St. Mark's Basilica Sculptures

Sculptures At St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica, located in Venice, Italy, is renowned for its intricate architecture and rich history. The church is adorned with an array of sculptures, each with its own unique style and story. From the Byzantine statue of the Tetrarchs to the bronze horses of St. Mark, the sculptures in the basilica are a testament to Venice's wealth and cultural significance. The Tetrarchs, which date back to the 4th century, depict four co-ruling emperors in a unique and stylized way.

The bronze horses at St. Mark's Basilica are believed to be over 2,000 years old, were once displayed on the basilica facade, and are now housed in the museum. The sculptures inside the church reflect the rich cultural and artistic traditions that have shaped Venice over the centuries. Visitors can explore many things inside St. Mark's Basilica and can marvel at these masterpieces and gain a deeper understanding of the history and significance of this iconic landmark.

Facade Decoration

St. Mark's Basilica's exterior features Gothic crowning with aedicules, statues, and floral decorations by Tuscan artists. After the 1204 conquest of Constantinople, the lower body was covered with marble, while the upper part has wooden structures covered with sheet lead. The west facade has four 12th-century portals, including the main portal, a 13th-century masterpiece with sculpted Byzantine slabs. The south facade includes marble facings and columns, with the Tetrarchs porphyry sculpture on the corner. The north facade has 13th-century slabs near the gate of flowers and an elegant sculpture with a Nativity scene on top.

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The Iconostases

The Gothic iconostasis in St. Mark's church is considered to be the most important of the three iconostases in the church. It replaced a 13th-century iconostasis and was created by the Venetian brothers Pierpaolo and Jacobello dalle Masegne in the late 14th century. It consists of 14 statues in white marble, including the 12 Apostles, the Virgin, and St. Mark. The figures are arranged in pairs, creating a rhythmical grouping. The iconostasis is in the style of a rood-screen, which is a traditional feature of Byzantine churches, but it is more correct to call it a "column transenna" as it lacks icons. The central part of the iconostasis bears an inscription with the date 1394 and the signatures of Pierpaolo and Jacobello dalle Masegne. The iconography of the figures is reminiscent of that of the iconostasis of the old St. Peter's church in Rome, and it is believed that the Venetians intended to compete with the church of the Apostle of Rome. The Gothic iconostasis is the only work in the church with the unquestioned signature of the Dalle Masegne brothers and is considered a significant example of their style.

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The Ciborium Columns

The ciborium, a 13th-century antique green marble structure, stands at the center of the sacred presbytery in St. Mark's Basilica. It is supported by four columns in oriental alabaster, adorned with bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the gospels. These have been subject to debate regarding their origin and date. The ciborium is an exceptional example of early Byzantine figurative sculpture, containing 108 scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. It reaches its maximum communicative value during celebrations in honor of Saint Mark when the Pala d'oro shines toward worshippers.

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The Small 15th Century Altars

Antonio Rizzo of Verona created the Renaissance altars of St. Paul and St. James in the north and south transepts, and the altar in the chapel of St. Clement, all commissioned by Doge Cristoforo Moro in the second half of the 15th century. The altars in St. Mark's Basilica are designed and decorated according to Renaissance forms and models. The altars of St. James and St. Paul have statues of the saints surrounded by Renaissance tabernacles. Rizzo was one of the first to use pilaster strips, trabeation, and a lunette in his altars.

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Columns & Capitals

St. Mark’s church boasts over 500 columns and capitals, many of which were taken from Constantinople as spoils of war or created specifically for the church. The layout of the columns is characterized by strict symmetry and regularity, with the most beautiful and numerous being Byzantine works from the 6th to 11th centuries. The church also contains mediaeval copies of these Byzantine works, and careful attention was paid to the distribution of materials and forms. The resulting design creates a scene of great monumentality and beauty.

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Sansovino's Sculptures

Jacopo Sansovino was appointed as the director of works for St. Mark's Church in Venice in 1529, with the task of both consolidating and embellishing the building. He transformed the choir from medieval to Renaissance and created new benches with inlaid frontals. Sansovino's bronze reliefs of St. Mark's miraculous powers on the chorister tribunes were his most significant intervention, and influenced the works of Tintoretto. The bronze sacristy gate considered his masterpiece, depicts scenes of the Burial and Resurrection, framed by Prophets and Evangelists. Sansovino's sculptures in the presbytery are all in bronze, and he created a model in terracotta for approval before casting in bronze.

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Which is special about the sculptures in St. Mark's Basilica?

The sculptures in St. Mark's Basilica are special because they are a unique blend of styles from different cultures, reflecting Venice's historical position as a crossroads of East and West. The sculptures include a mix of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance styles, with intricate details and vivid colors. Many of the sculptures are also made of precious materials such as bronze and marble, and feature religious figures and scenes. Overall, the sculptures in St. Mark's Basilica are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Venice.

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How many facades are there in St. Mark's Basilica?

There are three facades in St. Mark's Basilica, which are the west facade faces the Piazza San Marco, the south facade facing the Grand Canal, and the east facade facing the Piazzetta dei Leoncini.

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What is the best time to visit St. Mark's Basilica?

The best time to visit St. Mark's Basilica is during the early morning or late afternoon when there are fewer crowds. It is also advisable to avoid visiting during peak tourist season (June-August) and during religious holidays when the church may be closed for worship.

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How old is St. Mark's Basilica?

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy, has a long and rich history. It was originally built in the 9th century AD, but the current structure dates back to the 11th century. So the basilica is over 900 years old. However, it has undergone several renovations and additions over the centuries, so different parts of the building may have different ages.

What is St. Mark's Basilica famous for?

St. Mark's Basilica is famous for several reasons. Firstly, it is one of the most iconic symbols of the city of Venice, Italy. Secondly, it houses a vast collection of beautiful Byzantine art and mosaics, including the famous Pala d'Oro, a stunning altarpiece made of gold and precious gems. Thirdly, it is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, with its ornate domes, marble columns, and intricate details. Lastly, it houses the relics of St. Mark, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

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Where is St. Mark's Basilica located?

St. Mark's Basilica is located in Venice, Italy. It stands on the eastern end of St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), near the Grand Canal. The basilica is situated in close proximity to other iconic landmarks of Venice, such as the Doge's Palace and the Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark's Campanile), making it a central and easily accessible destination for visitors.

What is the history of the St. Mark's Basilica?

The history of St. Mark's Basilica dates back to the 9th century. It was originally built as the Doge's private chapel but was later expanded and transformed into a grand basilica to house the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist. The relics were brought from Alexandria to Venice in 828 AD, establishing St. Mark as the patron saint of the city. Over the centuries, the basilica underwent several reconstructions and additions, reflecting different architectural styles such as Byzantine and Gothic.

Is there a dress code to enter St. Mark's Basilica?

Yes, there is a dress code to enter St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. As it is a place of worship, visitors are expected to dress modestly and respectfully. Both men and women should have their shoulders and knees covered. Sleeveless shirts, shorts, mini-skirts, and low-cut tops are not permitted. Additionally, hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the basilica.


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