St Marks Square, Venice Piazza di San Marco
St Mark's Square, "la Piazza" for short, is Venice on parade, the point around which Venetian life revolves. Considered one of the finest squares in the world, it conveys a perfect impression of the city's former greatness since round it are grouped the buildings on which were centered the civic and religious life of the Republic. Surrounded on three sides by the arcades of public buildings - the Procuratie Vecchie (north), the Ala Napoleonica (west) and the Procuratie Nuove (south) - the integrated beauty of this unique square is rounded off by the domes and arches of the Basilica di San Marco (east) and the slender, soaring Campanile.
St Marks Square Map
The Piazza di San Marco would not be complete without the rectangular towering Campanile in front of the Procuratie Nuove that links the Piazza and the Piazzetta.The Campanile was begun in the 10th century; it was completed in the 12th century and its pointed roof added in the 15th century. It could be seen from afar by approaching ships and it guided them home with its gilded pinnacle.It collapsed on 14th July 1902, smashing the Loggetta at its foot but causing no casualties. By 1912 it had been painstakingly rebuilt.The Campanile is 98.6m/322.5ft high and has a double wall. A lift goes up to the Belfry from where there is a magnificent view of the city.In the Middle Ages the Campanile was also used as a pillory: wrongdoers - including adulterers and renegade priests - were closeted in a cage and hoisted half-way up the tower. This breezy punishment could last for several weeks.
Address: Piazza San Marco, I-30100 Venice, Italy
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 9am-7pm
Jun 25 to Aug 31: 9am-9pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9:30am-5:30pm
Jun 25 to Aug 31: 9am-9pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9:30am-5:30pm
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Easter - Christian, Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.20
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
The clock tower in Venice was designed and built (1496-99) by Mauro Coducci, probably to finish off the Procuratie Vecchie. It is typical of Venetian Renaissance architecture.The top storey with the mosaic of gold stars strewn over a blue background and the Lion of St Mark were added in 1755 by Giorgio Massari.The two bronze Mori Moors on the terrace who strike the bell to mark the hours were cast by Paolo Ranieri (1494-97). Visitors can climb to the roof of the clock tower to get a closer view of these two figures.The magnificent great clock (from which the tower gets its name) was also made by Ranieri and his son. It shows the hours, phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. Above the clock-face is a gilded Madonna. During Ascension Week and at Epiphany the Three Kings are conducted by an angel past the Madonna at each hour.Below the clock tower is the passage leading to the shopping street of Merceria.
The Basilica of St Mark has a long history but its present form dates to the 11th C. The original structure, where the remains of St Mark were brought it 829, burned down in 976.
This charming square is where Venice really receives its visitors. It is open to the sea, with the two columns on the Molo (Colonne di Marco e Teodoro), bordered on the right by the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), on the left by the Libreria Vecchia (library), backed by the Campanile on one side and the projecting Basilica di San Marco (Basilica of St Mark) on the other with, in the background, the Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower) and the Procuratie.The Piazzetta opens into the Palazzo di San Marco of which it is almost a part.It acquired its present shape with the building of the library. In the early Middle Ages a broad canal ran alongside the Doge's Palace up to the Basilica di San Marco.
Doges' Palace is one of Venice's most famous attractions. The building is noteworthy both for its history and architecture. Adjoining the palace is the Bridge of Sighs, another of the city's well know sights.
The Old Library in Venice houses a number of exhibition rooms that feature manuscript collections, gems, portraits of philosophers, and ceiling medallions. The library of St Mark houses 1,000,000 volumes.
The Correr Museum contains impressive art and historical collections. The Museo del Risorgimento, attached to the Correr, focuses on key historical events, including the 1848 Revolution.
