Saint Mark and Venice

The Dream of Saint Mark

  
The Golden Legend tells us that Mark was sent by St. Peter to preach in Aquileia in Northern Italy. It is at this point that Venetian legend takes over.  
    On his return to Rome he stopped off at the Venetian lagoon for a snooze. Here, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said:
Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus. Hic requiescat corpus tuum. (Peace be with you, Mark my evangelist. Here your body will find its final rest.) In another version of the story, he was driven ashore in a storm;  in this version the angel added the remark that  'the city that shall rise on these lagoons will call you its protector.' An early image of this can be found amongst the mosaics at San Marco, Venice.

    
Capella Zen, San Marco

 One might think that Mark would not have been particularly impressed with the idea; in the first century the Venetian lagoon was nothing more than a muddy, malarial swamp. The busy boatyard scene in the background of the painting by Domenico Robusti (Tintoretto's son) is pure fantasy.  
     
    


Domenico Robusti
Accademia, Venice

   I hesitate to upset the Venetians, nice people all of them, but one can't help but believe that the story itself is all fantasy, and politically motivated fantasy at that. The first sentence of the Latin quote was lifted from the supposed words of Christ to St Mark when Mark was languishing in prison in Alexandria. The whole story was probably concocted in the thirteenth century, to justify the events of 828. 

  But never mind all that scepticism - I'm sure the Venetians will stick to their guns. They will even tell you exactly where the dream took place - near the church of San Francesco della Vigna in Castello. 



Canaletto: Campo of the Church of San Francesco della Vigna
Private collection


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