St Mark’s Basilica crowns the head of the Piazza San Marco; it’s the most irresistible church in Christendom and the national shrine of the Venetian state.
Squint at it, and imagine the three great banners in front as sails, the Campanile tall and straight like a mast, the ship’s exotic cargo wrapped in fairy domes splashed by a roofline, where, as Ruskin wrote, ‘the crests of the arches break into a marble foam, and toss themselves far into the blue sky in flashes and wreaths of sculptured spray…’, while the four bronze steeds breast the waves, like figureheads, or like sea horses themselves – the ideal temple for a seafaring people with a marked inclination towards piracy.
Unfortunately, the Basilica also marks the lowest spot in Venice, a mere 65cm above sea level. The salt water from the constant flooding from high tides (even after the completion of the MOSE flood barriers, which are only raised when an acqua alta of 110cm or more has predicted) has eroded the bases of the plinths and ancient marble columns that support it. The catastrophic November 2019 floods left the entire church under water, especially damaging the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
Images by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls, Dennis Jarvis, Dimitris Kamaras, Francesco Guardi , Gérard, Keete 37, kewfriend, Madame de Pompadour, Nino Barbieri, PD art, Sp!ros, Testus, Creative Commons License, Unknown authorUnknown author, workshop of Andriolo de’ Santi, Zairon