Rise a Little Lighter Towards the Heavens

Photo credit: Eugenio Novajra, 2017, The Great Beauty

This excerpt from the Introduction of Dream of Venice in Black and White was written by Tiziano Scarpa.

“Occasionally, when I cross St Mark’s Square and find myself standing before the Basilica, I ask myself whether it might have been a temple dedicated to the god of rain. I am talking about the cupolas. I look at them and think that they are actually upside-down cisterns, spiritual hydraulic systems, built in imitation of the ones found under the flagstones of the squares. Actually, those cupolas were added centuries after the basilica’s construction. They do not match the original cupolas that are hidden beneath them, which were much lower.

Art history books tell us that the fake cupolas were raised to be made more visible from the outside but I think the real reason is another: whoever designed their swollen forms wanted to celebrate the ditches buried under the squares, the subterranean hemispheres, and the sand cisterns which purified the rainwater. Just as the sand-filled territory in the squares purified the rain, the cupolas, exposed to the air, intercept the human prayers emanating from the basilica. The cupolas filter human aspirations, cleansing requests and desires before freeing them to rise a little lighter towards the heavens.”