More than any other building in Venice, the Basilica di San Marco (figure 1) incorporates many Byzantine and Islamic architectural, artistic, and design elements. These stylistic elements were not only intended to glorify God but to promote the Venetian Republic’s political and religious ideologies. The Venetian Republic held the belief that it was divinely ordained to be the rulers of the Adriatic. It was no coincidence that the founding of Venice is said to have occurred on March 25th, the feast day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. While there are no surviving records of this, Venice claims this date in 421 A.D. as the date of its “birth,” meritoriously uniting the city metaphorically with the announcement of the Immaculate Conception by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. This belief, along with the arrival of the body of St. Mark from Alexandria in 829, formed the basis of what would become known as the “Myth of Venice.” The “Myth of Venice” is the self-aggrandizing creation myth of the city “going back to the fourteenth century and celebrates its providential destiny, constitutional excellence, and political wisdom of the city-state.” The significance of the Basilica di San Marco (the Basilica of St. Mark) as a religious symbol for the Venetian Republic cannot be understated, and neither can its political connotations. It is vital to understand the origins of Venice to understand the intended meaning of the art and architecture of the basilica and how Byzantine and Islamic influences helped promulgate Venetian ideologies.
Hanny, Suzie, "Byzantine and Islamic Influences on the Art and Architecture of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice" (2021). Student Scholarship. 7.
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