Venice, city, major seaport, and capital of both the provincia (province) of Venezia and the regione (region) of Veneto, northern Italy. An island city, it was once the centre of a maritime republic. It was the greatest seaport in late medieval Europe and the continent’s commercial and cultural link to Asia. Venice is unique environmentally, architecturally, and historically, and in its days as a republic the city was styled la serenissima (“the most serene” or “sublime”). It remains a major Italian port in the northern Adriatic Sea and is one of the world’s oldest tourist and cultural centres.
Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.
The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Italian: Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), commonly known as St Mark’s Basilica (Italian: Basilica di San Marco; Venetian: Baxéłega de San Marco), is the cathedral church of the Patriarchate of Venice; it became the episcopal seat of the Patriarch of Venice in 1807, replacing the earlier cathedral of San Pietro di Castello. It is dedicated to and holds the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of the city.
The church is located on the eastern end of Saint Mark’s Square, the former political and religious centre of the Republic of Venice, and is attached to the Doge’s Palace. Prior to the fall of the republic in 1797, it was the chapel of the Doge and was subject to his jurisdiction, with the concurrence of the procurators of Saint Mark de supra for administrative and financial affairs.
The vast expanse of Venice’s largest square is brought together and made to seem almost intimate by the elegant uniformity of its architecture on three sides. But more than its architectural grace, St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is loved as Venice’s living room, the place everybody gathers, strolls, drinks coffee, stops to chat, meets friends and tour guides, or just passes through on the way to work or play.
Three sides are framed in arcades, beneath which are fashionable shops and even more fashionable cafés. The open end is bookmarked by the erratic, exotic curves, swirls, mosaics, and lacy stone filigree of St. Mark’s Basilica.
The Doge’s Palace (/doʊ(d)ʒɪzˈpælɪs/; Italian: Palazzo Ducale; Venetian: Pałaso Dogal) is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice in northern Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. It was built in 1340 and extended and modified in the following centuries. It became a museum in 1923 and is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
Visitors arriving in Venice once stepped ashore under the façade of this extraordinary palace. They couldn’t have failed to be impressed, both by its size and the finesse of its architecture.
If they were received inside by the Doges, the impression would only strengthen as they entered through the Porta della Carta, a perfect example of Venetian Gothic at its height, and ascended the monumental Scala dei Giganti and the gold-vaulted Scala d’Oro to be received in what many consider to be the palace’s most beautiful chamber, Sala del Collegio.
Even jaded 21st-century travelers gasp in awe at the palace’s grandeur and lavish decoration. You’ll see works by all the Venetian greats, including Tintoretto, whose Paradise is the largest oil painting in the world.
In 810, Doge Agnello Participazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto, when it was decided a palatium duci (Latin for “ducal palace”) should be built. However, no trace remains of that 9th-century building as the palace was partially destroyed in the 10th century by a fire. The following reconstruction works were undertaken at the behest of Doge Sebastiano Ziani (1172–1178). A great reformer, he would drastically change the entire layout of the St. Mark’s Square. The new palace was built out of fortresses, one façade to the Piazzetta, the other overlooking the St. Mark’s Basin. Although only few traces remain of that palace, some Byzantine-Venetian architecture characteristics can still be seen at the ground floor, with the wall base in Istrian stone and some herring-bone pattern brick paving.
The Grand Canal (Italian: Canal Grande [kaˌnal ˈɡrande]; Venetian: Canal Grando, anciently Canałasso [kanaˈɰaso]) is a channel in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city.
One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station and the other end leads into the basin at San Marco; in between, it makes a large reverse-S shape through the central districts (sestieri) of Venice. It is 3.8 km (2.4 mi) long, and 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft) wide, with an average depth of 5 metres (16 feet).
The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families faced huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos; this contest reveals the citizens’ pride and the deep bond with the lagoon. Amongst the many are the Palazzi Barbaro, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ d’Oro, Palazzo Dario, Ca’ Foscari, Palazzo Barbarigo and to Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old traditions, such as the Historical Regatta [it], are perpetuated every year along the Canal.
Sweeping through the heart of Venice in a giant reverse S curve, the Grand Canal is the principal boulevard through the city, connecting Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge, and the arrival points of the rail station and bridge from the mainland.
Only four bridges cross its 3.8-kilometer length, but stripped-down gondolas called traghetti shuttle back and forth at several points between bridges. The Grand Canal was the address of choice for anyone who claimed any influence in Venice. Palaces of all the leading families open onto the canal, their showy Venetian Gothic and Early Renaissance facades facing the water, by which visitors arrived.
The Rialto Bridge (Italian: Ponte di Rialto; Venetian: Ponte de Rialto) is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Connecting the sestieri (districts) of San Marco and San Polo, it has been rebuilt several times since its first construction as a pontoon bridge in 1173, and is now a significant tourist attraction in the city.
