Posted by: lkyser | 7th Dec, 2011

Revision of Draft 1

Riches of the East: Political and Economic Factors Affecting the Exterior
Ornamental Architecture of San Marco


Otto Demus wisely stated that the church
of San Marco “mirrored the rise of the Venetian Republic” and that its
architecture represents the historical forces associated with its rise to power
in the East and the West.[1] Venice
rose to power through her mercantile relations, an therefore established her
political power through commerce and trade expeditions throughout the
East.  Religious, financial and political
matters and activities centered on the maritime city’s commercial
successes.  Venice established trade
relations with the Byzantine East in the sixth century and trade relations with
the Islamic East as early as the ninth century.
After Venice’s involvement in the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venice began
to integrate both Byzantine and Islamic architectural elements into the
buildings of the city to represent their power throughout the Mediterranean and
Levantine regions of the East.  The Church
of San Marco was mostly enhanced and embellished with these architectural
elements in the thirteenth century, a period of extraordinary economic success because
of the creation of the Latin empire after the sack of Constantinople, which
brought more wealth, land and trading ports to Venice.  The Venetians flaunted their wealth, success,
and power to the rest of the Western world by embellishing the church of San
Marco with spoils from the Byzantine East and emulations of Islamic
architectural details.  After a
discussion of the mercantile and political history between Venice, the
Byzantine East and the Islamic East  to
better understand the causes of the Fourth Crusade and the subsequent sack of
Constantinople, which was the catalyst for the embellishment of the façade of
San Marco, an examination of the functions of various architectural elements in
their Eastern context and a symbolic interpretation of them in their new
Venetian location on the façade of San Marco in the thirteenth century will
prove these additions symbolize Venice’s supremacy in the Byzantine and Islamic
East and are the visual manifestations of Venice’s power and changed political
and economic identity after the Fourth Crusade.

Throughout her history, the location of
Venice on the northeastern coast of Italy allowed it to function as a hub for a
multitude of commerce-related passages throughout the Byzantine Empire and the Middle
East throughout its history.  However,
Venice’s history began with it as a province of the Byzantine Empire.  In 565, not too long after Venice’s foundation
in 421, the Emperor Justinian brought the Venice and the Veneto under the rule
of the Byzantine Empire.  The Emperor
recognized that the location of Venice could function as a valuable defense point
between the Eastern and Western worlds.
Further, Justininan knew the power of the Venetian fleet and desired
their protection.  In order to secure the
protection of the Venetian fleet , in 565, the Venetians and the Emperor
reached a mutually advantageous agreement concerning their political ties and
responsibilities to one another: as compensation for keeping their ports open
and available for Byzantine imperial vessels, Venetian merchants were awarded  protection and trading privileges throughout
the Empire.[2]  Thus began Venice’s lucrative trade with the Byzantine
East and the beginning of Venice’s establishment of a powerful, economic
identity.  As a result of protected trade
within the Byzantine Empire, Venice became extremely wealthy.  With this newfound wealth, Venice was able to
build a stronger fleet of ships able to function in both military and
mercantile expeditions.  The increase in
the fleet size allowed Venice to send more merchants throughout the Eastern
Empire. This was a cyclical process, and Venice’s wealth continued to grow throughout
the following centuries.[3]  Venice, in accordance with their agreement in
565, continued to protect the Byzantine Empire from a variety of different
invasions, but always ensured, or demanded, that the Byzantine Emperor reward
her with an increase in beneficial agreements that enabled and furthered her
trade prospects in the East.

In 991, Doge Pietro Orseolo II recognized
an expanding market in the Islamic world.
The Doge recognized the benefits of multi-fronted mercantile relations:
greater economic prosperity and unaffected resources if relations with the
Byzantine Empire deteriorated.   Other
European powers did not want to trade with the Muslims because they viewed them
as ‘infidels,’ and their religious and cultural differences made the Europeans
uneasy.  However, the religious and
cultural peculiarities of the Muslims did not matter to Venice.  Whether her trading partners were Christian
or Muslim, Venice only wanted their business to benefit their economic expansion.  The Doge thus sent ambassadors throughout the
Levant and into other areas under Islamic rule: Spain, Cordova, Palermo,
Sicily, Cairo, Kairouan, Aleppo, and Damascus.
The Venetian ambassadors and Islamic leaders made various, mutually
beneficial agreements and from then on, Venice officially enjoyed trading
relations with the Muslim world.[4]

