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The Oldest Mosaics in St Mark’s Basilica
By David Raezer
The entrance from the narthex into the main body of the church holds the church’s oldest extant mosaics, likely executed by Byzantine artists at the end of the 11th century; this compares with the most of the mosaics, which date from the 12th-13th centuries.
Since these select mosaics pre-date the construction of the narthex that currently encloses it narthex (see image to left), they were likely originally open to the elements and visible from the plaza.
They reside below a large mosaic of St Mark — dating from the 16th century, it likely replaced an original mosaic depicting Christ Pantocrator — who stands with his arms raised in the hemispherical lunette, looking upward toward the raised hand of God.
Try to visit from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. During this time, the church turns on all of the interior lights, making for excellent viewing of the mosaics. If you go at any other time of day, the natural light can prove insufficient for seeing the details.
Since the founding of the Venetian Republic in 697, it fought to preserve its status as an independent trading center bridging East and West. Explore St Mark’s Basilica, both a symbol of and justification for the city’s greatness.
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