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St. Mark's Cathedral

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Different regions of the world have landmark structures which they identify with. Such structures may include monuments, buildings, towers and many others. These structures not only act to preserve the heritage of those regions but also are of economic importance since some attract tourists. This essay focuses on one such landmark structures, St. Marks Cathedral, a landmark structure in Venice. According to this essay St. Marks Cathedral is unique because, not only has it survived throughout the years but also because of its unique structure and the way it was built. The essay describes the location, history and purpose of the cathedral. It also highlights the importance of the cathedral both economically and socially to the surrounding community and to the region as a whole.

Located in the northern part of Italy in Venice, St. Marks Cathedral is well known to the regions’ population and serves the vast population of the Roman Catholics. Some may prefer to call it ‘The Rock of Ages’ because like many Italian structures, it has survived through many years and looks set exist for many more. It is approximately two hundred and fifty feet in length and two hundred and five feet in width with an outer and inner dome height of approximately forty three meters and twenty eight meters respectively. It is a minor basilica with its name derived from Evangelist Mark, who is considered to have written the New Testament book of Mark. He was one of the many disciples of Jesus sent to Judah to preach the gospel and bring hope unto the people. He died on the twenty fifth day of April in the year sixty eight AD   and his name has been honored in a variety of Catholic and Coptic churches with very many institutions and churches like St. Marks Cathedral being named after him. St. Marks Cathedral is under the leadership of His Eminence Angelo Scola who was made Cardinal on the twenty first of October in the year two thousand and three.

History

The history of St. Marks Cathedral stretches back to the ninth century, in the year eight hundred and twenty eight when the cathedral was housed in the Palace of Doge; a place where the government and ultimate authority of the state of Venice lied. It did not last long for four years later in the year eight hundred and thirty two, a new structure was erected on the soil on which the present day church sits. The church was to serve its purpose for almost a century and a half, after which a disaster happened which was to reshape its history. The church was burnt down to ashes as a result of a revolt which broke up in the year nine hundred and seventy six. With the determination and virtues by which it was built, it was again rebuilt two years later in the year nine hundred and seventy eight and consecrated in the year one thousand and ninety four. Most of the events that followed thereafter were decorations and they started in the thirteenth century and still continue up to date. Modification in the structure of the church has been done on a number of occasions in order to suit the time and to create additional support for the aging church. Its outside was furnished with older marbles and carvings to beautify it; this was done within the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Some of the early work and decorations done on the structure has been maintained to date with very little modification so as to provide some sense of originality and identification with the past. Completion in construction of the structure was done in the seventeenth century however; modifications are still ongoing to date.

Structure

It was designed by an architect and one of the leaders of the Venetian republic called Domenico I Contarini. The style used in its design was unique and became part of the early Roman culture. It was commonly referred as the Byzantine and Gothic style of architecture. These are styles which entailed use of bricks, stones and plaster for beautification purposes. These two styles were associated with complexity in structure, unique domes and state of the art mosaics. The cathedral’s outside is made of three divisions; lower, which is made of five curved wall openings decorated with marble columns and leads to a door which is centrally located. Some of the events of Apostle Mark are encrypted inform of mosaic decorations on the void of the vertical wall openings. The remaining two divisions are the upper division and the domes; curvatures used to make the inside. They served to make the cathedral not only a unique piece of art but also a beauty that attracts tourists even up to the present day. It is believed that the foundation has remained unchanged for centuries and still provides support for the current day church providing proof of the designer’s genius. The exterior is also made up of characteristic statues and features which are mostly symbols of the creature and personalities of the past. They serve to convey some message to the believers, provide identity to the church and strengthen the virtues adopted by the church. Such statues include; the Winged Lion, a symbol of St. Mark. It is centrally placed on the façade and is seen to hold a book with a message to the people. At the balcony are horses which seem to raise their front legs. They are the renowned Horses of St. Mark and the ones which exist today on the balcony are not the original ones, they are replicas. The true Horses of St. Mark have been preserved in the cathedral’s museum since the early nineteen nineties. These Horses have travelled the world ever since the first time they were erected on the balcony of St. Marks Cathedral. They became part of the balcony in the mid thirteenth century but because they were a classic wonder of art, many clamored to have them. This is how they found their way across Europe and especially France in the late eighteenth century during Napoleon era. Eventually, they were reinstated at their rightful place in the cathedral in early nineteenth century.

Another of the unique statues, are the Tetrarchs. They are purple in color and the material used in their modeling was an igneous rock and were four in number. Although outside the cathedral, they never stood for principles and virtues related in any way to the Catholic Church. Rather, their presence was deemed to be an association with the Roman royalty. They symbolized the Roman Empire such that they represented subjectivism and loyalty to Roman rule. The various regions in which they appeared were under the direct authority and rule of the Romans. Their positioning outside the church was almost similar to that of the Low Tower with difference being that the Tetrarchs were found on the edges of the church along the south. Another amazing statue is the Narthex. Its positioning has been changed once for purposes of providing division in some parts of the cathedral so as to accommodate more functions. This was carried out between the fourteenth and the sixteenth century and as a result the Baptisery and the Chapel of Zen were born. Initially its position was to the west but thereafter its position was shifted to the south. It acts like a sweet aroma which welcomes and builds ones expectations on what to expect from the inside in terms of scriptures from the Old Testament. It also creates room where the newborns and the grown ups were to be baptized and acts as a sitting place for those yet to be baptized.

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