Pala Doro – gold altar piece -San Marco, Venezia
Jewels! Jewels! And more Jewels!! I and most women I know (dare I say) have a decided passion for jewellery. The place to see a real feast of the most amazing collection of gems and semi precious gemstones of unbelievable size and beauty is inside the Basilica of San Marco, Venezia. The Pala Doro, or gold altar piece, is an altar behind the main altar in St Marks Basilica. It is an amazing piece of artwork of Byzantine origin carried out by craftsmen between the 10th and 12thcenturies.
The gems cut, smoothed, polished and set in the manner of the day. There are pearls, emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, turquoise, rubies, garnets and more…such an unbelievable amount of jewels in one place is quite awesome. At the last audit the total was 3000 jewels. The gemstones set around cloisonné, or enameled religious icons on gold and silver plate, all encased in a silver frame.
Basilica of San Marco – Venezia
St Marks Basilica is a wonderful piece of architecture in itself and dates back to the 11th century with domed copola’s and the three golden horses which came originally from Constantinople. The original gold horses are now in the museum of the Basilica, and replaced with bronze models on the exterior.
Interior of San Marco – Venezia
The ceiling of the Basilica covered with mosaics, consisting of thousands of tiny colored tiles depicting religious stories set on a background of gold and bronze. Sitting inside the Basilica is like sitting in the warmth of the sun’s rays as the gold tiles fill the interior (some 8000 square meters) with a warm golden glow. It is quite amazingly beautiful. The floors tiled with large beautifully patterned tiles integrated with marble slabs, the walls supported by marble faced pillars. It is a beautiful place to sit and contemplate; food for the soul.
‘Acqua alta’ or High Water – (Venice) Venezia
It is a strange feeling however to know you are standing atop water, and one can feel the movement in the floors (or did I imagine that?). Perhaps not, Venice is also an amazing feat of engineering being virtually a floating city built on top of poles driven deep into the swampland and marshes of the lagoon beginning in 5-6thcentury. I guess it is hardly surprising the Basilica of San Marco, along with the rest of the city, gets flooded when they have a high tide. The high tide is commonly called ‘acqua alta’ by the locals (which means ‘high water’).
When this happens, as it does several times a year, a siren wails across the city to warn the residents and shopkeepers of the impending high tide. Steel plates placed in front of doorways helps prevent water coming into the shops and homes. During this time, planks are placed above the level of the water for people to walk on around the city. This can be a funny sight when the uninitiated get caught, for then you will see people piggy-backing one another through the water, tying plastic bags waist-high, or others paddling with trousers rolled up and a shoe in each hand; and tourists (like me) struggling with suitcase along a four-foot wide plank, inches above the water, hurrying to get to the train.
Tidal Ebb – Piazza San Marco
The main square,Piazza San Marco is always inundated when Aqua alta occurs and not too many areas escape the incoming tide. It is quite an event, and adds to the excitement of being a visitor to Venice. Walking the plank becomes a way of life for a few days in succession, until the water recedes and the tide level ebbs.
A visit to the Basilica of San Marco in Venezia is a never to be forgotten experience.
Read before you go:
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