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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:53

Video transcript

we're in the Basilica of st. mark in Venice and it's called st. mark because it holds the body the relic of st. mark a couple of Venetian merchants stole the body of Saint Mark from Alexandria and 829 and when his body was brought back this was obviously an incredibly important relic and the construction on the church began soon after that now think about the Saint mark was one of the evangelism one of the authors of the New Testament it doesn't get more important than this and the idea of bringing his body back from Alexandria was especially important because Egypt was then controlled not by the Byzantine Empire that is not by the Christian world but it was in Islamic ends there was even a legend that Saint Mark had a vision that his final resting place should be in Venice of course these are the kinds of legends that grow up to justify these kinds of historical events that's how it seems to us certainly in the 21st century the church is Byzantine and style in every way that we think about Byzantine architecture and the church that we're in currently was begun in 1063 it replaced two earlier and smaller shrines this does refer to the Byzantine in very direct ways the Venetians wanted their art their architecture to recall not only the Byzantine the Eastern traditions but specifically the traditions of Constantinople and so this church was based on the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople a church that no longer exists and like the Church of the Holy Apostles st. Mark's is essentially a Greek cross across with equal arms with domes over each arm and another dome over the crossing and those domes recall very directly the kind of architecture that we find in Constantinople that is a dome that has windows at its base a kind of necklace of light that makes the dome seem to levitate upward and not to be supported that's the idea of the whole interior of being in a golden jewel box the walls are covered with golden mosaics so you have the sense of what you know to be solid wall dissolving into glittering white 40,000 square feet of the surface of this church is covered with mosaic the mosaics date from different time periods but let's take a look at an early mosaic of a subject called the harrowing of hell also known as the annus thesis this is Christ who's gone into hell he's battered down the doors he's going in to save virtuous souls who are there because they lived before the possibility of salvation that is before his sacrifice on the cross in this case you actually see Christ grabbing the wrist of Adam Eve is just behind him he's gonna save Adam and Eve from limbo that is from not being able to enter Heaven and you'll notice that he's grabbing Adam not by the hand but by the wrist this idea that human beings can't save themselves but needed Christ's sacrifice they need Christ it's not a partnership in other words it is Christ eating them out and behind them perhaps other worthy Souls perhaps Old Testament prophets but I think my favorite part is what Christ is standing on well he's standing on Satan whose hands are bound in chains and who's represented in a much darker color and around him is the debris of Christ entrance into hell you can see the chains strewn about you can see keys you can see the doors of hell that Christ had knocked down and now forms a cross and all of this of course in this typical Byzantine style with a gold background with forms of drapery created by lines that are more stylized than the way drapery falls on a human body well look at Christ for a moment if you follow his right arm the arm that holds Adams wrists look just over the elbow and you see a bit of drapery that is just flying up and it not only seems to have a life of its own but also seems to suggest the Christ has just arrived look at the length of those bodies look at their attenuation this is not the portion of ancient Greece this is not the Renaissance this is that moment in the mid Byzantine style where we see the symbolic representation of the human form not a precise rendering that is based on observation or look at Adam knew it with his right knee coming to a point and then his left calf and foot extending out behind him this is not naturalism this is a symbolic Byzantine language that we know so well