« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
ed to this republic ; the three crowns are still kept in the ducal palace. Since the kingdoms are gone, I should think the crowns and the poles hardly worth preserving : they are, however, of the same value to Venice, that the title of king of France is to his Britannic majesty. At the bottom of the tower of St. Mark, is a small neat building of marble, called the Loggietta, where some of the procurators of St. Mark constantly attend to do business. Some people are of opinion that, particularly when the grand council, or the senate, are assembled, these procurators are placed there as state sentinels, to give warning in case of any appearance of discontent or commotion among the populace, which must necessarily shew itself at this place, as there is no other in Venice where a mob could assemble.
The patriarchal church of St. Mark, though one of the richest and most expensive in the world, does not strike the eye very much at first; the architecture is of a mixed kind, mostly Gothic, yet many of the pillars are of the Grecian orders; the outside is incrusted with marble; the inside, ceiling, and floor, are all of the finest marble; the numerous pillars which support the roof are of the same substance; the whole is crowned by five domes ;-but all this labour and expense have been directed by a very moderate share of taste.
The front, which looks to the palace, has five brass gates, with historical bas-relieves: over the principal gate are placed the four famous bronze horses, said to be the workmanship of Lycippus ; they were given to the emperor Nero, by Tiridates, king of Armenia ; the fiery spirit of their countenances, and their animated attitudes, are perfectly agreeable to their original destination, of being harnessed to the chariot of the Sun.-Nero placed them on the triumphal arch consecrated to him, and they are to be seen on the reverse of some of his medals; they were removed from Rome to Constantinople, placed in the Hyppodrome by Constantine, and remained there till the taking of Constantinople by the French and Venetians in the beginning of the thirteenth century, when they were carried to Venice, and placed upon the gate of St. Mark's church.
The treasury of St. Mark is very rich in jewels and relics ; and it was necessary to apply to one of the procurators of St. Mark for leave to see it. I shall only mention a few of the most valuable effects kept here. Eight pillars from Solomon's temple at Jerusalem ; a piece of the Virgin Mary's veil, some of her hair, and a small portion of her milk ; the knife used by our Saviour, at his last supper ; one of the nails of the cross, and a few drops of his blood. After these it would be impertinent to enumerate the bones, and other relics, of saints and martyrs, of which there is a plentiful show in this church, and still less need I take up your time with an inventory of the temporal jewels kept here ; it would be unpardonable, however, to omit mentioning the picture of the Virgin, by St. Luke. From this, compared with his other works, it is plain, that St. Luke was a much better evangelist than painter: some professions seem to be almost incompatible with each other. I have known many very good painters who would have made bad saints, and here is an instance of an excellent saint who was but an indifferent painter.
The old Procuratie is built of a kind of black marble ; the new is of the pietra dura of Istria.
The church of St. Geminiano is an elegant piece of architecture, by Sansovino.
The ducal palace is an immense building, entirely of marble. Besides the apartments of the doge, there are also halls and chambers for the senate, and all the differ. ent councils and tribunals. The principal entrance is by a spacious stair, called the Giants Stair, on account of two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, placed at the top; they are of white marble, the work of Sansovino, and intended to represent the naval and military power of this state. Their gigantic size might be proper enough formerly, but they would be juster emblems of the present force of this republic if their stature were more moderate.
Under the porticoes, to which you ascend by this stair,
you may perceive the gaping mouths of lions, to receive anonymous letters, informations of treasonable practices, and accusations of magistrates for abuses in office.
From the palace there is a covered bridge of communication to a state prison, on the other side of the canal. Prisoners pass to and from the courts over this bridge, which is named Ponte Dei Sospiri.
The apartments and halls of the ducal palace are orna. mented by the pencils of Titian, Paul Veronese, Tintoret, Palma, the Bassans, and other painters. The rape of Europa, and the storming of Zara, both by Paul Veronese, are amongst the highest esteemed pieces of that master. The foot of Europa is honoured with the particular admiration of the connoisseurs : the bull seems to be of their way of thinking, for he licks it as he bears her along above the waves.
