Piazza San Marco

Venice, Italy

Piazza San Marco, in English as St Mark's Square, is the principal public square of Venice and central point of interest for visitors. The Square is dominated at its eastern end by the great Basilica of St. Mark. To the left is the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza, the buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Vecchie, the old procuracies, formerly the homes and offices of the Procurators of St. Mark, high officers of state in the days of the republic of Venice. They were built in the early 16th century.

Turning left again, the arcade continues down the south side of the Piazza. The buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Nuove (new procuracies), which were designed by Jacopo Sansovino in the mid-16th century but partly built (1582–86) after his death by Vincenzo Scamozzi apparently with alterations required by the Procurators and finally completed by Baldassarre Longhena about 1640. Again, the ground floor has shops and also the Caffè Florian, a famous cafe opened in 1720, which was patronised by the Venetians when the hated Austrians were at Quadri's. The upper floors were intended by Napoleon to be a palace for his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais, his viceroy in Venice, and now houses the Museo Correr. At the far end the Procuratie meet the north end of Sansovino's Libreria (mid-16th century).

Opposite to this, standing free in the Piazza, is the Campanile of St Mark's church (1156/73 last restored in 1514), rebuilt in 1912. Adjacent to the Campanile, facing towards the church, is the elegant small building known as the Loggetta del Sansovino, built by Sansovino in 1537-46, and used as a lobby by patricians waiting to go into a meeting of the Great Council in the Doge's Palace and by guards when the Great Council was sitting.

Across the Piazza in front of the church are three large mast-like flagpoles with bronze bases decorated in high relief by Alessandro Leopardi in 1505. The Venetian flag of St Mark used to fly from them in the time of the republic of Venice and now shares them with the Italian flag.

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