Saturday, June 19, 2010

Venice-Day 1

We started out in Venice. This was the view from our hostel window. Pretty spectacular, right? If you wanted to get anywhere in Venice you got on one of the ferry boats. I didn't realize that Venice is actually a series of islands. I also didn't realize that it's was built in the middle of a swamp. People settled there to avoid marauders and sunk timbers down into the peat, which petrified over time. They then put planks and stone over the timbers and proceeded to build their city from there. There is no bed rock in Venice. I felt off the entire time I was there and I'm pretty sure it's because there wasn't any bed rock.
This is a shot of the Palace of the Doge. The Doges ruled Venice and their palace is next to San Marco Basilica, built for St. Mark, otherwise known as Mark the Evangelist, who wrote the second gospel of the New Testament.
San Marco Basilica is stunning. The interior is covered with mosaics that took over 400 years to complete. The tiles are glass from Murano, most of which are covered in gold foil. The skin tones are made with stone.
This mosaic is on the outside of the church, so I was able to get a picture. (Pictures inside were prohibited.) It illustrates how the bones of St. Mark were smuggled into Venice in pork. Two merchants STOLE THE BONES OF ST. MARK from his death place in Alexandria and brought them to rest in Venice. Most of the exterior of the basilica was also stolen when Venice conquered Constantinople in the Crusades.
Here's a Google image of the interior. They turn the lights on only for one hour everyday. Fortunately, we were there to see it.
We also got to go behind the alter and see this HUGE gold and enamel piece. The enamels are all opaque, the basic shapes of the figures are engraved and then the line work is added using gold cloisonne wire. It's also covered in gems and pearls that are attached in just about anyway they could be. I don't really know what else to say about this piece. It blew my mind. There aren't really adequate words to describe it. There aren't really adequate words to describe San Marco's Basilica. It was one of my favorite things we did the whole trip, but I don't really know what else to say about it. It was so moving in one of those nearly transcendent, indescribable ways.
We also went to the Acadamia in Venice, (not to be confused with the Acadamia in Florence). We saw some really great Byzantine art and some great paintings of Venice. We bought some wine and some Italian snacks and hung out in the common room at the hostel with a guy from Scotland and two girls from Canada, which was a lot of fun. Then dinner and a nice long wander through the city, where we got just the right amount lost.

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