The establishment of economic relations
in the Middle East increased Venice’s economic power in the Levantine regions,
and in 1082, an important political agreement between Venice and the Byzantine
Empire increased Venice’s economic hold throughout the Byzantine Empire. In the
preceding years, the Venetian fleet came to the aid of Constantinople, then under
attack by the Normans.  For their service
in the defeat of the Normans, they were greatly rewarded by the Emperor
Alexius.  The chrysobull consisted of a
variety of different items, including annual financial grants and grand titles
given to Venetian citizens, but the most important clause involves the Venetian
trade status throughout the Byzantine Empire.
In this clause of the chrysobull, Emperor Alexius granted “Venetian
merchants the right to trade in all manner of merchandise in all parts of his
empire free of any charge, tax, or duty payable to his treasury.”[5]  The Venetians were essentially given a
monopoly on Mediterranean trade, especially since they already possessed
lucrative trade relations throughout the Islamic world.  Because mercantile relations gave Venice her
power and wealth, she recognized their importance, and looked to protect these
relations.  In 1095, Venice was hesitant
to join the First Crusade into the Holy Lands, which were also the lands in
which Venice had established trade relations, because a failed Crusade could
potentially upset Venice’s relations with the areas the crusaders attacked.[6]
Venice did not join the first crusade until 1099, when profits and trade
expansion were all but ensured.  After
the Crusade, Christians occupied previously Islamic strongholds and Venice continue
to expand her markets and relations further into Islamic territories.[7]  Venice did not play a large role in the
Second and Third Crusades but Venice was integral in the planning, execution,
and the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade.
Indeed, it was the political and economic success of the Fourth Crusade
which led to the changes on the façade of San Marco and also, a change in the
political and economic identity of Venice.

The façade of San Marco before the
Fourth Crusade looked vastly different than the façade after the Fourth
Crusade.  Therefore, it is important to
examine the architecture of the Church of San Marco before the identity of
Venice changed in order to understand Venice’s identity before the Fourth
Crusade because the architecture of San Marco mirrors the rise of Venetian
power and the change in her identity.  The
Church of San Marco was rebuilt three different times throughout its history.  San Marco functioned as a sepulcher, or tomb,
as a shrine for Saint Mark’s body, and as the Ducal chapel.  As the private church of the Doge, the
political leader of Venice, San Marco became associated with the civic,
political and economic activity and issues which concerned the Doge.[8]  In 832, the first building was consecrated
after two merchants stole the body of Saint Mark from the Egyptian city of
Alexandria and smuggled it back to Venice in 828.[9]   A fire
in 976 destroyed this structure, and repairs and some expansions began on the
second, larger building.  In 1063, Doge
Domenico Contarini decided to demolish this second structure and replace it
with an ambitious, five-domed, Greek cross design, modeled after the church of
the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.  Contarini
hired an anonymous master architect from the Byzantine Empire and brought him
to Venice to execute this plan.[10]  Contarini’s design took over thirty years to
complete. It was finally consecrated in 1094.
The building was constructed entirely in brick and the façade was devoid
of ornamental decoration, because most ornamental decoration was added to the
exterior after the sack of Constantinople.
Through cross-sectional studies, architectural historians know that the
original structure had five, low-profile domes, similar to the dome of the
Pantheon in Rome or the domes of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  The domes were increased in height after the Fourth
Crusade as well.[11]  These architectural elements, the brick
structure, the Greek-cross plan, and the low profile domes are all
architectural solutions which were used throughout the Byzantine Empire.  Venice’s commercial empire had grown
immensely from the city’s humble beginnings in 421, and the size and exterior
of San Marco parallels this economic expansion.
The original, small church of 828  grew in size and prominence as Venice’s economic
power increased through its agreements with the Byzantine Empire.  Though Venice was a powerful state, the
prominence of Byzantine architectural elements and solutions suggests that
Venice owed much of its economic success to the generous trade agreements
granted to them by the Emperor. So before the Fourth Crusade, the façade of San
Marco displayed Venice’s identity as a Byzantine-influenced economic power.  After the Fourth Crusade however, the
Venetian identity expressed by San Marco drastically changed.

