Imagens das páginas







September, 1826.—On the morning after Ouf arrival, we chartered a gondola with one oar, at the rate of five francs a day, and commenced a voyage of discovery, directing our course along the Grand Canal to the Rialto, which was examined with a minuteness proportioned to its fame. It is built of white stone, resembling marble. The chord of its arch is only eighty feet. Its sides are embellished with statues in alto-rilievo, with some other decorations and inscriptions. But the view from the water is neither grand nor beautiful. Poetry and association have done every thing for this bridge. It is at most a fantastic object. Its construction is peculiar. As it has long been one of the principal marts of the city, it is fitted up with appurtenances adapted to such purposes. The central passage is lined on both sides with jewellers' shops and boutiques for other merchandise. On the highest part of the bridge are transverse arches, enclosing a small square, which is occupied as a sort of Exchange. Behind the shops are two other passages, one on each side, guarded outwardly by handsome balustrades. The ascent from the ends to the centre of the walks is so steep, as to render steps necessary. It is of course never crossed by carriages, as there are none in the city. I do not recollect to have seen a horse, except the brazen steeds in front of St. Mark's, during my visit.

Saluting the Madonna, who guards the flight of steps leading from the bridge to the water, we re-embarked, passed under the ponderous arch, and continued our voyage through the Grand Canal. The next landing was effected upon the steps of the church of Santa Teresa Senza Calce, which once belonged to the Carmelites. Its front is majestic, rising from the water on double ranges of columns, crowded with. statues and other ornaments. The interior is rich, too rich, in splendid materials. A young priest seemed to take a pride in informing us, that the church cost 336,000 ducats.

Continuing our excursion, we emerged from the Canal into an arm of the Lagune, half a mile in breadth, separating the island of St. Maggiore from the rest of the city, and forming the principal harbour for boats and small craft. The view of St. Mark's and the neighbouring edifices, embracing a large number of churches and palaces; die lofty tower rising in the centre; the shipping in the port; and the Public Garden beyond, can hardly be surpassed in magnificence. Debarking at the quay, which is as spacious and beautiful as those of the Arno, we foiuid the winged Lion and a statue of Theodoric, poised fax above our heads upon two stupendous columns of granite. An esplanade, denominated the Piazzetta, opens from the water to (he great Square, in front of St. Mark's, which is the Palais Royal of Venice-^-the scene of the Carnival and other great fetes, the place of resort for eating, drinking, gaiety, and pleasure. It lies in the form of a parallelogram, perhaps a thousand feet in length, and three or four hundred in breadth, surrounded oa three sides by continuous mages of palaces, three stories high, uniform both in material «nd architecture, at least so far as not to break the unity of the view, or to offend the eye. The whole area is neatly paved, and lined with deep arcades, into which shops and coffee-houses ,without number open, presenting at night a roost brilliant spectacle. In architectural grandeur, this square far surpasses ,the Palais Royal. Several days were occupied in examining the edifices which surround it, and of which I shall attempt a hasty notice.

The Church of St. Mark, standing at one end of the Piazza, is the most prominent object. I have called k the St Peter's of Venice. Such it is in a religious point of view, and the richness of its materials; though it will bear no comparison in size and architecture. It is an irregular, rude, Gothic pile, in which oriental marbles and the splendid spoils of the east have been .heaped together, without much regard to taste or elegance. Its exterior is grotesque, and strikes only by its novelty, being a mixture of all orders and of all kinds of materials. Its front is indented with five deep alcoves, filled with rows of pillars, differing as much in tstyle as in colour—some Moorish, others Gothic, and the rest Grecian. It is said there are three hundred in all. In their wars with the Turks and other nations, the Venetians brought home the fragments of demolished temples, and added them to this proud structure, which in turn was doomed to conquest and pillage. Our guide informed us, that the silver heads of saints were picked out of the doors, and many of the valuable ornaments pilfered by the French soldiers, instead of being left for the Austrians.

A gallery extends across the whole front of the church, above which rise five stately domes, in the midst of innumerable pinnacles. We ascended to the terrace, under the guidance of a priest, and examined the celebrated bronze-gilt horses of Lysippus, which have been great travellers, and jaded almost into hacks. They were plundered from Corinth by Mummius Achaicus and carried to Rome; thence returned to Constantinople; on the conquest of that city by the Venetians, they were taken as trophies, and placed over the front of St. Mark's; Napoleon led them captive over the Alps, to grace his triumphal arches at Paris; and the members of the Holy Alliance conducted them back to the Adriatic. They are sadly maimed, bruised, and galled by so many long journeys. The gilding has in many places been scratched off for the sake of the gold. One of the collars was broken and lost in the removal, and a new one put on by the French. They have been patched up and repaired since their return. In size, they are somewhat larger than life, extremely well proportioned, and spirited in their attitudes. Their present location is horrible. They are moderately elevated upon pedestals, and nothing but their heads can be seen from the Square below. Why did not the Emperor of Austria, who acted in the capacity of groom at the restoration, direct them to be placed in the centre of the area, or any where else than among the pinnacles of a church, between which and war-horses there is a strange incongruity 1

