Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Visit to Venice, Italy Nov. 13th - 15th

Last week Paula had to travel to Minneapolis to participate in a sales training seminar.  I started researching cities that I wanted to visit and that had good weather.  After a lot of searching I decided to travel to Venice.  Paula and I had been there about 15 years a go, but the weather was so nasty that we did not get to see much of the city.  The 2 days that I was there the temperature was in the mid to upper 60's, unusually weather for this late in the year. 

Once I got settled in my hotel. I decided to visit some of the other major churches prior to visiting St Marks Cathedral.

The Church of San Rocco.
A Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Roch whose relics (a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person), rests in the church. 
He was declared a patron saint of Venice in 1576. His feast day is Aug 16.
The church was built between 1489 and 1508. It is one of the five so called Plague churches, built in Venice, as symbols of thanks for the city's deliverance from significant outbreaks of the plague.

The main altar in the Church of San Rocco.

The Scuola di San Rocco.
Built in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetian citizens, it sits next to the church of San Rocco, from which it takes its name.  In 1564 the painter Tintoretto was commissioned to provide paintings for the Scuola.  Paintings on the ceiling are from the Old Testament and on the walls from the New Testament.

Jacopo Tintoretto, 1519-1594, one of Italy’s famous artists painted approximately fifty artistic paintings for Scuola di San Rocco and its neighboring church in Venice.  The best of Tintoretto’s famous paintings, is the "Crucifixion", which hangs in the Scuola.
Below are some of Tintoretto's paintings in the Scuola.  More of his paintings will be shown later.

The Annunciation. - 1583 to 1587

The Circumcision of Jesus - 1587

The Crucifixion - 1565.  

The painting is 40 ft wide and 18 ft high.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.
One of the greatest churches in the city, it has the status of a minor basilica and is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
The Franciscans were granted land to build a church in 1250, but the building was not completed until 1338. Work almost immediately began on its much larger replacement, the current church, which took over a century to build. The campanile (bell tower), the second tallest in the city after that of San Marco, was completed in 1396.
The imposing edifice is built of brick, and is one of the city's three notable churches built in the Italian Gothic style. As with many Venetian churches, the exterior is rather plain. The interior contains the only rood screen (a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron) still in place in Venice.
Titan, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school of painting, is interred here.

High altar of the Basilica showing Titian's Assumption, (1516-1518), the largest altarpiece in Venice.

Choir stalls in the Basilica.

The rood screen in the Basilica.

The Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo.
One of the largest churches in the city, it has the status of a minor basilica. After the 15th century the funeral services of all of Venice's Doges (the  chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice) were held here, and twenty-five Doges are buried in the church.
A huge brick edifice built in the Italian Gothic style, it is the principal Dominican church of Venice, and as such was built for preaching to large congregations. It is dedicated to John and Paul, not the Biblical Apostles of the same names, but two obscure martyrs of the Early Christian church in Rome, whose names were recorded in the 3rd century but whose legend is of a later date.
In 1246, Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated some swampland to the Dominicans after dreaming of a flock of white doves flying over it. The first church was demolished in 1333, when the current church was begun. It was not completed until 1430.

The interior of the Basilica.

Chapel of the Rosary in the Basilica.

Medieval and Renaissance wall tombs in the Basilica. 

After visiting the churches above, I decided it was time to head to St Marks.

The Rialto Bridge.

Venice, the "City of Canals," is also called the "City of Bridges" because of the numerous spans that crisscross its waterways. While many of Venice's 400+ bridges are nondescript and practical, there are several that embody the beauty and the history of this fascinating city. The Rialto Bridge tops the list.

The Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Venice and one of its top attractions.  It was the first of only four bridges (the other three being Academy Bridge, Scalzi Bridge and  Calatrava Bridge) to span the Grand Canal.
The first bridge was built on this site in 1180, and its construction greatly facilitated trade between the two major municipalities of San Polo and San Marco. That is, of course, until it collapsed in 1264. The second construction was a little sturdier but that too fell prey to an unfortunate end, and was almost entirely burned down during a revolt in 1310. A drawbridge was then designed and built but, while one might think it was third time lucky, it really was not.
It was not fourth time lucky either in 1444 and definitely not fifth time lucky in 1524, when the bridge collapsed for the fourth, and final, time. For Venice it turned out to be sixth time lucky, when an architect by the name of Antonio da Ponte offered an innovative design for a brand new bridge made entirely of stone.
The bridge is 75 ft wide, 24 ft high and has a length of 158 ft.
A view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

The Grand Canal is the main waterway of following a natural channel that traces a reverse-S course from San Marco Basilica to Santa Chiara Church and divides the city into two parts.

