Today we woke up in Venice. We met our guide for a visit to the highlights of Venice. We headed to St Mark’s Square and into the Doge’s Palace. The Palace was more their “Congress Building, White House & Courts. The building was over the top with one of its rooms to be the largest in Europe and one of its paintings to be the largest in the world.
We left the opulent part of the building and descended into the basement prison to see the cells that once held some of Venice’s most famous criminals. We crossed the Bridge of Sighs. It had been given this name because it was the last view of outside world that a prisoner would see as he left the court to be incarcerated in the prison.
Venice became the wealthy state that could afford the opulence by being in the right location and knowing how to take advantage of this fact. When a stranger approached the cities of old, ancient cities would pull up the draw bridge and put arrows in their bows. Venice did the opposite. They welcomed the stranger, knowing the commerce they wanted was with that stranger. Their palace was set up to welcome foreign travelers, but also to impress them.
Our next stop was Saint Mark’s Cathedral. This is a stunning building constructed using the stolen treasures from the conquering of Constantinople. The name of the cathedral comes from the fact that the alter houses the bones of Saint Mark. These were “acquired” from Egypt and smuggled out in a container of pork. They knew that the Muslim guards would not want to inspect the container as they felt pork was unclean.
The walls and ceiling of the cathedral are covered in gold glass mosaics which create an overall shimmering effect. We were there at 11:30am when they turn the lights on the walls and domes to add to the effect of the glitter of the gold. The marble floors are entirely tessellated in geometric patterns and animal designs. This is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe.
Another installation at Saint Marks is the 4 horses. There were also acquired from Constantinople. They were removed by Napoleon and taken to Paris. After Napoleon was defeated, Venice asked to have them returned since Venice had stolen them first.
We spent part of the afternoon supporting the economy before taking a walking tour of the back streets of Venice. The day ended with a train ride back to Rome.