Venice’s involvement in the Fourth
Crusade was much like their involvement in the First Crusade.  Venice joined the Crusade in order to protect
and expand her own interests and wealth.
The original plan of the Crusade was for the European crusaders to sail
with the Venetian fleet from Venice and enter the Islamic states through Egypt,
the weakest of Muslim-occupied areas.[12]  When the crusaders rallied at Venice, the
port linking the East and West, they realized that they lacked the manpower to
launch a successful attack on Muslim territories.  In addition, because of their lacking
numbers, they also lacked the funds to pay the Venetians for their transport to
Egypt.  Even with their reduced numbers,
the crusaders knew that Venice was still the only Western power in possession
of a fleet large enough to ferry them to the East.[13]  Venice, however, did not want to join the
actual fight of the Crusade, knowing that she would lose her trade relations
with Egypt if she attacked there.  The
current Doge, however, Enrico Dandolo, was ambitious, and from the beginning of
his reign, was interested in acquiring old and new trading ports for mercantile
expansion.[14]  Dandolo made an agreement with the crusaders:
if they would help Venice regain the long fought-over port of Zara, recently
lost again to the Hungarians, and give Venice one-half of any land or loot that
the Crusades would yield, Venice would delay their payments and allow the
crusaders to use the Venetian fleet.[15]  The crusaders eagerly accepted, and after the
recapture of Zara, the holy knights prepared for a journey to Egypt.  However, Venice once again proposed a
deflection from Egypt to spare their flourishing trade relations with the
Egyptians.  This time, Venice proposed a
deflection to Constantinople promising even further glory and riches than found
at Zara.[16]

In 1204, Venice still harbored bitter
feelings towards the Byzantine Empire, which, in 1171 falsely accused the
Venetians of an attack on a Byzantine province and imprisoned nearly all the
Venetia citizens in Constantinople as punishment and revenge.   In 1186, a reconciliatory agreement was
enacted between Venice and the Byzantine Empire with the terms beneficial to
the Venetians then, and relevant to their deflection proposal to the crusaders
in 1204.  In return for financial
compensation of all Venetian losses in Constantinople in 1171, the Byzantine
Emperor demanded that three out of every four Venetian men in all Byzantine
territories could be conscripted into the Imperial navy, whose officers were Venetian.  This agreement essentially gave the Venetians
the control of the Byzantine Navy, so they accepted these terms.  In 1204, the Venetians knew they could
capture Constantinople by turning the Imperial fleet, which consisted of more
than three-quarters of Venetians to the side of Venice and the crusaders.[17]  With this proposal and strategy presented to
the crusaders, the Holy goals of the Fourth Crusade were quickly forgotten and
the second deflection was met with the same enthusiasm as the first.  In April of 1204, Constantinople was sacked
and pillaged by the Venetians and the other European crusaders.  To reach Constantinople and conquer the city,
the Venetians changed every unfavorable development into an advantage, and after
the sack of Constantinople, the Venetians and the European crusaders
established the Latin Empire.[18]  The Latin Empire was the division of the city
of Constantinople and the rest of the Byzantine territories throughout the
Mediterranean region among the Venetians and the other crusader-nations.  The majority of Constantinople and the other
Byzantine territories were held by the Venetians, and subsequently the most
strategic ports for the continuation of trade throughout the empire also came
under Venice’s control.[19]   To visually represent their successful sack
of Constantinople to the western world, the Venetians brought many spoils back
to Venice to represent their dominance over the Byzantine territories.

