After waiting in line for almost 30 minutes, we headed into the atrium of the Clocktower, where we paid a certain number of euros to get into an elevator with 15 of our closest friends and ride to the top. How an elevator was installed into St. Mark’s Clocktower, built in the last decade of the 15th century (think: it was being built the decade that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America), I don’t know, but somehow it was, and we rode placidly up it before being released to the viewing platform at the top.
From it you can see all of Venice, and suddenly you understand why it’s so easy to get lost and why no one here actually knows directions or street names.
Also- don’t try to take a picture of yourself, it’s so flooded with light that it’s impossible to get one of you actually standing in front of the city. It is possible to get one of you standing in front of the elevator, but really, who actually wants an elevator picture in Venice? (I’ll post our attempts anyway because Venice).
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore lies on an island across from the Plaza, and in all pictures it looks quite false, like a false front or a silent movie set was erected in the middle of the ocean… though it is most definitely real.
You can see the early-morning gondola drivers getting ready for a day at the helm.
While the bells loom above you.
Thank goodness Justin is 6’4, because I never lose him in a crowd.
After a half-hour admiring a city that has built itself over time for centuries, knowing full well that each house we were looking at contained more treasures than we could imagine- more gold trimmings, hidden paintings by Venetian masters, and crown moldings than we’ve ever seen (I reconciled myself to the knowledge that I’ll never see them all)- we headed back down the elevator and into the Plaza, where we promptly got in line to see the Basilica, which is currently under renovation.
It was also Fourth of July, and the squad most definitely rolled in in style.
The Basilica is opulent and a great example of Byzantine architecture. Though academics might balk, I recommend you read the Wikipedia page on the construction, because it’s much more thorough than I’m going to be.
Anyway, the facade is decked out in polychrome marble pillars, mosaics, sculptures, and every form of opulence imaginable.
The ochre-colored mosaic base you see is actually the most beautiful golden tiles, and you’ll see in a bit why the church was nicknamed the Church of Gold, or “Chiesa d’Oro”. The Basilica was originally the Doge’s personal chapel (one hell of a personal chapel, if I do say so myself), and is attached to the Doge’s palace, though in the early 19th century it became public.
Technically there were no pictures allowed… and specifically, no selfies:
And I had to pay a euro to buy a cloth to wrap my legs, because not only are selfies sacrilegious, a woman’s skin is, too.
I also got very, very few pictures of the inside because my camera does not have a silent option, and I’m still conditioned enough to respect others’ religious spaces.
After the bottom floor, however, we were permitted to go to the top:
From which I managed to snap a photo or two.
And then feel guilty about it.
But it’s easy for you to see, now, why they call it the Church of Gold. When you’re walking below- where I did not get pictures- it’s cool, silent, and your footsteps echo on the stone softly. The gold glitters, and you’re surrounded by gold and mosaics, everywhere, and it’s not difficult to see why God was found in a place like this. It’s cold, and Venice is hot. It’s beautiful and golden and a model of opulence, of the “superiority” of Europe and European engineering, and I can imagine walking into that place in the times of Nasty, Brutish, and Short, and finding solace in the existence of Divinely Ordained Opulence.
And we were permitted, after being sent through a museum of sorts displaying pieces from time- old frescoes and sculptures dating as far back as the 1100s- to walk the roof.
We headed out, down to the Plaza, where I got a croissant and pancetta.
It’s not hard, though, to imagine how the Europeans felt themselves “better” than the Native Americans, Aztecs, Maya, Inca, etc., when they arrived there after Sailing the Ocean Blue in Fourteen-Hundred Ninety-Two.
I am by no means defending them- I personally find my spiritual sanctuary (of elves and faeries and Bronte and Dostoevsky, of course) in nature- but imagine coming from a Golden Basilica such as this one, engineered in a dozen colors of marble and cloaked in gold that glitters a thousand different ways as the sun hits it, of a God that has Given This To You. Imagine stepping off a boat after months of not seeing this (distance makes the heart grow fonder, of course, and no man will ever amount to the memory of a dead husband, they say), and finding a people roaming the land, with no Golden Hall (the forests in autumn don’t count because they are not crystal, and the cornfields in summer don’t count because Nothing Gold Can Stay), no velvet brocade gowns and satin bows on high heels.
When you live in a Church of Gold and Church of God (the commutative property tells me that Gold is God and God is Gold, and in that order amen), who is better than you?