The canal is slightly more than 2 miles long and between 100 and 225 feet wide, it has an average depth of 17 feet and connects at various points with a maze of smaller canals. These waterways carry the bulk of Venetian transportation, as automobiles are banned throughout much of the city.

Traditional poled  gondolas are a favorite with tourists but are now vastly outnumbered by motorized public-transit water buses (vaporetti) and private water taxis. Siren-equipped boats belonging to the police, fire, and emergency medical services traverse the Grand Canal at high speed, and barges are responsible for the delivery of goods throughout the city.

The connection between Venetians and their city’s main thoroughfare does not end at the grave; funeral barges can be seen transporting the dead to Isola di San Michele, an island northeast of the city, that has been the site of Venice’s largest cemetery since the early 19th century. 

Another view of the Grand Canal from the bridge.

A view of one of the houses along the Grand Canal.

Houses along the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal was traditionally the high-rent district in Venice; houses were larger, and decoration was on a much grander scale. This makes sense when you consider that the Canal offers much greater opportunities for everyone to see the buildings facing it. Further, the Grand Canal, affording easier transport and access to shipping, tended to favor the kind of residents who were large-scale merchants, the very ones likely to have more money.

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (officially known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and commonly known as Saint Mark's Basilica) is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Venice.
It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best-known examples of Byzantine architecture.  It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge’s Palace . Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city's cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Venice. 
For its opulent design, gilded Byzantine mosaics and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on, the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).
The first St Mark's was a temporary building in the Doge’s Palace, constructed in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist (the author of St Mark) from Alexandria. This was replaced by a new church on its present site in 832; from the same century dates the first St Mark’s Campanile (bell tower).

The new church was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978 and again to form the basis of the present basilica since 1063. The basilica was consecrated in 1094. The building also incorporates a low tower (now housing St Mark’s Treasure), believed by some to have been part of the original Doge's Palace.

Within the first half of the 13th century the narthex and the new façade were constructed, most of the mosaics were completed and the domes, of the basilica, were covered with higher wooden, lead-covered domes in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge's Palace.

The Basilica is immense, it is 251 ft long, 205 ft wide and has 5 domes.  The height of the outer domes are 141 ft and the height of the inner domes are 93 ft.

Another view of St Mark's Basilica.

The next few pictures are of the interior of the Basilica.  No pictures can do it justice, it is absolutely magnificent.

St Mark's Campanile.
This is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, which was initially constructed in 1514. It is located in the Piazza San Marco and is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city.
The tower is 323 ft tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark's Square, near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a fluted brick square shaft, 39 ft wide on each side and 160 ft tall, above which is a covered balcony surrounding the belfry (bell tower) which houses the five bells. The belfry is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show the Lion of St Mark and the female representation of Venice (la Giustizia: Justice). The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weather vane, in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The current tower was reconstructed in its present form in 1912 after it collapsed in 1902.

A view of Venice from the top of the bell tower.

A view of St Mark's Square from the bell tower.

Another view of Venice from the tower.

One of the five bells that hangs in the tower.  I was in the belfry when the bells started to ring, it is a deafening sound.  

Each of the five bells of the campanile had a special purpose. The Renghiera (or the Maleficio) announced executions; the Mezza Terza proclaimed a session of the Senate; the Nona sounded midday; the Trottiera called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings and the Marangona, the biggest, rang to mark the beginning and ending of working day.  Today, they ring every 3 hours.
They are tuned in the scale of A

In the belfry, is this plaque, which commemorates that this is the location where Galileo, on Aug. 21,1609, introduced his telescope to the Doge and the Senate of Venice.

A view of the Doge's Palace from the tower.

The Doge's Palace is one of the top attractions in Venice.  It was the resident of the Doge (the ruler of Venice) and also housed the political bodies of the state, including the Great Council (Maggior Consiglio) and the Council of Ten. Within the lavish complex, there were law courts, administrative offices, courtyards, grand stairways, and ballrooms, as well as prisons on the ground floor. Additional prison cells were located across the canal in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), were built in the late 16th century, and connected to the palace via the Bridge of Sighs.
Historical records note that the first Doge Palace, in Venice, was built around the end of the 10th century, but much of this Byzantine part of the palace was a victim of subsequent reconstruction efforts. The construction of the most recognizable part of the palace, the Gothic-style south façade facing the water, was begun in 1340 in order to hold the meeting chamber for the Great Council. There were numerous expansions of the Doge's Palace throughout subsequent centuries, including after 1574 and 1577, when fires ravaged parts of the building.
Venice's most important secular building, the Doge's Palace was the home and headquarters of the Venetian Republic for approximately 700 years until 1797 when the city fell to Napoleon. It has been a public museum since 1923.

