It’s Hip to Be a Venetian Square

28 Aug

Napoleon called it “the most beautiful drawing room in all of Europe”.  Or at least plenty of people think he did.  I guess the jury’s out on that quote but I think we still get the point.  Piazza San Marco or, as us Yanks call it, St Mark’s Square is a looker.  It’s the buildings, the pavement and even the pigeon poo.  For centuries this square has been the religious, political and social center of Venice.  Beauty and brains and all that there.  It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

St Mark’s Square got it’s start with a dead saint.  In 828/9 San Marco was adopted as the patron saint of Venice.  Before him, St Theodore had that honor.  He sounds pretty cool as he is portrayed in a statue on the Piazza with a spear and a crocodile representing his feat of slaying a dragon.  And if you had a dragon, a patron saint that could mark him expired might be nice.  But St Mark got the job when his relics were taken from Constantinople and handed over to the Venetians.  Having relics in those days was a big deal, kind of like hosting the Olympics but even better because you typically get to build a church.  And that’s what the Venetians did.  Eventually.

Check it. These Clarks shoe models are so happy to be in Piazza San Marco. Apparently too happy to notice there isn't any shoe modeling going on. Dang!

When St Mark’s relics came to town they were originally stored in the Doge’s palace.  The Doge is the rule of Venice and so that seemed like a good place.  This Doge leaves a gift in his will of a church to be built in Venice to house the relics.  And that’s how we get St Mark’s Basillica.  Of course, the original one was mostly burned down in a rebellion in 976 and had to be rebuilt in 1063.  It’s still old and it still has relics, aka religious bling.

To reiterate just how important relics are view the mosaic above the door of San Marco.  It depicts some Venetians in Alexandria smuggling the relics out.  To hide them they thought it would be best to put them in pork.  You see, back then TSA was Muslim and they don’t dig on swine.  So they allowed the Venetians to leave Alexandria with the relics because they assumed that no one would be desperate enough to hide highly esteemed religious objects in dead pig.  Obviously they didn’t know who they were dealing with.  In fact, all of beautiful San Marco is covered in fabulous artwork liberated from other places.  And you know, pigeon poo.  But that’s all local, my friends.

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