09 November 2016

2015 ITALY Venice 46 - The Tower of Venice

San Marco Square was packed with lines in every direction to see various prime sights. Mike is not a "line" person and preferred to sit, enjoy the sunny day, and people watch. He plopped down on one of the raised walkways, unused until later in the day when the tide would be in full splash mode.

I decided I would get in just one line and chose the Campanile (the Tower) line. I figured I could get the big picture of Venice from high up there.

Above is the Campanile with the New Procuratie (right) and manuscript depository (left) behind it. It is 323 feet tall and stands unattached to other buildings. It is 39 x39 feet square at the base.

Initial tower construction began in the 9th-century for use as a watch tower and lighthouse, and was completed in the 12th-century. There were numerous restorations over time due to earthquake damage and fires, some caused by lighting.

In July 1902, a major crack appeared in the north wall. Within just a few days, the tower and Baroque-style logia (entrance room) collapsed. Remarkably, no one was killed except the caretaker's cat. That same evening, monies were approved to reconstruct the tower in its original form, with additional reinforcement and an elevator. This work was completed in 1912.

Outside I waited in line for about 50 minutes to enter the logia. Inside was a little ticket window (I think I paid 8 euros) and a little elevator that holds maybe eight people. It gradually lifts you up to an open air belfry with a 360 degree view. And, wow, what a view!! Weather permitting you can see as far as the Alps. Not that good today, but still pretty spectacular.

At the top you can see the 1912 ornate metal staircase, usable if the elevator is unavailable.

In the belfry are five bells. I could not find the weight of the bells, but they are HUGE. Each bell is named and had a special purpose: one proclaimed a session of the Senate, one summoned the members to council meetings, one sounded midday, and one announced executions (Maleficio).

The largest bell, Marangona (or carpenter), marked the beginning and end of the work day. This is the only bell from the original set. The others were destroyed in the collapse. For music lovers, the bells are tuned to the scale of A. Rick Steves, famous U.S. travel guide, says they are VERY loud if you happen to be up there when they ring. I missed THAT experience!!
At the top of the tower you have a bird's eye view of all of Venice and its surrounding islands and waters. This is the Grand Canal as it enters the Adriatic Sea. Doge's Palazzo with courtyard on the lower right.

Beyond the Palazzo is more city and surrounding water. If you have a map of Venice, you can get your bearings from the location of the 139 churches in Venice or their towers. The two noticeable churches here are San Zaccaria to the right and San Giorgio dei Grece further back with two campaniles. They are on the east end of the tight-knit island cluster of Venice.
Back on St. Mark's Square and continuing counter clockwise is St. Mark's Basilica.

Continuing around the square is the Old Procuratie building with its ornate clock tower (dating from the 15th-century). It is an "astronomical" clock (blue circle), meaning it has special mechanisms and dials to display info such as positions of the sun, moon, zodiacal constellations, and sometimes major planets. Hard to see, but the two bronze figures on top, strike the hours on a bell. Each figure is over 8 feet tall. Behind see more city of Venice with Adriatic waters beyond that.

Looking kinda of northeast now. More city. More churches. White bell tower is Santa Maria Formosa. I think the large church behind is Santi Giovanni e Paolo. 
Now facing west, see the cruise ships along the waters edge at top of photo. There are at least four. That means maybe a minimum of 10,000 day trippers on the island. No wonder it is so crowded!! Beyond that is the mainland with refinery smoke stacks.
Facing kind of southwest is the tip end of the other side of the Grand Canal and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute.
Beyond that is the island of Guidecca and the Church of the Santissimo Redentore or Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Not sure what the little island is beyond that.
A small island east of Guidecca is San Giorgio Maggiore and its church. On the other side of the island (can't see) is the outdoor amphitheater "Teatro Verdi-Venice" that seats 1,345 people. Pictures on the web look fabulous. Oh, wish we had more time!!

To read more about this area, make a Google search for any of the places mentioned above.

