The Jewels of Venice – Basilica of San Marco – Venezia

San Marco Basilica-interior mosiacs

San Marco-Basilica-interior mosiacs (photo Ricardo André Frantz 2005)

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.

Venice St Marc's Basilica - gilded mosaics "The Last Judgement"

Venice St Marc’s Basilica – gilded mosaics “The Last Judgement”

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.

Venice- Saint Marc's Basilica-bronze horses

Venice’s Saint Marc’s Basilica-bronze horses

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.

Basilica interior-italy venice attractions

Exterior mosaic on the west facade of the Basilica of San Marco,Venezia

‘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’).

"Acqua-alta" - Doges-Palace waterfront Boulevard

“Acqua-alta” – Doges-Palace – along the waterfront boulevard Venezia

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.

Venice-"Aqua Alta"--walking the plank in front of San Marco's Basicila

Venice “Acqua alta”–walking the plank in front of  Basilica of San Marco-Venezia

Tidal Ebb – Piazza San Marco

The main square,Piazza San Marco is always inundated when Acqua-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.

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  1. I’ve always wanted to see San Marco, the Ponte dei Sospiri and the Doge’s Palace, but for some reason I never made it to Venice – not yet at least. Any way to predict the acqua alta? I’d hate to ruin my shoes, that would put Venice pretty much on my black book 😉

    • Hi Elisa, Two choices- take your heels of,or tie a plastic garbage over your shoes and stick to the boardwalks. I found it all quite exciting, quite different from anything I have encountered and people had various ways of dealing with the problem on the day. It only lasts a few hours with the exceptional tide peaks that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea.The phenomenon occurs mainly between autumn and spring. Venice is a magical city. worth it just to visit San Marco! Thanks for your comment.

  2. What a beautiful place. They really have the most amazing architectures in the world, it’s just full of history. I can’t help but appreciate these wonderful places.

  3. Nice Temple and different type of tiles that are used in this temple gives more beauty.

  4. Oh, Venice. It’s probably the one place I could return to time and agian and never get bored of it. I love wandering around the winding streets and getting myself as lost as I can. I also appreciate a city that encourages the wearing of cute rainboots! I was surprised how few people actually wore them.

    • Hi Suzanne, Venice is a wonderful city. I guess the population is used to the high tides. I can’t say I noticed many rain boots, but I was probably too busy walking a plank, trying not to fall off into the water at the time. Could have done with a pair myself at the time!Thanks for your comment.

    • Hi Jenie, The craftsmanship is pretty amazing and dates form 10th century, so enduring. I hope you get to visit San Marco. Thanks for your comment. Lyn

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