Piazza San Marco│St.Mark’s Square, Venice
We only came across Piazza San Marco, often known in English as St Mark’s Square, after a number of hours getting lost in the canals of this incredible city! Piazza San Marco is the main public square of Venice, Italy, where it is known by the locals just as la Piazza (“the Square”). All other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzetta and the Piazzale Roma) are called campi (“fields”). The Piazzetta (“little Piazza/Square”) is an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon in its south east corner. The two spaces together form the social, religious and political centre of Venice and are commonly considered together.
We wandered the perimeter of the Square, stopped to watch people feeding the doves, and interweaved from the courtyard into the surrounding alleyways. This wasn’t the prettiest area of Venice, but it certainly was the busiest!
Above, St Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco in Italian) is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica.
It is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. While Justin wandered around and Eli took a nap, I went to the top of this bell tower to watch the sun set over Venice. More on that in our next post.
Above, The west facade of St Mark’s basilica.
The Square is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St Mark.
The Romanesque carvings round the central doorway and, above all, the four horses which preside over the whole piazza and are such potent symbols of the pride and power of Venice that the Genoese in 1379 said that there could be no peace between the two cities until these horses had been bridled. Four hundred years later, Napoleon, after he had conquered Venice, had them taken down and shipped to Paris.
The Clock Tower (Torre dell’Orologio), completed in 1499, is situated above a high archway where the street known as the Merceria (a main thoroughfare of the city) leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, the commercial and financial center of Venice.
While waiting in-line to ascend the bell tower, I watched this clock with some other tourists. On either side of semi-circular gallery, above the clock face, are two large blue panels showing the time: the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Twice a year, at Epiphany (6 January) and on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter, counting both days) the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession round the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door.
Below this is the great clock face in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (these are original and date from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac. In the middle of the clockface is the earth (in the centre) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position. The background is of blue enamel.
Although very crowded, this is definitely an area worth strolling through, even if just to see the Bell Tower, Clock Tower and the great church of St.Mark. There were many people sitting around the edges of this square, especially in the Piazzetta (“little Piazza”), soaking up the late afternoon sun, and enjoying the company of family and friends. We took some time here to allow Eli to run around, chase birds, and enjoy some physical activity before dinnertime.