quaint church that stood at the site was restored quickly over a two year period, but was then later commissioned by Doge Domenico Contarini to be re-reconstructed in 1063, by a Greek architect whose name is unknown. This third restoration would be elongated over a period of thirty years. During the restoration, the Venetians were inspired by the Greek-cross architectural plan that was found in the church of the Holy Apostles. Although the church of the Holy Apostles does not stand today, scholars can only assume the building did in fact have the Greek-cross plan based off excavation. The Greek-cross plan is shown below and is characterized by four 'arms' of equal length. St. Mark's Basilica, however, is not a perfect Greek-cross because of two previous standing buildings (an ancient castle to the south and the Church of St. Theodore to the north). Therefore, the longitudinal nave (vertical piece) of the cross is slightly larger than the transepts (horizontal piece). Another similarity of San Marco to the church of the Holy Apostles is the use of five domes. These domes, or cupolas, are said to signify God’s presence in the basilica. Comparable to the cathedral of St. Sophia at Kiev, the cupolas rest on four large vaults each supported by compound piers. This third restoration turns into what is now known as the Basilica of San Marco. Such reconstruction is incomplete and is said to be never-ending. The structure standin... ... middle of paper ... the world’s greatest collection of gold and silverwork, of objects made from gems, semi-precious stones and rock crystal, of worked and painted glass. The treasury now holds 283 pieces after it was shaken by the fall of the Republic in 1797. Out of these 283 stands the Nicopeia, an image of the Theotokos and child. Since this object was considered to be made by Luke, the evangelist, it was seen as possessing good fortune. The Venetians would carry the image into battle in hopes that the icon would help them defeat their enemies. The Nicopeia is characterized by it’s gilded silver frame, cloisonné enamels and precious stones. Although the Nicopeia is the most venerated, it is not the most precious and refined treasure in the basilica’s collection. That title is reserved to the Pala D’oro (the Golden Altarpiece) used as a means for man to draw nearer to God.

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