07 November 2016

2015 ITALY Venice 45 - San Marco Square Gave Me Chills

Finally we wound our way into St. Marco Square (or piazza). It is shaped like a laid down "L." We entered through one of the passageways in the right building which connected the shopping district to the square. This is the Old Procuratie, a 12th century building, which housed offices and apartments of the procurators or imperial agents of the government in San Marco. It was originally two stories, but after a fire it was rebuilt in 1520 with three stories.

Two additional buildings are joined together to surround San Marco Square. The one to the left in this photo is the New Procuratie completed in 1640. In the space at the back were wings from the two original buildings and a small church. The wings and church were demolished in 1810. The space was then enclosed at the far end by a third building called the Napoleonic Wing of Procuraties (with red banners). You can see how huge this area is by the size of the people compared to the monumental buildings.

The newest section housed the Napoleonic governor after the fall of the Republic, then the Austrian governor, then the kings of Italy, and now the President of the Italian Republic when he is in Venice. The Correr Museum is also located there. It contains art and artifacts showing Venetian life and culture.

Also notice the wet spots around the circles in the piazza photo above. As Venice is below sea level, during storms water runs out of these drains into the Grand Canal. But when the tide is high, it has the reverse effect and water surges from the lagoon into the square.

You see here the beginnings of water seeping into the square during high tide on this day. And you saw in an earlier blog photo just how high the water can get. As we continued to explore the area, the workers were setting up the raised walkways for later in the day, so tourists could still visit but avoid wading in the sea surge. You can see the raised walkways in the photo below, if you look through the balustrade.

There is a covered walking arcade lining the perimeter of the square to shelter strollers from weather. Shops and old, famous (and expensive) coffee houses are located here, too. To name one...Caffè Florian which opened in 1720. It shares (with Café Procope in Paris) the distinction of being the oldest known coffee house in continuous operation. It looks much like the classic caffès we saw in Turin.

There are also trattorias with their table and chairs spilling out into the square.  Each establishment has a different color chair to tell them apart.  We weren't hungry or thirsty, just wanted to roam and rubberneck.
After we entered the main square and took that all in, we bared toward the left and shorter end the of "L." This is the piazzetta (or little square). To our left was St. Mark's Basilica, the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice (northern Italy). It took from 978 until 1092 to construct. It was originally the chapel of the Doge (the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice during medieval and renaissance times) and did not become the city's cathedral until 1807.

It is 251x205 feet in size and has 5 towers. The tallest is 141 feet outside and 92 feet inside. It is a wonderful example of Italo-Byzantine and Gothic architecture. It has a nickname of the Church of Gold, for its abundant gold decorations and mosaics. It is really a sight to behold with endless elaborate decor and sculpture. The golden winged lion, the emblem of Venice, is prominent at its peak above the entrance. Actually the winged lion was everywhere! Here he is with St. Mark.

Attached to that is the Doge's or Ducale (Duke's) Palazzo built in the Venetian Gothic style. One side faces the piazzetta and the other side has a sweeping view of the Grand Canal. There were multiple constructions-fires-reconstructions of this edifice. This "version" of the palace was constructed from 1424 to 1442, with a redo on the canal side in 1483 after yet another fire. An internal courtyard and private apartments of its previous residents can be viewed in the current museum there.

Across the square from the palace is the Campanile (Tower .. more on that in the next blog) of St. Mark's Square and the National Library of St. Mark's (which is attached to the New Procuratie building). It is one of the earliest depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical text collections in the world.

The end of St. Mark's piazzetta is the "front porch" of Venice. Along the Grand Canal see the Doge's Palace to the left and the New Procuratie building to the right. This view takes your breath away. It is the heart beat of Venice and we can see why everyone falls in love with this magical place.

For more info on San Marco Square see:
Click on the diagram for the layout of the square. Click right or left arrows for other close-up photos. We entered the square in this diagram through the building on the left. The church is at the top. The view of the Canal is in the upper, right. The tower is the smaller dark square in the middle.