Piazza San Marco

more than a year ago
The heart and soul of historic Venice, the drawing room of Europe (according to Napoleon), ground zero for the millions of tourists that pour into the city each year - Piazza San Marco is truly one of the world's most famous and impressive squares. Not overwhelmingly massive in size, it does feel quite large relative to the labyrinth of narrow streets, passageways and canals that most visitors have to navigate to arrive there. When the Basilica of San Marco was first constructed at the beginning of the 9th century, the square that lay in front of it was little more than a grassy patch of land no more than 60 metres in length, but as Venice's wealth and power grew so to did its central public space.

The piazza was expanded to its present size during the late 12th century, when the Rio Baratario canal was filled in and the Church of San Geminiano was demolished and moved much further to the west. The instantly recognisable Campanile took its present form in 1514, while the three-story buildings that still stand to the north and south were slowly built and rebuilt during the 1500s. In 1810, the twice unlucky Church of San Geminiano was once again demolished from its position at the western end of the square to make room for what is now known as the Napoleonic Wing, on the personal orders of the Little Corporal himself.

The smaller lagoon-facing square to the southwest may be officially known by the diminutive title Piazzetta San Marco, but it does have claim to just as many points of interest as its larger sibling, including the Doge's Palace, the Biblioteca Marciana (one of Italy's most important libraries), and two large granite columns topped by two greatly important symbols: the winged Lion of Venice and St Theodore, the city's original patron saint.


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