Arriving in Venice in the early morning leaves the full day to explore the city. Since it was a Friday and people had to work it was ideal to start with my sightseeing program. First of all I was up for a visit to the Saint Mark’s Basilica. The last and only time I was in Venice the line up for visiting was so long that we instead went for drinks to Harry’s Bar. This trip though there was enough time for drinks later. Seizing the hour I walked to Saint Mark’s Basilica and lined up for all of five minutes.
Once inside the first thing you do is go outside on the balcony. From here you have a wonderful view over the whole Piazza San Marco and the Piazetta.
Plus you can inspect the four horses on the terrace up close. The ones on the terrace though are just a duplicate. The real horses are inside, safe from the elements. No wonder they are kept safe. The horses are from the 2nd or 3rd century and were part of a quadriga, a carriage for chariot racing. Until 1204 these horses stood in Constantinople. Looted by the Venetians the horses made their way to Venice to end up on the terrace of the Basilica. In 1797 Napoleon liked them so much that he brought the horses with him to Paris. Thankfully in 1815, after a short stint on top of the Arc de Triomphe, the horses returned to their ‘rightful’ home.
Originally the Basilica was the chapel of the Doge’s Palace but it is now the seat of the Archdiocese of Venice. The inside is full of mosaics and statues, most of them looted as well from Constantinople, some even from the Hagia Sofia. The Treasury was unfortunately closed during my visit, as well a the Basilica itself. I was only allowed to visit the balustrade and some boring rooms with clothes and transcripts. I did take a picture though of the mosaics inside. The gold is almost blinding.
The facade is special as well and needs to be examined in great detail. I managed to walk around the terrace and take this picture.
And of course let’s not forget the Tetrarchs on the south-west corner of the Basilica. This statue represents an attempt of Emperor Diocletian to stabilize the roman empire in the 3rd century with a Tetrarchy. The plan that four emperors rule better than one is laughable, but I applaud it for its creativity. Two senior and two junior, the successors, emperors and all of them depending on each other. Or ready to kill one another. Astonishingly it worked for a couple of decades. Anyway, this statue as well came from the 4th crusade and the resulting looting of Constantinople. The missing foot is still in Istanbul. Yours, Pollybert