Many of the architectural embellishments
and objects on display in the treasury of San Marco are spoils and riches taken
by Venetians and other crusaders from Constantinople after the sack of city.  Robert de Clari, a soldier of the crusade,
described the riches of Constantinople after its sack:

…And it was so
rich, and there were so many rich vessels of gold and silver and cloth of gold
and so many rich jewels, that it was a fair marvel, the great wealth that was
brought there.  Not since the world was
made, was there ever seem or won so great a treasure or so noble or so rich,
not in the time of Alexander nor in the time of Charlemagne nor before or
after.  Nor do I think, myself, that in
the forty richest cities of the world there had been so much wealth as was
found in Constantinople…And each one of the rich men took gold ornaments or
cloth of silk and gold or anything else he wanted and carried it off…[20]


Similarly, Geoffroy of Villehardouin, a
knight of the Crusade also described the riches of  Constantinople:

The rest of the
army, scattered throughout the city, also gained so much booty; so much, indeed
that no one could estimate its amount or its value.  It included gold and silver, table services
and precious stones, satin and silk, mantles of squirrel fur, ermine and
miniver, and every choicest thing to be found on this earth.  Geoffroy de Villehardouin here declares that,
to his knowledge, so much booty had never been gained in any city since the
creation of the world.[21]


In addition to gold, silver, silks,
jewels, and fur listed in these primary sources, the Venetians brought back
larger spoils from the fallen capital city of the Byzantine Empire.  The four bronze horses, marble columns and
the porphyry reliefs known as the Four Tetrarchs are all spoils brought to
Venice from Constantinople.[22]

spoils affixed to the west façade of San Marco symbolize the transformation of Venetian
identity in the East from a state whose economic success was dependent on
Byzantine politics to a dominant economic power through the establishment of
the Latin Empire and the inheritance of the majority of Byzantine trading
ports.  It made sense to the venetians to
place their newly acquired spolia on
the façade of San Marco because of its function as the Ducal Chapel which
therefore connected it to the civic and secular activities of the city.  The spoils, or symbols dominance over the
Byzantine Empire, added to the façade of San Marco would be seen by political
figures from other countries coming to conduct business with the Doge, and
boast to them Venice’s success and power in the East.   In
addition to the addition of Byzantine spolia
to the exterior of San Marco, the Venetians also added their own
interpretations of Islamic architectural elements to the exterior of the
church.  These Islamic elements represented
the successful mercantile relations of Venice with the Muslim east, and
symbolized the economic power of Venice in the Levantine regions.  It is important to note here that the
Venetians most likely did not find the placement of Islamic architectural
emulations on San Marco sacrilegious because of San Marco’s relation to the
government and governmental actions through its function as the Ducal chapel
and is proximity to other civically functioning buildings. Therefore, by
combining the Byzantine spolia and
Islamic Architectural elements, the façade of San Marco becomes indicative of
the increase in Venice’s Economic power after the Fourth Crusade through
political dominance over Byzantium and mercantile relations at major Islamic
and Byzantine trading centers. The Byzantine architectural elements taken from
Constantinople which will be examined are the Quadriga, or sculptural grouping of four bronze horses, the
porphyry sculpture known as the Four
, and the marble columns.
The Islamic elements that will be examined are the Domes, the  arch above the Porta Dei Fiori, the arch
above the window to the Capella Zen, the arch above the Porta San Alippio, and
the stone grilles which are also above the Porta San’ Alippio

Byzantine spoils, now on Venetian soil, all originally functioned in the city
of Constantinople as monuments depicting the Imperial foundation, history and
power of the city. However, these spoils, once taken from the city and inserted
into the architectural decoration of the façade of San Marco, became visual
representations of the power of Venice over the Byzantine Empire and all of its
trading ports through the establishment of the Latin Empire.  The Byzantine spoils therefore symbolized the
new Venetian identity of a major economic power in the Mediterranean, no longer
dependent on political relations with a separate, Byzantine Empire because
Venice controlled its lands and trade centers.
The first of these spoila placed on the façade of San Marco
that we will examine is the sculpture known as the Four Tetrarchs.  This
sculpture, which dates to around 300, is carved of porphyry, a purple-colored
marble only quarried in Egypt.  In
antiquity, the purple color of this marble implied an imperial or divine
association.  Since this sculpture
depicts four joint-rulers of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the fourth
century, the color purple here is symbolic of imperial power.  The Four
, actually consists of two separate sculptures of two figures each.  Each pair of figures was originally attached to
the upper registers of two columns on the façade of a building in
Constantinople called the Philadelphion.[23]  In 1204, the two sculptural groups were taken
from Constantinople by the Venetians as spolia
of the Crusade.  To the Venetians, taking
this sculpture from its original location in the Byzantine Capital symbolized
that the four tetrarchs who once ruled the lands of the present-day Byzantine
Empire, became the conquered emperors.     To Venice, this imperial symbolism of the
color purple insinuated that they, in their possession of the emperors, became
the new imperial figures of the Byzantine lands and ports they possessed.  Therefore, the porphyry statue of the Four Tetrarchs symbolized the transfer
of glory and power from the Byzantine Empire to Venice through the possession
of land and trading ports and the establishment of the Latin Empire, and the
transformation of the Venetian identity from a province poltically reliant on
the generosity of the Byzantine Emperor to the leading economic power in the
Byzantine East.[24]

