St Mark’s Basilica Venice
St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is one of the best known structures to showcase Italo-Byzantince architecture. It is a striking monument to history and an unexcelled opulence.
Serving originally as a chapel to the Doge, the elected head of state in Venice, the first structure was built next to the Doge’s Palace in approximately 832 AD. But nothing of that building remains, and no record is found of its design and appearance.
History: Burned then Built
In an unfortunate historical occurrence, the building was burned with Pietro IV Cantiano locked inside. It was an act of rebellion by the general populace.
The building of the edifice which still stands today is recorded to have begun in 1073. The completed building was consecrated as a sacred edifice, with varied recorded dates between 1084 and 1117 with the date most often given as 1093.
The Church of Gold
The building structure has changed fairly little through the centuries, but its ornamentation, particularly in the exterior, has become increasingly more opulent over time. Heavily ornamented gables, each adorned with gilded sculptures and spires, leave an immediate impression.
Even in its earlier days, it earned the well-deserved title of Cheiso d’Oro, Church of Gold, as a statement of the wealth and power of the city of Venice.
Parts of the Basilica
The west façade of the Basilica looking out into the piazza is more or less divided into 3 portions: the lower, consisting of the entrances and surrounding polychrome marble columns; the upper, consisting of ornate Roman arches; and the domes themselves.
There is a sculpture of 4 horses, which is said to represent the 4 horses that pulled and emperor in a chariot centuries ago. These sculptures are now placed in the interior in the Basilica Museum. Replicas of the same sit outside next to the entrance looking out to the piazza.
Today’s Gilded Gold
The interior is characterized by gold ground mosaic, filling in all the domes and surrounding ceiling areas as well. In subsequent repairs and resurfacing of these mosaics, the old mosaics were disposed of for an inferior grade of material. This resulted in a reduction in quality and shimmering; however current photographs reveal a gilded feast for the eyes of all who love opulence.
You may wish to read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mark%27s_Basilica