Hidden treasures

The iconostasis of St. Mark’s Basilica

Unknown places & works

The iconostasis of St. Mark’s Basilica

Entering St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the first thing everyone does spontaneously is to lift their gaze up to the magnificent golden mosaics that completely cover the vaults and domes... but once you turn your head towards the presbytery, you will see the magnificent marble structure in Gothic style, consisting of eight columns and fifteen statues: this type of partition, which separates the nave from the presbytery, has Byzantine origins and is known as an 'Iconostasis', i.e. the part that supports the icons. However, if we look closely, there are no icons–as tradition would have it–but rather statues. It would therefore be more appropriate to call it a row of columns.

The precious column balustrade of St Mark’s Basilica is the work of the brothers Pierpaolo and Jacobello dalle Masegne, and dates back to the end of the 14th century, replacing an earlier 13th century iconostasis. This is undoubtedly a piece by the Dalle Masegne brothers because in the central part it is possible to read an inscription bearing the date and signature of the authors.

But what do the statues that make up the current iconostasis represent?

On the two sides of the Cross of Christ we find the weeping Virgin, St. John and the Twelve Apostles.

Let's try to spot them together: starting from the left we find the apostles San Mattia, San Filippo, San Taddeo, Sant'Andrea, San Jacopo Maggiore, and San Pietro. Next, there is the Virgin Mary next to the Crucified Christ and San Giovanni, followed by San Marco, San Matteo, San Bartolomeo, San Jacopo, San Simeone and San Tommaso.

How do we recognize them? It’s simple! Each figure bears on its base an inscription indicating their Latin name. Despite this, it is not possible to identify each subject with full certainty, since it appears that in the past some of the bases have been swapped.

Are you curious to discover the small details and great beauties of St Mark’s Basilica? Then you cannot miss this new and special opportunity: with the 'St. Mark's 30 minute introduction by a local guide & skip yhe line entry' not only will you be able to access the church avoiding the long daily queues, but also enjoy a short but effective artistic and historical introduction to the Golden Basilica delivered by an expert local guide!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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