Venice, Italy – The Art, the Miracle, the Inexpressible

Venice, Italy – The Art, the Miracle, the Inexpressible


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The Basilica of St Mary of Health - Venice, Italy
The Basilica of St Mary of Health – Venice, Italy

Venice is not just Venice. More than any other city in the past it has become transformed within the imaginations of artists, painters, poets, prose-writers. Yet it remains very much as it was at the height of its greatest artistic achievements, during the Renaissance.


As early as 1882, Henry James observed that the most obvious thing to say about Venice is that there is nothing left to say. Works of art associated with images of Venice tend to stick in my mind and evoke its atmosphere and architecture. Wagner regarded Venice as a good place in which to compose because you could see the crowds and yet to be alone. Palaces, canals, gondolas, effects of light seen across the Lagoon at dawn and sunset, dissolve into a colorful Romantic vision.


Venice: A city to get lost in

Street Shops in Venice
Street Shops in Venice

The advantage of getting lost was that one found so much. Every few yards there were surprises. A dark passage-way opens onto the wide brilliantly lit expanse of a square enclosed by houses of different heights with narrow steep shuttered windows in grey peeling walls. At each corner a calle leads out of the square. I do not know which to consider the continuation of the one by which I have entered. Nor I do care. On one side of the square there is a shop, with a window full of toys. In the square itself there is a booth where a few vegetables lie on a bench under a striped awning. Choosing at random my way out of the square I go along a calle which leads to a bridge over a canal.


St Mark’s Square: the heart of Venice

My wanderings throughout the years brought me always back to St Mark’s Square, which has been compared to a ball-room, but which to my mind is more like the central chamber, interior cavity of a body, containing the heart. For St Mark’s Basilica truly is the hollow center of Venice, with its great arched porch, and two attendant porches on each side.

St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice
St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice

One never forgets on Venice that the city is completely unlike anywhere else. Venice is a marble lung at this end of the Adriatic which breathes in and breathes out each day, according to the tides, the sea.  The harbor has entered into every crevice it the city, become its very existence. Thus transport in Venice means the sea – traditionally the gondola. This introduces into it an element or condition which is like a different dimension of time. To recognize this, one only has to consider, for example, the effect upon New York City if all the streets and avenues of Manhattan were excavated and made into canals!