porphyry statue of the Four Tetrarchs
is not the only marble spolia removed
from the fallen Constantinople and taken to Venice after the Fourth Crusade. In
addition to the Four Tetrarchs, the
Venetians additionally brought a variety of different colored columns back to
their city and placed them on the West façade of San Marco.  By placing the columns on the façade of San
Marco, which has five arched portals, the Venetians created their
interpretation of a series of triumphal arches.
A triumphal arch is an ancient monument erected to honor a victorious
general and commemorate their victory in battle and their subjugation of their
enemies.  The creation of a series of
triumphal arches on the façade of San Marco indicated that Venice was
victorious over the Byzantine Empire.
Additionally, the colors of the columns also held symbolic meaning for
the Venetians.  The red-purple color of
the porphyry columns, like the statue of the tetrarchs, was representative of
an imperial association and symbolized their dominant status over Byzantine
lands and ports in the East.  Green
marble, black marble and pure white marble were symbolic of various religious
functions.  The green marble, called
Thessaly Green Marble or Serpentina Marble, symbolized a religious, liturgical
function. Thus, the green marble columns on the façade of San Marco reminded
the Venetians that San Marco, as a shrine to their Patron Saint, still had a religious
function, despite all of the secular spolia
inserted on the façade to celebrate Venice’s triumph on the façade.  The black and white columns on the façade
function similarly to the green, and designate San Marco as the sepulcher, or
tomb of Saint Mark.[25]  The columns on the façade of San Marco
reminded the viewer of the original, religious function of the building which
had been covered by secular spoils from Byzantium after the Fourth Crusade
while they simultaneously represented the new powerful identity of Venice as an
imperial figure within the Latin Empire.

grouping of the four bronze horses, or the Quadriga,
placed above the central portal of San Marco also functioned as a
representation of victory and dominance, but specifically a victory over the
city of Constantinople.  These bronze horses,
cast in the second century, and gilt with gold, were originally located in the
Hippodrome of Constantinople.  Throughout
the city’s history, this structure functioned as a track for ancient chariot
races, a meeting ground for political factions and served as the end location
of imperial processions.[26]  The Hippodrome was still in existence during
the time of the Fourth Crusade, and in 1204 the horses still remained in situ.[27]  In antiquity the Quadriga was most likely connected to a chariot in which the
Emperor Constantine stood.  Constantine
founded the city of Constantinople, and established it as the capital of the
Roman Empire when he shifted his attention eastward; it subsequently became the
capital of the Byzantine Empire when Rome was sacked.  It has also been suggested that the Quadriga pulled Sol Invictus, or the Unconquered Sun, a deity of an ancient Roman
religious cult.[28]  Enrico Dandolo, obsessed with the humiliation
of Constantinople, chose the group of the four bronze horses in order to take
something closely associated with the foundation and the identity of the city.[29]  The horses’ link with Constantine, the
founder of the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, most closely associated
them with the city’s identity.  By pillaging
these horses an taking them back to Venice, Dandolo  robbed Constantinople of its association with
their founder, the Emperor Constantine, and turned the Unconquered Sun into the
Conquered Sun.  By moving the horses to
Venice, Dandolo transformed the horses into a representation of Venice as the
unconquerable power and emperor figure in the Byzantine East, and therefore
transformed the identity of Venice to a dominant power in the East.

