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Dumbarton Oaks Studies
The Church of San Marco in Venice
History, Architecture, Sculpture
Otto Demus

The basilica of San Marco epitomizes the whole of Venetian history. From the time of its first foundation in the ninth century, the church of the doges was indissolubly linked with the fortunes and aspirations of the growing city-state that was to become in the late Middle Ages the dominant maritime power of the eastern Mediterranean. It is on this vast canvas that Dr Demus paints the story of the basilica, a story that begins with the legends of the apostles, follows the gradual emergence of Venice from Byzantine domination, her rivalry with continental Italian powers, and reaches a climax in the capture of Constantinople in 1204. Keeping pace with this political development was the Venetian state myth, which found a permanent expression in the church of San Marco.

In the first section of this book Dr. Demus presents the historical and ideological background; in the second he discusses the architectural evolution of the basilica; in the third the rich array of relief sculptures which adorn its interior as well as its facades. An appendix by Ferdinando Forlati, Proto di San Marco, provides a succinct account of the various restorations to which the church has been subjected.