Near Midnight in Venice
Near midnight, the bells of the Basilica of San Marco toll in a particularly insistent way: they call the faithful to the “Resurrection Mass.” It is the end of Holy Week in a Venice overflowing with tourists and one feels in the air that spring has arrived—the bronze clanging in the silence of the full-moonlit night has a rhythm and pulse that draws me to the great plaza and I enter the temple.
The history, which seems more like legend, conveys that around the beginning of the ninth century a group of seasoned Venetians absconded the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, who had been the first Bishop of Alexandria where he had been laid to rest, a city that had become Islam. This circumstance led to the initial construction of a basilica, to celebrate St. Mark who, from that moment on, became the patron saint of the city. This was before various vicissitudes lead to a reconstruction, undertaken in Byzantine style in 1064, as an extension of the ducal palace.
The richness of its interior, the result of many years during which wealthy Venetians provided ornaments and diverse works of art, is crowned by the famous mosaics; these are illuminated for the religious ceremony. The internal space thereupon takes on another dimension: that of reflection and devotion, which resonate with a profound sense of music from times bygone that infuse the canticles that bear us toward the divine with piety and fervor. The atmosphere and voices restore true religiosity—beyond the simple curiosity of the tourist—recuperating memories that take us back into forgotten rituals. We become a part of the millennial building with its powerful dimensions, its sublime opulence, its luminous mystery, its celestial harmonies, and its rich spirituality.
About Louise Noelle
Louise Noelle is the former editor of Arquitectura/México, professor at the National University of Mexico; author of publications on architecture and urbanism, and contributor to numerous architectural journals. Member of the Mexican Arts Academy, ICOMOS and DOCOMOMO; Honorary Academician of the Society of Mexican Architects and of the Argentinean Academy of Beaux Arts.