The inside of St. Mark's is as unique as the exterior. Dark and gloomy as it is, I was pleased with it on account of its nationality. It was commenced during the early ages of the Republic, in the 7th or 8th century, and enriched with the trophies of victory. The spoils of the east are here accumulated. Our cicerone stated, that the church contains one hundred and forty different kinds of marbles and precious stones. They are thrown together in a rude manner, but display unbounded wealth, as well as an enthusiastic patriotism. All the inscriptions relate rather to the glories of the Venetian arms, than to the doctrines and precepts of the Prince of Peace. The tomb of old Dandalo is conspicuous, and the walls are hung with the escutcheons of other warriors. Here are pillars from the temple of Solomon, and doors from the church of St. Sophia at Constantinople. Every altar, every column, every stone is historical, associated with the achievements of the Republic. Even St. Mark, the Patron of the city, is clothed with the badges of power, rather than with the symbols of religion.

We inquired of a priest, where the dust of the saint reposes. He replied, " under the church," without being particular as to the precise spot. It is said to have been brought from Alexandria, and here deposited. The relics have all disappeared, in the successive revolutions which Venice has undergone. A candle was lighted, to show us the perfect transparency of two oriental columns of alabaster. The pavement is undulating like the sea, on which it rests. It is in some places so uneven, that one can scarely walk upon it with convenience. It is mosaic, composed of precious stones infinitely varied. We trampled upon agate and jasper. The shrines are gorgeous, and always thronged with votaries. Many of the ornaments are lost to the eye, owing to the dim light. The walls and the ceilings of the domes are covered with mosaics, frescos, and gildings, which are but imperfectly seen, and might perhaps as well be entirely concealed.

In front of St. Mark's stand three red masts, which in our country would be called liberty-poles. They were erected to commemorate the capture of Cyprus, Candia, and the Morea, whence they were brought as trophies. They are fixed at bottom in sockets of bronze, and on the top of each is perched a brazen lion, wearing a crown, which in this instance needs his wings to keep his balance at such a height, and on such a slender support. Two other lions, in red marble, repose with more dignity, by a fountain, or rather a cistern, on the left of the church; and a third, on a neighbouring building, holds the book of the Evangelist in his paws. Above his head is a clock, on the face of which the sun is represented passing through the signs of the zodiac. In short, the image of the king of beasts, in the furm shadowed forth by the prophet Ezekiel, meets the traveller at every turn in the city; though pains have been taken to substitute the double-headed eagle of Austria and the bust of the Emperor. ,

The Campanile or belfry of St. Mark's is an enormous brick tower, standing in the piazza, insulated from the church. It is perhaps forty feet square, and three hundred in height, composed of a succession of arches in the interior to give it strength. Three sides of the basement are lined with paltry retail shops, and in the fourth or front, is a sort of temple, highly embellished with bas-relief and a variety of sculpture. This curious apartment is now exclusively appropriated to the drawing of lotteries. We climbed the long flight of steps in the interior, dimly lighted by small windows, at distant stages.

The cupola is formed by a colonnade, supporting a pyramid, on the top of which is poised a colossal bronze angel. Here old Gallileo, in his exile, used to watch the heavens, and make his astronomical observations; and hence we had a charming view of the same blue skies, with the hundred romantic islands, which they canopy. To adopt a simile which such an observatory suggests, Venice may be compared to a primary planet, surrounded by numerous satellites. The city itself, from this height, appears a compact mass «i buildings, showing none of its eanals, bridges, or narrow streets. It lies in an oval form, and is seven miles in circumference, girt by the waves, out of which rise other small islands, covered with fortresses, churches, convents, hospitals, and other buildings. To the south, the Lido di Palistrina divides the Lagunes from the Adriatic. It is an artificial peninsula, ten or twelve miles in length and of moderate breadth, constructed in the age of the republic, to protect the city and harbour from the violence of the winds and waves. It is now green and studded with white buildings.

Descending from the tower, we visited the Ducal Palace, which extends from St. Mark's to the quay, bounding one side of the Fiazzetta. It is a stupendous edifice of very singular construction. The basement is composed of arches; the second story is of light open fretwork, in the Saracenic or Arabesque style; and the third story consists oi heavy plain brick, loaded with a prodigious weight of Gothie pinnacles. Every principle of architecture, as well as of taste, is violated »j this curious structure. The order of stories its reversed, and the pondermtls battlements seem sufficient

« AnteriorContinuar »