ST MARK’S BASILICA: MAIN ALTAR

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GENERAL INFORMATION

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2. TOMB ST MARK

828 AD: St Mark's relics brought from Alexandria and placed in the corner of the Ducal Palace to wait for the Basilica to be built to house them.

............While waiting for construction, time passes, 5 Doges later, the completed basilica burns down in 976, another is started in 1063 but the relics are nowhere to be found.......

1094 ad: the body of Saint Mark was found inside St Marks in a pillar in the chapel of San Clemente. His remains were placed with all honors inside the crypt of the consecrated church..

.........In the following centuries, the crypt became a fetid place and even though the relics of the holy body of Mark were still there, nobody went down there apart from periodic controls and checking on the wall structures of the foundation.

1811 restoration of the crypt started

1835 The relics were moved to a place under the main altar inside the church.

The back exterior of the sarcophagus in metallic letters reads: “SALUTAT VOS . . . MARCUS FILIUS MEUS.” Under the word “MEUS” is a smaller inscription reading “1 Petri 5.13,” (the source of the abbreviated quote on the tomb).

The front of the sarcophagus reads “CORPUS DIVI MARCI EVANGELISTAE” (Body of the Divine Mark, Evangelist).

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1. GOLDEN ALTARPIECE/PALA D'ORO

Magnificent expression of Byzantine religious art. The oldest sections are the circular gold and enamel plates on the rim.

The artistry is a mixture of work by Venetian craftsmen and those from Constantinople and combines intricate gold work with enameled medallions depicting the life of Christ, the life of St. Mark, and other biblical themes. The work continued over five centuries, as new elements were added.

The lower section dates to 1102-1118 as do the enamels with stories of St. Mark. The series of six Byzantine celebrations portrayed in the upper part, along with the central Archangel Michael are thought to have come from Constantinople after 1204.

The last additions were between 1343 and 1345 when Doge Dandolo charged two Venetian goldsmiths with framing the whole altar in a Romanesque arch at the top and a lower Gothic arch. It was then that the nearly 2,000 gems and precious stones were set in place. Along with 300 emeralds, these include rubies, garnets, sapphires, amethysts, topazes and 1300 pearls.

Dandolo called on Paolo Veneziano and his workshop to provide painted wooden panels to cover the enamels on non-feast days.

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4. CANOPY (early 13th century)

Dating from as early as the 11th century.

called different names: baldachin/ baldachino, or ciborium, (in architecture)

canopy: placed over an altar or tomb, supported on columns, especially when freestanding and disconnected from any enclosing wall.

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MOSAIC HEART

Since bodies are not allowed to be buried here, rumour has it a Doge had just his heart buried in this spot.
Supposedly, it is the heart of the 98th Doge Francesco Erizzo (1566-1646). He was the Doge from 1631-1646.
The heart encloses a hedgehog surmounted by a ducal horn. The hedgehog is the symbol of the patrician family Erizzo. The rest of the Doge’s remains are located near his birthplace, in the Church of St Martin in the Castello District of Venice.

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3. PILLARS

The canopy over the tomb is supported by 4 alabaster columns carved with 90 scenes of the Life of Virgin Mary and the Life of Christ.

The four columns are not of the same quality, the two front columns are more refined than the two at the back. Probably a workshop was involved in the work, not just a single sculptor.

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5. LEOPARDI'S SIGNATURE ON BASE OR HORSE

Verocchio, having made the clay model of the statue, died in 1488, before it had been cast in bronze. He asked in his will that his pupil, Lorenzo di Credi cast the statue. Instead in 1490 the Venetians selected Leopardi for this job. Leopardi had been exiled in 1487 for 5 years on a charge of fraud. He was recalled in 1490 by the senate to finish the statue. He also made the pedestal on which the statue stands. His name (in Latin) is inscribed on the horse’s girth: “ALEXANDER . LEOPARDUS . V . P . OPUS”. Early authorities thought that the work was entirely his.

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