Paradise - 1588

The crowning production of Tintoretto's life, the last picture of any considerable importance which he executed, was the vast Paradise, which adorns one of the walls in the Doge's Palace. It is 74 ft wide x 30 ft high and is reputed to be the largest painting ever done on canvas.

Major fires in the Doge's Palace in 1574 and 1577 necessitated the wholesale renovation of its pictorial decoration, and artists received explicit instructions about subject and even composition, the idea being to emulate the visual authority of the destroyed works as closely as possible.

Tintoretto's most important contribution to the enterprise was the replacement of Guariento's 1365 Coronation of the Virgin, located behind the dais on which the doge and leading patricians sat during meetings of the Great Council. It had been decided that the replacement would continue to center around Christ and Mary, preserving the general paradisaical theme of Guariento's composition.

However, the focus of Tintoretto's Paradise composition was to be Christ rather than Mary, eliminating the flanking scenes of the Annunciation and setting Christ as the supreme authority, to whom Mary is subsidiary. The seething crowds of saints and angels purposefully suggest a Last Judgment, reminding Great Council members of the gravity and enduring significance of their deliberations and actions.
A view of the clock tower, in St Mark's Square, from the bell tower.

This clock tower dates from the 15th century and is one of the most famous architectural masterpieces in Venice. The enameled and gilded astronomical clock indicates the lunar phases and position of the sun in the zodiac, as well as the time. Above the clock is a Madonna and Child. 

The bell at the top of the tower rings on the hour. The two figures, at the top of the clock tower, alternate hitting the bell with their hammer to produce the sound.

After my visit to St Mark's, I decided to take a boat to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore to see the church of the same name.

A frontal view of the Doge's Palace on my way to the island.

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
It is built on a island of the same name, which is located south of the main island group.
After the foundation of Venice, the island was named Insula Memmia after the Memmo family who owned it. By 829 it had a church consecrated to St. George; thus it was designated as San Giorgio Maggiore.
The Monastery of San Giorgio was established in 982, when the Benedictine monk, Giovanni Morosini asked the Doge, Tribuno Memmo to donated the whole island for a Monastery. Morosini drained the island's marshes next to the church to get the ground for building, and founded the Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, and became its first abbot.
The church was built between 1566 and 1610. The church is a basilica in the classical renaissance style and its brilliant white marble gleams above the blue water of the Bay of San Marco.
It is now the headquarters of the Cini Foundation Arts Center and is known for its library, paintings and open-air theatre. The foundation was established by Count Vittorio Cini in memory of his son who died in an airplane accident near Cannes in 1949. Vittorio Cini had been arrested by the SS during World War II and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. His son Giorgio was able to get him released by bribing officials with diamonds and jewellery.
The campanile (bell tower) was first built in 1467.  It fell in 1774 and was rebuilt in neo-classic style by 1791. The tower has 9 bells in C#. There is a great view of Venice from the top.

An interior view of San Giorgio Maggiore.

There are a lot of paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto in the church.  I have only pictured three.

The Jews in the Desert - The Fall of Manna - 1593.

The Last Supper - 1592 t0 1594.

Entombment of Christ - 1592 to1594.

A view of the monastery's garden from the top of the bell tower.

A view of Venice from the tower.

Activity on the Grand Canal after dark.

On Thursday morning I had about 4 more hours to explore Venice before I had to head to the airport.  So, I decided to just start walking and explore the areas around the smaller canals.

The first thing I noticed, on my walk, was this church.  It is not difficult to go very far before you find a church.  Venice, with a population of about 270,800, is reported to have 149 churches.
Seen above is The Chiesa di San Nicolò da Tolentino, commonly known as the Tolentini.
The Theatines (a male religious order of the Catholic Church) arrived in Venice in 1527 after the Sacking of Rome.  They began construction in 1527 and finally it was completed in 1714.  It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino.  It is a large church with a huge freestanding Corinthian portico.
 As is the case in this church and many churches and other buildings in Venice, major renovations are currently taking place.
This church unfortunately it is not so noticeable because it is lucky/unlucky to be in Venice, a city so rich of treasures that anything else is unnoticeable.

