PROCESSION OF THE TRUE CROSS

GIOVANNI BELLINI: 1496

WHAT WAS THE MIRACLE?

On the feast day of St Mark on 25 April 1444, the members of the Scuola were processing the relic through the Piazza San Marco. A tradesman from Brescia, knelt before the relic, praying for the recovery of his dying son. When the man returned home, he discovered that his son was miraculously cured.

Gentile’s Procession gives us a fairly accurate picture of what Piazza San Marco looked like in the late 15th century, before the Byzantine buildings were replaced in the early 16th century and before it was remodeled by Napoleon.

 

 

THE PAINTING

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1. RELIC OF THE TRUE CROSS

In the fifteenth century, the Scuola had a new reliquary made to house the fragment of the True Cross. (SEE PHOTO ABOCE) The holy relic is held in a small crystal caplet supported by angels that surmount a rock crystal and a gilded silver cross decorated in turn with Christ on the Cross, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and angels.

The relic would be carried through the city in processions. Today it is kept in the Scuola Grande.

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2. JACOPO DE SALIS

He was a merchant from Brescia who arrived in Venice for business. On the day of the procession he received news that his young son had received a life threatening skull fracture and was not expected to survive. As he was watching the procession he recalled the cross was famed for its miracles. He threw himself in front of it to pray. When he returned home he discovered his son had completely recovered the day after his prayers. He notified the Guardian Grande of the Scuola and vowed to bring his son back to pay reverence to the cross.

He wears a red gown, which was what merchants typically wore.

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3. MEMBERS OF SCUOLA DRESSED IN WHITE

Identified by the red insignia on the front of their white robes.

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4. TRUMPET PLAYERS

Venice was the proud possessor of six special silver trumpets, dubbed trombe lunghe or trombe d'argento, that according to legend had been a gift of Pope Alexander III in 1177.

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5. DOGE

Doge Francesco Foscari from 1423-1457

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6. GROUP OF GREEK MERCHANTS

Visitors from Greece with black rimmed hats.

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7. OTHER SCUOLE

Orderly lines of members from 4 of the other scuole already finished with the procession.

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8. WOMAN & CARPETS

The women are watching from the windows. There are 30 uniquely different oriental carpets hanging from each window. Notice 2 of the women are veiled in the Arabic manner.

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9. TURBANED TURKS

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COMPARE TO MODERN DAY ST MARKS SQUARE: NO CLOCK TOWER YET

CLOCK TOWER: had not built yet. It was built between 1496-1499. This painting is dated 1496.

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COMPARE TO MODERN DAY ST MARKS SQUARE: NO BELL TOWER YET

BELL TOWER: The original bell tower (9th century) collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt in 10 years. It was both a watchtower and lighthouse,

Symbolically, modern astronomy began right here: in 1609, from the top of the bell tower, Galileo Galilei admired the satellites of Jupiter for the first time.

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COMPARE TO MODERN DAY ST MARKS SQUARE: FACADE OF BASILCA

EXTERIOR FACADE: only the far left mosaic is an original (all the rest have been replaced),lots more gold gilding , bronze horses covered in gold

DOMES: greener in color

COMPARE BELLINI’S SQUARE IN 15TH CENTURY TO TODAY

CLOCK TOWER MISSING: had not built yet. It was built between 1496-1499. This painting is dated 1496.

BELL TOWER MISSING: The original bell tower (9th century) collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt in 10 years. It was both a watchtower and lighthouse,

Symbolically, modern astronomy began right here: in 1609, from the top of the bell tower, Galileo Galilei admired the satellites of Jupiter for the first time.

EXTERIOR FACADE: only the far left mosaic is an original, all the rest have been replaced. His painting gives the only visual to what the lost mosaics looked like. There seems to be lots more gold gilding on the facade and the bronze horses.

DOMES: Appear greener in color in Bellini’s painting.

CHIMNEYS IN BELLINI’S PAINTING: the inverted cone was a popular shape, as it allowed any sparks from wood burning fires, to fall back into the chimney. Fires have always been a major threat in Venice.

PROCURATE VECCHIE REBUILT:  Its three storied today, impressive white facade has 50 arches supported by columns. The Old Magistrates once housed the Procurators of San Marco who were the senior members of the Republic.

The Procuratie Vecchie on the northern side of the square (or left) was built during the War of the League of Cambrai in the early sixteenth century to replace an earlier structure, damaged by fire. In Bellini’s painting the Procurate Vecchie are still the one-storey buildings there since the time of Doge Sebastiano Ziani (1172-1178).

STONE FLOOR: In Bellini’s painting the reddish bricks of the floor of the square have not been replaced yet with the present grey slabs of stone patterned with white marble. This happened in 1723

REPLACED OLD BLDGS WITH PROCURATIE NUOVE: On the right, stands the cluster of buildings including the Orseolo Hospice which was had to be demolished in the sixteenth century so that the Procuratie Nuove could be built in its place. This was part of the plan for the old Square to transform it into a unified arrangement of interrelated structures  produced by Jacopo Sansovino.