294 Route 47. VENICE. a. Piazza of St. Mark:
'The Place of St. Mark is the heart of Venice, and from this
beats new life in every direction, through an intricate system of
streets and cañáis, that bring it back again to the same centre'
(Howells). On summer-evenings all who desire to enjoy fresh air
congrégate here. The scene is liveliestwhen the military band plays
(Sun., Mon., Wed., & Frid., 8.30-10.30), and possesses a charm all
its own. In winter the band plays on the same days, 2.30-4,30 p.ra.,
and the Piazza is then a fashionable promenade. By moonlight the
piazza is strikingly impressive.
A large flock of Pigeons (Colombi) enlivens the Piazza. In accordance
with an oíd custom pigeons were sent out from the vestibule of San Marco
on Palm Sunday, and these nested in the nooks and crannies of the sur-
rounding buildings. Down to the cióse of the Republic they were fed at
the public expense, but they are now dependent upon private charity.
Towards evening they perch in great numbers under the arches of St.
Mark's. Grain and peas may be bought for the pigeons from various
loungers in the Piazza; and those whose ambition leans in that direction
may have themselves photographed with the pigeons clustering round them.
The three richly decorated bronze *Pedestals of the flag-staffs in
front of the church were executed by Aless. Leopardi in 1505. The
banners of the Republic which once waved here are now succeeded
on Sundays and holidays by those of the Kingdom of Italy.
The nucleus of **San Marco (Pl. H, 5), the Church of St. Mark,
the tutelary saint of Venice, whose bones are said to have been
brought by Venetians from Alexandria in 829, is a Romanesque
brick basílica, begun in 830 and rebuilt after a fire in 976. In the
middle of the llth cent, a reconstrncíion was begun in a Byzantine
style on the model of the oíd church of the Apostles at Constan¬
tinople, and decorated with that lavish and almost Oriental magnifi-
cence that commands our admiration to-day. The fanciful effect of
the facade was enhanced by the Gothic additions it received in the
15th century. The edifice (250 ft. long, 170 ft. wide) is in the form
of a Greek cross (with equal arms), covered with Byzantine domes
in the centre and at the end of each arm. The foremost arm is
completely surrounded by a vestibule covered with a series of
smaller domes. On the S. side this contains the baptistery and the
Cappella Zeno; and on the W. side it forms the facade. Above it a
gallery runs round the upper part of the church. Externally and
internally the church is adorned with five hundred marble columns
(mostly Oriental), with capitals in an exuberant variety of styles.
The mosaics cover an área of 45,790 sq. ft., and the interior is
profusely decorated with gilding, bronze, and Oriental marble. The
mosaics, some of them said to date from the lOth cent., belong
chiefly to the period between the 12th and 16th cent., and afford
interesting evidence of the early aptitude of the Venetians for pic¬
torial composition. — Since 1807 St. Mark's has been the cathedral,
a dignity which once belonged to San Pietro di Castello (p. 330).
Mr. Ruskin, in the 'Stones of Venice', lays great stress upon the colour¬
ing of St. Mark's, reminding the reader 'that the school of incrusted archi-