Venice may be sinking and prone to heavy flooding but its popularity is not waning. The city welcomed 26 million tourists in 2015 alone. We are so glad it welcomed us too!
First stop on Day 2 of the pilgrimage was St Mark’s Basilica where, to help conserve the famed church, no photos were allowed.
The ceilings are filled with mosaics which cover more than 8,000 square metres. These depict stories from both the old and new testaments of the Bible, and are made of glass tiles filled with mineral pigments and 24 carat gold leaf, which gives the Byzantine-era church a warm and shimmering quality though it is dimly lit.
Our very knowledgeable guide, Marco, showed us through the church before leading us to the Doge’s Palace, a seat of Venetian political power for hundreds of years, and one whose leaders have been closely linked with the Basilica.
In 829 Doge (Venice’s chief magistrate) Justinian Partecipazio recovered the remains of St Mark from Alexandria, Egypt and brought them to rest in Venice.Three years later the first St Mark’s (San Marco) Church was consecrated. A fire in 976 (lit in the uprising against then Doge Candiano IV who tried to style himself as a regent and was opposed by the people of Venice) destroyed the church and it was resurrected the following year.
Marco made jokes and had the pilgrims laughing throughout the tour between delivering rapid-fire facts about the two sights. The lion, St Mark’s symbol, was a common sight and one more readily noticed post-tour.
The group also walked across the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte de Sospiri), a romantic name for stones that served a more fatal purpose as it is the place where convicts walked to pass into St Mark’s Square for public execution.