April 23, 2019
Thought there was thunder last night and there was, along with gusting wind and pouring rain, which stuck around for the day. Thankfully great architecture, charm and incredible artwork saved the day.
Ever the intrepid travelers, Suzanne and I were going to chill today, our first full day in Venice. We chilled alright by walking the Byzantine byways of Venice, across the island to the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) in St. Mark’s Square. The Doge’s of Venice were the chief magistrates and leaders of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. They were elected for life by the city-state’s aristocracy.
We were wet long before we got there, but Suzanne says I deserve a gold star for leading us from our hotel to the St. Mark’s Square without getting lost. Just to give you an idea here is a map of Venice.
We walked from our hotel across the Grande Canal from the Ferrovia (train station) over the Rialto bridge to St. Mark’s Square (S Marco).
We waited to enter the Palace under the Porta del Frumento a 14th century colonnade. The decorative carvings on the colonnade pillars were individual and spectacular.
Once inside the palace we entered a courtyard surrounded with another colonnade topped by a Loggia.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the Venetian’s historical political structure. Let’s just say they had a 100 person senate and a very robust, active secret service, as evidenced by the prison with torture chambers in the basement and attic.
Parts of the Gothic Doge’s Palace were destroyed and rebuilt after the 10th and 15th century fires. The government spared no expense in the creation of the Palace, which included numerous chambers for audience, ship Captains, the senate, judgement, meeting, library, the Doge’s private living and many more that were used for various functions.
This type of ceiling decoration and art was in the Mannerist style, with ornate frameworks to featuring painting with exaggerated qualities of proportion, balance and ideal beauty. The resulting compositions can be asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant. The style is intellectually sophisticated and artificial as opposed to naturalistic*.
The armory is extensive and I was able to satisfy my curiosity about how handmade arrows looked. What wasn’t answered, is whether the meticulously crafted arrows flew true.
Last of all there are three magnificent statues of Adam, Eve and Mars by Renaissance sculptor (and sometime warrior) Antonio Rizzo *.
In passing through St. Mark’s Square we were able to view the intricate Byzantine style of Saint Mark’s Basilica. The Basilica was built to house the body of St. Mark the apostle, which was brought (some say stolen) from Alexandria. The catwalk below is assembled during times of high water which tends to flood St. Mark’s Square.
We were running low on energy, so caught a ferry back to the train station and from there made it back to the hotel for a needed nap before dinner.
*Rizzo, Hamish Bowles for Vogue, March 30, 2018.