the examination of the Byzantine spolia in their original context, and their
implied symbolism of their location in Venice after the Fourth Crusade, we have
seen how the spolia functioned as
visual representations of Venice’s power when placed on the façade of San
Marco.  We have also seen how these
elements visually represented the transformation of the Venetian identity into
that of a dominant economic and political power in the Byzantine East.  However, in the thirteenth century the
Venetians also added Islamic architectural elements to the exterior of San
Marco.  These Islamic features added to
the façade of San Marco were not spolia
taken directly from Muslim lands, as was the case with the Byzantine additions,
but rather, a Venetian interpretation of Islamic architectural elements.  Now, an examination the function of Islamic
architectural elements in the Middle East and an interpretation of their
symbolic meaning in Venice will show how these architectural elements are
visual representations of the growth of the Venetian economic power in the
Levantine region.

the largest and most noticeable architectural change to the exterior of San
Marco in the thirteenth century was the raising of the five domes.  The five domes of San Marco were originally
low, hemispherical domes constructed of brick that were barely visible from the
sea over the skyline of Venice.   Cross-sectional
images of San Marco reveal that the domes were raised by the construction of
wooden frames over the original brick domes.
These wooden frames created the skeletal form of the domes’ bulbous,
circular shape.[30]  To complete the domes, the wooden skeletons were
then covered with lead, which created an open chamber above the Byzantine-style
brick domes.  The newly erected domes,
completed by 1260, are Venetian emulations of the domes which lined the skyline
of Islamic cities in the Levantine region.
These Islamic domes were seen in their original context by Venetian
merchants conducting business in multiple trading ports throughout the Middle
East, such as Alexandria or Damascus. In the Islamic world, domes indicated
that the building beneath them functioned as a mosque, a place of worship, but
also as also as a tomb.[31]  By raising the height of the domes, the
Venetians placed a higher visual importance on San Marco because it now could
be seen from the sea. To the Venetians, the raised domes of San Marco
referenced San Marco’s liturgical function as a shrine and tomb, just as domes
on mosques in the Islamic world, but the domes also symbolized Venice’s
economic power in the East.  Indeed, it
was through their trade relations that the Venetian’s were able to emulate
Islamic architectural elements, and thus symbolize their connection to the
Islamic world.

Islamic elements emulated on the exterior of San Marco, however, did not draw
their provenance from religious structures, as the domes.  Arches present over a larger number of
portals around San Marco are emulations of Islamic arches found on both secular
and religious buildings throughout the Middle East.  In the thirteenth century, the stone arches
added to the exterior of San Marco were the arch over the Porta dei Fiori on
the north facade, the arch above the window of the Capella Zen Chapel on the
west façade, and the arch above the Porta San’ Alippio.  The shape of these arches, which was not seen
on any other European structures except for those in Venice, differed from the
commonly seen, rounded arches of the West with a Roman precedence.   These Islamic arches on the exterior of San
Marco are pointed rather than rounded, and are known as ogee arches An
ogee arch “is characterized by its
double continuous curve passing from concave to convex” and was used throughout
the Islamic world beginning as early as the third century.[32]  The arches above the Porta San’ Alippio and
the window of the Capella Zen are the single curved arch described in the above
definition, but the arch above the Porta dei Fiori can be considered a
variation of this arch, a double ogee
arch, which passes from concave to convex twice before it culminates in a
point. These ogee arches were seen throughout the Middle empire by Venetian
merchants and therefore, like the domes, when added to the exterior of San
Marco, symbolized Venice’s economic connection in the East.

the arch of the Porta San’ Alippio is the final Islamic element which we will
discuss: the carved stone grates, or window grilles.  The juxtaposition of the stone grilles and the
ogee arch simultaneously support their identification as emulations of an
Islamic architectural element.  The three
grilles occupy rounded, arch-shaped openings above the portal and beneath the ogee arch.  The grilles are thin slabs of stone carved
into delicate, interlocking geometric patterns.
These interlacing geometric patterns are common throughout Islamic art
and are found across a variety of different architectural media in the Middle
East such as brick work, marble inlay and facing, mosaics, ceramics tiles and
wood carving.[33]  Venetian merchants would have seen
ornamental, geometric patterns all throughout the Islamic world while on trade
missions as they were prevalent on both secular and religious buildings.  The direct Islamic precedent for these stone
grilles however, is the Great Mosque at Damascus, a stop on some of the trade
routes of Venetian Merchants.  The stone
grilles at Damascus were located over small window openings around the mosque
as well as over three large window openings over the main entrance into the
mosque, which were replaced with mosaics in a much later restoration.  The emulation of the window grilles from
Damascus seen by Venetian merchants on the exterior of San Marco symbolized the
economic power of Venice as the result of their mercantile relations in the
Middle East.