La Fenice Theater
The Teatro La Fenice is the opera house of Venice. Built between 1790 and 1792, it was rebuilt in its original Neo-Classical style in 1836 after a fire.Its interior is richly decorated with gold, pink and white stucco, carvings and gilding. Rossini, Bellini and Verdi composed operas specially for this splendid theater which thus saw the first performances of Verdi's "Ernani" (1844), "Rigoletto" (1851), "La Traviata" (1853) and "Simon Boccanegra" (1857). It also staged the première of Benjamin Britten's "The Turn of the Screw".Incidentally, the rapturous reception for Verdi and the incessant chants of "Viva Verdi" were not simply on grounds of artistic merit. VERDI spelt out the clarion call of Italian opposition to Austrian rule and stood for Vittorio Emanuele Re d'Italia (Victor Emanuel, King of Italy).La Fenice is the most important opera house in Italy after La Scala, Milan.La Fenice is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and the place where Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata had their first performances. The building was gutted by a fire in January, 1996 but recreated to reflect the original. The theatre re-opened in 2003.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is probably the only palace in Venice which has a courtyard that is more interesting than the facade overlooking the Canal (in this case the Rio dei Barcaroli). In the courtyard is the famous Scala di Bovolo, a spiral staircase built about 1500 by the architect Giovanni Candi, which gave the palace its nickname ("Bovolo" = spiral).
The Late Gothic church at the top end of the Campo Morosoni dates from 1374. The perilously crooked Campanile, the gables on the facade, the choir and the splendid wooden vault in the nave were added 150 years later.Two important Venetians are buried in the simple interior. In the nave is the tomb-slab of Doge Francesco Morosoni who recaptured the Peloponnese for Venice, but at the same time blew up the Parthenon on the Acropolis which was used by the Turks to store their gunpowder.The composer Giovanni Gabriele (1557-1612) is buried in front of the first altar on the left. He was organist at San Marco and a pioneer of Early Baroque music. Santo Stefano also contains several valuable paintings by Venetian artists, including several by Tintoretto: "The Last Supper", "Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet" and in the Sacristy "The Agony in the Garden". In the first altar on the right is "The Birth of the Virgin" by Nicolò Bambini.Apart from the paintings the Late Gothic choir-stalls in the Presbytery and the fragments of a choir screen (both 1488) are very interesting.The fine monastery cloister (entrance at the east end of the north aisle) is also worth seeing.
Only some of the exhibits in the Archeological Museum in Venice are in fact archeological treasures, but the collection offers a unique opportunity to compare Classical archeological finds with "modern" Renaissance art. Here the visitor can see the Classical sculptures that influenced the Renaissance artists of Venice.The most important exhibits are:Room 4: eleven Classical Greek korai dressed in chitons (fifth century B.C.)Room 5: Statue of Apollo.Room 6: Satyr and nymph embracing.Room 7: Carved gem-stones.Room 8: Running Odysseus (Hellenistic); Leda and the Swan; Roman bustsRooms 9-10: Busts from the Republic and Roman Empire.Room 11: Byzantine ivory-carvings; St John the Evangelist and St Paul (10th century); St Theodore and St George.Room 12: Reliefs of centaurs by T. Aspetti.Room 20: Assyrian reliefs (eighth-seventh centuries B.C.).
Address: San Marco 17, I-30100 Venice, Italy
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Sep 30: 9am-7pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €4.00, Concession or reduced rate €2.00
The Loggetta at the foot of the Campanile in the Piazza di San Marco, a small marble loggia built by Sansovino between 1537 and 1540, was originally intended for the members of the Great Council so that they could assemble here whenever they wished, sheltered from rain and snow, before going into the sessions.However, as early as 1569 the elegant building, a work of art in itself, was downgraded to being the guardroom of the Doges Palace, which function it fulfillled until the end of the Republic in 1797.In 1902 the Loggetta was crushed when the Campanile collapsed, but it was possible to rebuild it using the original stones and sculptures. Today it is a waiting-room for tourists wanting to ascent the Campanile by lift.Sansovino's four bronze statues, "Pallas", "Apollo", "Mercury" and "Peace", between the twin columns are masterpieces.
