Two Sundays ago (my how time flies!), I attended the 8am Easter Sunday service at the iconic Basilica di San Marco by the Piazza San Marco, Venezia, Italy. In this, the first of a series of articles from my recent trip to Venice, I would like to briefly cover a fraction of the history of this building and my personal thoughts from my visit. Something to keep in mind when visiting La Serenissima – as Venice is nicknamed – is that there are churches everywhere, and several of them are Baroque creations. It is a wonderful place for history lovers and architecture buffs alike.
The architecture is stunning from every angle. The opposite portion of the church was hidden by a good amount of scaffolding during our visit, but you can get a very good idea of the building from these photos. The amount of detail that went into this building (and many others in Venice) is outstanding. Those who wish to go to the religious service must enter through the side door, not the tourist entrance: I awoke at 7am, as the bells were ringing, and arrived at the Basilica twenty minutes before the 8am service, which was the second service of the day, if I’m not mistaken. Having never before been inside the church, the interior of the Basilica took my breath away. It is overwhelmingly Byzantine and Gothic. The domes are covered in beautiful gilded mosaic art which reminded me somewhat of the artwork by John Thornhill in St. Paul’s Cathedral back home in the United Kingdom.
Although I was raised a Roman Catholic, I have gone from militant atheism to the point where I simply don’t want to talk about what I believe to others. It’s a personal thing. I also don’t want to label myself as anything (except a good person hopefully). I respect the church as a part of our Western cultural identity because it shaped the beliefs of so many people – our ancestors – over the past two thousand years. Although not particularly religious, I am passionate about the religious art and music of the Mediaeval through the Early Modern eras because they are so beautiful and so full of meaning. I hadn’t gone to an Easter service in years, but I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take part in this holiday service and see the interior of the Basilica – something I was not able to do on my previous trip to Venice in 2001.
As you can see from the photos, the gilding created a sort of yellow glow which was so beautiful. Not surprisingly, it is nickname Chiesa d’Oro or Church of Gold. Whatever your personal beliefs may be, I don’t think anyone can say this isn’t lovely. This church as been the city’s official cathedral since the early nineteenth century. This church is right next to the Doge’s Palace (Il Palazzo Ducale) and is apparently connected to it.
The service was in Italian and Latin and I was really happy that I understood most of it (having self-taught both languages). As I sat in the fourth pew from the front, and the people around me were all Italians, I felt truly privileged to take part in this tradition. Those of you who frequent this site know how keen I am on tradition and history as I think it is integral to a culture’s identity. From what I saw in Venice, the residents quite rightly maintain their traditions – and it is beautiful and heartening to behold. Now, I don’t know if I was supposed to take this or not, but I did because I saw other people take it away. If you are from this church and want it back, I will send it back to you! I seriously did not know if we were meant to return it or not. It’s now on my desk in my study, where I have been thumbing through it since that day. The readings were from Acts 10:34a, 37-43, and the Homily was said in Latin:
Credo inunum Deum, Patrem omnipotentum, factorum caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ec Patrae natum ante omnia saecula…
From my (albeit limited) research, it appears that the present interior is much as it would have been during the 17th-century. Isn’t that exciting?!
Alright, alright. This is an epically bad “selfie”. Good. I don’t like selfies. Anyway, I didn’t want to get told off but I wanted a photo of myself inside the church so I could show my family. I also wanted to show you all just a taste of what the interiors look like. I hope you don’t mind the poor quality of these images, but there was nothing I could do about that. I still very much like my pink hat/fascinator though! I’m glad I didn’t go as a tourist, because I feel as though I had an even better experience by attending the service instead. As I exited the building after that moving ceremony, I came across this cute little scene:
Later that day I returned to the hotel, where I found this lovely Easter gift from the hotel staff on the bed:
The day ended with chocolate! What’s not to like?
If you are interested in more information, service times, please have a look at St. Mark’s Basilica’s Official Website. Thank you for reading this; I hope you enjoyed the photos.