conclusion, Venice’s political and economic history with the Byzantine Empire
and the Islamic states largely concerns the Venetian desire to change its
identity from a province of the Byzantine Empire to a dominant world
power.  This change in Venetian political
and economic identity occurred over time, as Venice, through advantageous
political agreements with the Byzantine Empire, was able to gain control of
various Byzantine trading ports, and through the creation of trading relations
with the Islamic world, was able to double her income.  Eventually, Venice became a dominant
commercial power throughout the Byzantine and Islamic East.  Venice’s political identity however, changed
most drastically after the Fourth Crusade of 1204.  The sack of Constantinople led to the
establishment of the Latin Empire, with Venice at its head.  From its consecration in 832, the exterior of
San Marco mirrored the increase in the Venetians power, growing from a small,
simple and sepulcher to a large, embellished, Ducal Chapel and Shrine to Saint
Mark.  After the fourth Crusade, Venice
truly became a dominant political and economic power, and they used spolia from the Byzantine Empire and
emulations of Islamic architectural elements to visually represent this changed
identity on a prominent building in their city.
The Byzantine spolia
symbolized Venice’s political power over the territories of the fallen
Byzantine Empire, and the Islamic architectural emulations symbolized Venice’s
mercantile relations in the Levantine Regions.
Combined on the exterior of San Marco, these additions visually
represented Venice’s changed political and economic identity after the Fourth


[1] Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice, (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks
Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, 1960), 3-4.

[2] John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982),

[3] Ibid., 85.

[4] Ibid., 51.

[5] Donald M. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice A Study in Diplomatic
and Cultural Relations,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988),  61

[6] John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982), 77.

[7] Ibid., 83.

[8] Debora Howard, The Architectural History of Venice, 2d
ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 17.

[9] Ibid., 31

[10] Ettore Vio, ed., The Basilica of St. Mark in Venice, (New
York: Riverside Book Company Incorporated, 1999), 19.

[11] Domenico Crivellari and Maria Da
Villa Urbani, Basilica Di San Marco, (accessed November 11 2011)

[12]John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982), 127.

[13] Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, (London:
Hambledon and London, 2003), 153.

[14] John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982), 125.

[15] Donald M. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice A Study in Diplomatic
and Cultural Relations,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 128.

[16] Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, (London:
Hambledon and London, 2003), 154.

[17] John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982)104 and 121.

[18] Ibid., 141.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Robert of Clari, The Conquest of Constantinople, trans.
Edgar Holmes McNeal, (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1936) 101-102.

[21] Joinville and Villehardouin,
trans. M.RB. Shaw, Chronicles of the
, (Baltimore: Penguin Books),92.

Charles Freeman,  The Horses of St. Mark’s: a Story of Triumph
in Byzantium, Paris and Venice
, (New York: The Overlook Press, 2004) 88-89.

[23] Charles Freeman, The Horses of Saint Mark’s, (New York:
The Overlook Press, 2004), 88.

[24] Domenico Crivellari and Maria Da
Villa Urbani, Basilica Di San Marco,

[25] Ibid.

[26] Fabio Barry, “Disiecta membra: Ranieri
Zeno, the Imitation of Constantinople, the Spolia Style and Justice at San
Marco.” In San Marco, Byzantium and the
Myths of Venice
, ed. Henry Maguire and Robert S. Nelson. (Washington D.C.:
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection), 15.

[27] Charles Freeman, The Horses of Saint Mark’s, (New York:
The Overlook Press, 2004), 89

[28] Ibid., 17-20

[29] Ibid., 90.

[30] Deborah Howard, Venice and the East: The Impact of the
Islamic World on Venetian Architecture 1100- 1500
, (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2000),, 100.

[31] Deborah Howard, The Architectural History of Venice, 2d
ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 21.

[32] Deborah Howard, Venice and the East: The Impact of the
Islamic World on Venetian Architecture 1100- 1500
, (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2000), 142.

[33] Dominique Clevenot, Splendors of Islam: Architecture, Decoration
and Design
. (New York: The Vendome Press, 200) 143.

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