When I got to one of the small bridges that crossed a canal, I heard a lot of loud Italian language and noticed a lot of commotion.  It seems that over night, the boat on the left, started taken on water and was slowly sinking.  The men were attempting to tie it to the pilings and to the bridge railing.  (It did not seem like a good idea to tie it to the railing as it was not very sturdy). In the mean time, they had a little pump that was attempting to pump the water out of the boat.  I watched them for at least 30 minutes and they were not making much headway.

It appears that situations like this must not occur often, as they did not seem to have good plan or resources to deal with it.

A view along one of the smaller canals.

According to the latest satellite measurements, Venice is continuing to sink, albeit at a relatively slow rate of about 0.08 inches per year.  The water in the Venetian lagoon is also rising by about 0.08 inches per year. The combined effect is a 0.16-inch. Increase in sea level with respect to the land.
It is quite common to see boats, such as the one above, that is off loading construction material, as they fight to save the buildings from the ravages of the water.

This is a common sight.  You can see where the water has been by the water mark on the wall.  It is a good 12 inches above the bottom of the door.

There are many buildings where the occupants have abandoned the first floor, and have moved to the upper floors, due to water damage.  

A floating produce market.  There are no cars allowed in much of Venice, so this is how things get to market.

Another example of water commerce.

During my walk, I happened upon all of these gondolas.  The gondoliers were just starting their day.

Water coming into St Mark's Square.

The Piazza San Marco is the lowest point in Venice, and as a result during the Acqua Alta the "high water" from storm surges from the Adriatic Sea, or even heavy rain, it is the first to flood.  In the square, as well as all over Venice, there are small slits in the stone that allow water to drain back into the Grand Canal. 

When the square floods, the workers put up elevated walk ways to allow people to cross the square and to get into the Basilica.  When I took this picture there was 4 to 6 inches of water covering part of the square.  It was particularly deep near the entrance to the Basilica, which seems to be one of the lowest spots in the square.

As you can see in the next picture the day was sunny, not a cloud in the sky.  However, there was a high tide, this accounted for the water entering the square.

The Bridge of Sighs
 (The Doge's Palace is on the left and the prison is on the right)
Until the second half of the 16th century, the prisons were situated in the Doge’s Palace. The new prison was then built in front of the Doge’s Palace, on the other side of the canal, and the Bridge of Sighs was built in 1602 to link the Doge’s Palace with the new jail.

Legend has it, that the name for the Bridge of Sighs, comes from the prisoners who used to sigh as they passed over the bridge, as it offered them a final opportunity to view the city, before they were led to their cells or to the executioner.
The prison cells were located in cold and narrow underground tunnels, where one can still breathe the atmosphere of the past. Some of the cells were made of metal, others of wood; all were below sea level.

San Giorgio dei Greci (The tower really is leaning).
The Greek refugees, who fled to Venice from Turkey, with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, in 1536, built this Greek Orthodox cathedral.  It was funded with the aid of a special dispensation from Venice to collect taxes on incoming Greek ships.
The church is dedicated to San Giorgio (St. George), the charismatic dragon fighting and princess-saving saint. It’s kind of cool that there are four churches in Venice dedicated to St. George – two Catholic, one Greek Orthodox, and one Anglican (founded by the British). He’s a superhero/saint for all seasons, and there are images of him and that dragon all over Venice.
The separate, slender bell tower, was completed in 1603 and immediately began to lean; now it seems poised to dive into the canal.

The main altar in San Giorgio dei Greci.

This picture makes one wonder how many times a gondolier hit his head before he remembers to duck.

Santissimo Nome di Gesu (The Church of the Name of Jesus)
This Catholic Church was built between 1815 and 1834.
You enter the church building through a gate set on two pillars, on which two stone statues representing angelic figures welcome visitors.
The church has a façade in neo-classical style; the element that most characterizes it is a great notched pediment (gable), supported by a lintel (support beam), in turn supported by two pilasters (ornamental and structural columns). 
The perforated patterns consists of two elements; the entry (which is reached by a short flight of stairs) and the arched half moon resting on the frame of the portal.
Inside is a single nave with a barrel vault and, above the entrance, roof drawers (cavities formed in the ceiling and arranged on a regular basis) supported by two large Ionic columns.

The main altar in The Church of the Name of Jesus.

I had a great two days in Venice, and I reluctantly had to leave to catch my flight back to Vevey.  

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