Sunday, September 1, 2013

Venice and Egypt

Figure 1 - Obelisk on the roof of a building in St. Mark's Square, Venice
     While in Venice I found two connections with Egypt in Italy's most unusual city. Both are in St. Mark's Square. The first (Figure 1 - taken from the third floor of the Ducal Palace) is an obelisk on the roof of a building on the other side of the square form the Ducal Palace. The obelisk is certainly not from Egypt, it is only a small copy of an Egyptian original. I have no idea why there are obelisks on the roof of this building (it looks like there are four, one in each corner), but if anyone does know, please drop me a note.

     The second connection is the Basilica of St. Mark itself. St. Mark was originally buried in a church in Alexandria in the Nile Delta. Members of the church feared that the Moslems would pillage the church. Two Venetians who were trading in Alexandria came up with a plan to "protect" the body of the martyred saint. They took the body out of its sarcophagus and put it in a basket. A layer of pork was then added on top of the body so that Moslem officials would not search the basket.

Figure 2 - St. Mark's body being smuggled out of Egypt
     After the body of the saint was loaded on board a ship and transported to Venice. Over time devotion to the saint increased to the point where building a Basilica for St. Mark was required. This Basilica is today one of the two most visited landmarks in Venice. Over the doors of the church are mosaics, one of which shows the basket containing the body of St. Mark being smuggled out of Alexandria (Figure 2).

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