New Constantinople

From the many ways Venetians incorporated Byzantine and Islamic art into their central architecture, some scholars argue that Venice is asserting not only its relationship to both civilizations, but its dominance. More clearly articulated is the idea that Venice is the “New Constantinople.” Throughout the Crusades, Constantinople’s power was decreasing, while Venice gained the riches and significance that the Byzantine capital once had. Being modeled after both the Apostoleion and Hagia Sofia, the two most significant churches in Byzantium, Venice was bearing to the world the greatness of Byzantium, but placing it within its borders. St. Mark’s was, “a visual evocation, and a symbolic synthesis, of the image of the Christian metropolis, and a decisive factor as well in the reinterpretation of Venice as a second Byzantium.”[1]

This reinterpretation was not lost to the many travelers who would visit St. Mark’s. In 1468 Bessarion, a Greek scholar educated in Constantinople, wrote to Venice that, “as people from all over the world gather in your city, especially the Greeks. Arriving by sea from their native country, they land first at Venice, constrained by necessity to come to your city and live amongst you; and here they have the impression they are entering a second Byzantium.”[2] The Venetian church took the form of the cross as seen throughout Byzantium, housed relics associated with Constantine the Great and its continual growth marked it as the New Constantinople, which also suggests a Third Rome. Bessarion was accepting of the transition from his home to Venice, “to whom better than the Venetians could I leave my heritage…and to their city which I chose as my home after Greece was conquered, and where I was welcomed and treated honorably.”[3] From the fall of Constantinople, Venice acquired much of its wealth, and as it seems that scholars, such as Bessarion, and people alike were compliant in entrusting Venice with the role.

[1] Vio, St. Mark’s. 101.

[2] Vio, St. Mark’s. 101.

[3] Vio, St. Mark’s. 101.

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