The Giardinetto, extending west of the Piazzetta on the Molo, is one of those small parks which have grown up in Venice since the early 19th century and which bring to the city a touch of green which many visitors find lacking.Madam de Staël, for example, complained "An indefinable sadness creeps into the heart when one arrives in Venice. One is not in the country, for there is no green tree to be seen and yet not in the town, for every sound is drowned out by the water".It was to another French visitor (and the one most unwelcome to the city) that Venice owed her parks. Beside the Giardini Pubblici Napoleon I was also responsible for the Giardinetto behind the Procuratie Nuove because he disliked having his view of the sea from the window of the Procuratie Nuove blocked by a grain store which stood there.
Columns of St Mark and St Theodore
Doge Michieli actually brought three columns back from Tyre (now in the Lebanon) in 1125, but when they were being unloaded one of them fell into the sea and sank to the bottom of the lagoon.The other two were set up on the Molo. One of them was crowned with the Lion of St Mark - probably an early medieval mythical animal from Persia that had been given wings and a book between his paws. Until the 18th century the lion was gilded. St Theodore was set up on the second column; he was the first Patron Saint of Venice until superseded by St Mark. The gleaming white statue has been skillfully assembled: the head belongs to a Roman Emperor and the rest, including the dragon, to an early St George.
Santa Maria del Giglio
Santa Maria Zobenigo was founded in the ninth century by the Zubanico family, hence its name, but it is usually called Santa Maria del Giglio. The interior was restored in 1660 and the Baroque facade was added in 1678-83 by Giuseppe Sardi on the orders of Antonio Barbaro who, as a quid pro quo, ensured his own immortality by having a stone statue of himself placed above the main portal with, underneath, some of his ancestors. The lower plinths are decorated with reliefs showing panoramas of the cities in which Antonio Barbaro had served: Padua, Candia in Crete, and Zara (left), Rome, Corfu and Spalato (right).The Presbytery contains an early work by Tintoretto, "The Four Evangelists" (1552-57).
The west side of the Piazza di San Marco in Venice is formed by the Ala Napoleonica which was built in 1810 by order of Napoleon I.The work was entrusted to the architect Giuseppe Soli who simply copied the two lower floors of the Procuratie Nuove, omitted the third floor in order not to spoil the proportions of the Procuratie Vecchie, and topped his building with a heavy attic fronted by statues to bring it up to the height of the Procuratie Vecchie. The Ala Napoleonica contains the entrance to the Museo Correr.
Art connoisseurs find the Baroque facade of the church (built by Alessandro Tremignon in 1668) too rich and over-ornate. but the people of Venice love their "San Moisè" with its typical Venetian bell-tower.Worth seeing in the interior are a "Pieta" dating from 1732 (interior wall of the facade), a bronze relief of the Deposition (designed by Roccatagliata brothers in 1633; Sacristy altar), and the Baroque sculpture on the High Altar depicting Moses receiving the Tablets on Mount Sinai (by the Austrian Meyring).
Close to the Ponte dell' Accademia in Venice, the façade of the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti provides an excellent example of Late Gothic architecture. The building, which dates from 1565, was carefully restored in the 19th century. Of particular interest are the richly ornamented window frames. Part of the rear of the palace was enlarged in Neo-Gothic style. There is a small garden between the building and the Accademia bridge.The staircase is considered one of the sights of Venice.
Santa Maria della Fava
This 18th century church has a single nave lined with reliefs and statues by Giuseppe Bernardi, the teacher of Antonio Canova. It also contains an early work by G.B. Tiepolo, "Anna, Joachim and Mary" (1732; first side chapel on the right) and a masterpiece by G. B. Piazzetta, "St Filippo Neri begging for the Poor" (1725-27; second side altar on the left).
This museum features a collection of textiles, paintings, theatrical costumes and furniture, including work by set designer Mariano Fortuny.The famous pleated Fortuny dress was invented in this Palazzo in 1906 by Mariano Fortuny.
Address: Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, Campo San Benedetto, San Marco 3958, I-30124 Venice, Italy
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €8.00, Concession or reduced rate €5.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Photography prohibited.
The Town Hall in Venice consists of the Farsetti and Loredan palaces. Although the upper floors were altered in the 14th century, the ground floor of each palace has retained the 13th century Byzantine floor plan.
More St Marks Square Pictures
Map of Venice Attractions