Some people admire even this thought of the painter; I cannot say I am of the number: I think it is the only thing in the picture which is not admirable; it is making Jupiter enter a little too much into the character which he had assumed. There are a few pictures in this palace by Titian, but a great many by the other masters. The subjects are mostly taken from the history of Venice.
Within the palace there is a little arsenal, which communicates with the hall of the great council. Here a great number of muskets are kept, ready charged, with which the nobles may arm themselves on any sudden insurrection, or other emergency.
The lower gallery, or the piazza under the palace, is called the Broglio. In this the noble Venetians walk and converse: it is only here, and at council, where they have opportunities of meeting together; for they seldom visit openly, or in a family way, at each other's houses, and secret meetings would give umbrage to the state inquisitors; they choose, therefore, to transact their business on this public walk. People of inferior rank seldom remain on the Broglio for any length of time when the nobility are there.
I was led, in my last, into a very particular (and I wish you may not have also found it a very tedious) description of St. Mark's Place, There is no help for what is past, but, for your comfort, you have nothing of the same kind to fear while we remain here ; for there is not another square, or place, as the French with more propriety call them, in all Venice. To compensate, however, for their being but one, there is a greater variety of objects to be seen at this one, than in any half dozen of the squares, or places, of London or Paris.
After our eyes had been dazzled with looking at pictures, and our legs cramped with sitting in a gondola, it is no small relief, and amusement, to saunter in the place of St. Mark.
The number and diversity of objects which there present themselves to the eye, naturally create a very rapid succession of ideas. The sight of the churches awakens religious sentiments, and, by an easy transition, the mind is led to contemplate the influence of superstition. In the midst of this reverie, Nero's four horses appear, and carry the fancy to Rome and Constantinople. While you are forcing your way, sword in hand, with the heroic Henry Dandelo, into the capital of Asia, Adam and Eve stop your progress, and lead you to the garden of Eden. You have not long enjoyed a state of innocence and happiness in that delightful paradise, till Eve
her rash hand in evil hour Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucks, she eats. After that unfortunate repast, no more comfort being to be found there, you are glad to mount St. Mark's winged lion, and fly back to the ducal palace, where you will naturally reflect on the rise and progress of the Venetian state, and the various springs of their government. While you
admire the strength of a constitution which has stood
firm for so many ages, you are appalled at the sight of the lion's mouth gaping for accusations; and turning with horror from a place where innocence seems exposed to the attacks of hidden malice, you are regaled with a prospect of the sea, which opens your return to a country of real freedom, where justice rejects the libel of the hidden accuser, and dares to try, condemn, and execute openly the highest, as well as the lowest, delinquent.
I assure you I have, more than once, made all this tour, standing in the middle of St. Mark's square ; whereas, in the French places, you have nothing before your eyes but monuments of the monarch's vanity, and the people's adulation ; and in the greater part of the London squares, and streets, what idea can present itself to the imagination, beyond that of the snug neatness and conveniency of substantial brick houses ?
I have been speaking hitherto of a morning saunter ; for in the evening there generally is, on St. Mark's Place, such a mixed multitude of Jews, Turks, and Christians; lawyers, knaves, and pick-pockets; mountebanks, old women, and physicians; women of quality, with masks; strumpets barefaced ; and, in short, such a jumble of senators, citizens, gondoleers, and people of every character and condition, that your ideas are broken, bruised, and dislocated in the crowd, in such a manner, that you can think, or reflect, on nothing ; yet this being a state of mind which many people are fond of, the place never fails to be well attended, and, in fine weather, numbers pass a great part of the night there. When the piazza is illuminated, and the shops, in the adjacent streets, lighted up, the whole has a brilliant effect; and as it is the custom for the ladies, as well as the gentlemen, to frequent the cassinos and coffeehouses around, the place of St. Mark answers all the purposes of either Vauxhall or Ranelagh.
It is not in St. Mark's Place that you are to look for the finest monuments of the art of Titian, or the genius of Palladio; for those you must visit the churches and palaces : but if you are inclined to make that tour, you