Once the only bridge across the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge marks the spot of the island’s first settlement, called Rivus Altus (high bank). Built in 1588, some 150 years after the collapse of a previous wooden bridge, this stone arch supports two busy streets and a double set of shops.
Along with serving as a busy crossing point midway along the canal, it is a favorite vantage point for tourists taking – or posing for – photos, and for watching the assortment of boats always passing under it.
The church of San Bartolomeo, close to the San Marco end of the bridge, was the church of the German merchants who lived and worked in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (German Commodity Exchange) bordering the canal here. It has an excellent altarpiece, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, by Palma the Younger. The former exchange is now a popular place to go shopping.
The Clock Tower in Venice is an early Renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco, at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. It adjoins the eastern end of the Procuratie Vecchie. Both the tower and the clock date from the last decade of the 15th century, though the mechanism of the clock has subsequently been much altered. It was placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the wealth and glory of Venice. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city, the Merceria, which linked the political and religious centre (the Piazza) with the commercial and financial centre (the Rialto). Today it is one of the 11 venues managed by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
To one side of the basilica, facing onto Piazza San Marco, is one of Venice’s most familiar icons, a clock tower surmounted by a pair of bronze Moors that strike the large bell each hour. The face of the clock shows phases of the moon and the zodiac in gilt on a blue background, and above the clock is a small balcony and a statue of the Virgin.
Above that, the winged Lion of St. Mark and a mosaic of gold stars against a blue background were added in 1755 by Giorgio Massari. The tower itself is from the 15th century and typical of Venetian Renaissance architecture. Through an arched gateway at its base runs one of Venice’s busiest streets, the narrow Calle Mercerei.
St Mark’s Campanile (Italian: Campanile di San Marco, Venetian: Canpanièl de San Marco) is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The current campanile is a reconstruction completed in 1912, the previous tower having collapsed in 1902. At 98.6 metres (323 ft) in height, it is the tallest structure in Venice and is colloquially termed “el paròn de casa” (the master of the house). It is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city.
Located in Saint Mark’s Square near the mouth of the Grand Canal, the campanile was initially intended as a watchtower to sight approaching ships and protect the entry to the city. It also served as a landmark to guide Venetian ships safely into harbour. Construction began in the early tenth century and continued sporadically over time as the tower was slowly raised in height. A belfry and a spire were first added in the twelfth century. In the fourteenth century the spire was gilded, making the tower visible to distant ships in the Adriatic. The campanile reached its full height in 1514 when the belfry and spire were completely rebuilt on the basis of an earlier Renaissance design by Giorgio Spavento. Historically, the bells served to regulate the civic and religious life of Venice, marking the beginning, pauses, and end of the work day; the convocation of government assemblies; and public executions.
The campanile stands alone in the square, near the front of St Mark’s Basilica. It has a simple form, recalling its early defensive function, the bulk of which is a square brick shaft with lesenes, 12 metres (39 ft) wide on each side and 50 metres (160 ft) tall. The belfry is topped by an attic with effigies of the Lion of St Mark and allegorical figures of Venice as Justice. The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire at the top of which there is a golden weather vane in the form of the archangel Gabriel.
Standing like a giant exclamation point above the expanse of Piazza San Marco, the Campanile is not the first to stand here. The original one, erected as a lighthouse in 1153, collapsed dramatically into the piazza in 1902, and was rebuilt on a firmer footing. Also rebuilt was the Loggetta at its base, a small marble loggia completed in 1540, where members of the Great Council assembled before meeting in the sessions.
In the loggia at the base, you can see Sansovino’s four bronze masterpieces between the columns, all of which were rescued from the rubble after the collapse. The Campanile has a grimmer side to its history: in the Middle Ages, prisoners, including renegade priests, were hoisted halfway up the outside in cages, where they hung suspended for weeks.
Santa Maria della Salute (English: Saint Mary of Health), commonly known simply as the Salute, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located at Punta della Dogana in the Dorsoduro sestiere of the city of Venice, Italy.
It stands on the narrow finger of Punta della Dogana, between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal, at the Bacino di San Marco, making the church visible when entering the Piazza San Marco from the water. The Salute is part of the parish of the Gesuati and is the most recent of the so-called plague churches.
One of the most photographed churches in Venice, Santa Maria della Salute has a postcard setting, rising at the tip of a peninsula across from the Doge’s Palace.
The monumental Baroque church was built as thanks for the end of the plague of 1630. But the fragile land wouldn’t support its tremendous weight, so its architect, Baldassare Longhena, had more than a million timbers driven into the floor of the lagoon before he could erect the church.
The vaporetto landing is right in front of the church, and the highlight of its interior – apart from the magnificent dome – is the Sacristy, where you’ll find paintings that include Tintoretto’s Marriage at Cana.
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