Top 10 Facts about St Mark’s Square in Venice
St. Mark’s Square is one of the most-visited sights in Venice. Its history goes back to the 9th century A.D and is full of legend and other fascinating stories about it.
The Square attracts millions of tourists each year to admire the Basilica, the stunning Palazzo Ducale and the campanile.
Not a single visitor to this Square leaves disappointed. There is always something new to explore and admire at this square.
This public square, commonly referred to as la Piazza, has an extension called Piazzetta in its southeastern corner.
Together with the Piazzetta, these two spaces act as a meeting ground for social, religious, and political groups.
To know more about this Square, check out these facts below.
1. It is commonly referred to as the drawing room of Europe
St. Mark’s Square is the biggest public square in Venice and one of the most beautiful in the world.
Because of its striking beauty, Napoleon is said to have referred to it as the drawing room of Europe. This was when he took part in finishing up the square.
Napoleon loved the square because it was not only beautiful but also a place people could come and enjoy the views.
No matter the time or season of the year, the square is quite enchanting.
The square bears a perfect impression of the city’s culture and architecture history.
2. Beautiful architecture surround St. Mark’s Square in Venice
St Mark’s Square is close to the top attractions in Venice and is surrounded by glorious architecture on every side.
These buildings around the square are believed to have influenced Napoleon’s infamous remark about it being a drawing-room.
Some of the top attractions here are the Basilica San Marco, the bell tower, and Doges Palace, which was once the administrative centre of the city.
The square is also lined with shops and cafes, one of them being the Caffe Florian. It has been serving drinks in this square since the 1720s.
The buildings surrounding the square are known as Procuratia which are offices and homes of government officials.
Gothic arcades of the Doge’s Palace are from the 14th century after they were rebuilt. It was further extended towards the church in 1424.
3. The square is prone to flooding
St Mark’s Square is somewhat slightly above sea level so it can flood. This is quite a normal occurrence such that the city has adapted to it.
When it floods, the locals call it Aqua Alta, meaning high water. This happens when there’s been a high tide, or the wind is blowing in from the Adriatic.
To allow ease of movement in the square, temporary walkways are usually put in place.
The water from the square drains to the Grand Canal but when the tide is high the water fills up the square.
During the floods, some sirens are sound to alert the people, it is quite common during the winter.
4. The square was paved in the 12th century
The square, commonly known as Piazza, was paved in the late 12th century. The bricks used were laid in a herringbone pattern.
They also used bands of coloured stones along the axis of the main piazza.
The lines were used in setting up market stalls and in organizing frequent ceremonial processions.
The original pavement design is still visible through the paintings of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance period.
A renovation of the pavement was done in 1723 into a more complex geometrical design. The architect responsible was Andrea Tirali.
Some people believe that the patterned pavement was a design borrowed from oriental rugs which were popular in the market.
To curb flooding, the level of the piazza was raised by approximately one meter. This allowed more room for the internal drains to carry water to the Grand Canal.
5. The horses at the square are from the 8th century
The horses of Saint Mark were installed on the balcony, above the main doors, for the first time in 1254.
These horses were from the 8th century and are believed to have been on top of the Roman Arch of Trajan. They were used to depict a four-horse chariot race.
Later on, they made an appearance on top of the Hippodrome of Constantinople in Istanbul.
They were removed in 1204 after the Venetians conquered the city during the fourth crusades.
Doge Enrico Dandolo sent the horse sculptures to Venice as part of the loot from the sack of Constantinople.
Napoleon looted them again for France when he conquered Venice in 1797.
The imposing horses were finally returned to Venice in 1815. They have been on display at the Basilica ever since.
Those outside are a replica of the originals which are now inside the basilica.
6. Doge Chapel was set on fire
Doge Chapel was the first church in St Mark square. It was begun on the south side of the existing chapel.
By 836 A.D, construction of the chapel was satisfactorily advanced for the relics to be moved.
The design of the church was grounded on the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.
These two seemed to have covered the same area as the central part of the present church. The bell tower was first built in the time of Doge Pietro Tribuno between 888 and 891 A.D.
In 976, a rebellion against the Doge led to the church being torched.
The roof and the dome were badly damaged but the main church building was not destroyed. Renovation works were done in 1063 and a new church was completed in 1096.
7. The Square was used for different events in the past
St Mark’s Square has been a very important place for the people of Venice.
It was enlarged to its present size and shape in 1177.
The bigger space made it an important and strategic location for the government offices in the Venetian state. They have been in this square since the 19th century.
There are two columns in the square which are the symbols of Venice. They are the St Mark’s lion and the statue of St Theodore.
The Square was used for public meetings in the past. It is now filled with pigeons and thousands of tourists from all over the world.
8. St. Mark’s bell tower was rebuilt after it collapsed
Within Piazza San Marco you will see a free-standing building, the campanile also known as the bell tower.
This tower was built in 1156. It collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt in 1912.
They used material from the old building to rebuild the current structure.
The tower is accessible through a lift for a panoramic view of the city and beyond.
9. Live music is played daily at the square
There is a full orchestra that plays at the piazza during the evening and they all wear formal attire.
They do have a conductor who stands a few feet away to create room for tourists to feel and enjoy the music.
There is always a crowd listening to continuous music while the pigeons fly around. The sound adds to the atmosphere of the square.
10. Café Florian is the oldest eatery in the square
Café Florian is said the oldest café in the square and Europe.
It opened its doors in 1720 and was known as Alla Venezia Trionfante, meaning to the Triumphant Venice.
The Café was later renamed to its current name in the owner of its owner.
Some of its past customers were Casanova, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens.
It has been redecorated and has quite a lavish style and is a fabulous place to experience.