The Heaving Floor of St Mark’s Basilica

The floor was what did it for me.

The heaving floor of San Marks Basilica

The heaving floor of St Mark’s Basilica

The floor of the basilica in Venice has suffered so much movement over the years that it looks like a water park, frozen in these dramatic undulating waves. The beautiful mosaics rising and falling slowly over the years.

The tourist filing slowly around the building barley looking at the floor though, they only have eyes for the elaborate decorations and flashing gold mosaics.

San Marcos basilica nave

St Mark’s basilica nave

The effect of this space at the time it was completed must have been arresting though. Apparently the gold mosaic tiles, tesserae, were all cut slightly differently in order to catch and reflect more light, enhancing the effect of lanterns, candles, and sunlight in the large basilica. The glow they give off is almost ethereal, making the space look like it’s permanently filled with smoke.

But all I could see was the floor.  Carpets had been laid down to protect the mosaics from the flood of trampling feet, but it emphasized the way the floor had buckled and heaved over time.

When I visit old churches, I love the way the floor shows the passage of time and people, with threshold stones worn smooth.  The floor at St Mark’s Basilica speaks to a different type of passage of time, more the passage of tides.

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