Tuesday, December 20, 2005
San Marco Basilica Restoration Finally Finished
Clean-up of outside of St Mark's began almost 25 years ago (ANSA) - Venice, December 16
Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, one of the lagoon city's most famous landmarks, is finally to emerge from a clean-up job which has lasted almost a quarter of a century.
The restored north facade of the basilica - the last to be tackled - will be inaugurated on Wednesday with a ceremony that will close a marathon project which began in November 1981.
Once grey and covered in centuries of dust, the green and pink of the columns and marble panels adorning the 1,000-square-metre north wall are now clearly visible again, along with the carvings of saints and the Madonna.
Over the last 24 years the restorers' scaffolding has gradually moved around and all over the Basilica, cleaning away grime from a total area of 5,000 square metres.
The Procuratoria of San Marco, the panel of experts and clerics which look after the building's upkeep, has been renewed three times since the monumental job began.
The money for the work has come partly from central and regional government and partly from private sponsors.
With its extravagant decoration in gold, marble, glass and mosaics, the basilica is a major draw for tourists and everyday long queues form outside to visit it.
The first church named after Venice's patron saint on the site was built in the 9th century as a shrine for St Mark's bones.
But it was destroyed by fire in 967. Byzantine architects played a large part in its reconstruction around 1070, helping give it its distinctively eastern look.
From the 12th century its splendour gradually grew thanks to alterations and elaborate adornments designed to make it reflect Venice's status as the dominant trading power in the region.
Incorporating materials taken from temples and Eastern ruins, it is shaped like a cross with a dome over the centre and one over each arm of the cross. The facade is incrusted with marble slabs and mosaics. Among the most famous features are the famous Four Horses of St Mark's, in gilded bronze, which stand on a gallery over the main entrance. They were cleaned during the 1990s.
From ANSA news.