Christmas at the Golden Basilica: Five Treasures to Discover

Christmas at the Golden Basilica: Five Treasures to Discover

Golden treasures on view, bells concert and mystic chants: On Christmas Eve, the Basilica di San Marco reveals its precious heritage. Sights and Sounds of Venice at Christmas.
The first treasure I would like to highlight is the five golden cupolas that can be seen through the thick incense-filled air upon entering into the Basilica: On at least four occasions in the year, the gold treasures of the Basilica di San Marco, the mosaic-and-gold-lined five cupolas are being shown off: they are illuminated festively at night at the Mass services on 24 December, 31 December, Holy Saturday before Easter, and the 25 April, St Mark's Day. The mosaics (from the 12th century AD mostly) of the five cupolas are are lined with gold and show biblic themes and scenes by glass mosaic figures that are placed in different directions so as to reflect the light from different angles.
Antique splendors, heartfelt and mystic: The times of the Venetian Republic
The second treasure exposed on Christmas Eve and also on Christmas Day, is the front side of the Golden Altar Pala d'Oro, the Golden High Altar, 3.45 x 1.40 meters, commissioned in the year 978 AD and finished by the year 1343. During the Christmas celebrations, the Altar is turned towards the audience. Usually you cannot see the Pala d'Oro during mass services, but visitors to the Basilica can see it paying a small fee. Here are a few pictures taken just before the Vigilia di Natale mass service began  - the Basilica is getting ready for the Christmas festivities.
Pala d'Oro details
Floor plan: five cupolas, the central one is called Cupola dell'Ascensione (43 meters high).
The Basilica, at the times of the Republic, was the State Church, the Doge's "Chapel" (basilica derives from the ancient Greek word basleus meaning "king")
Legends has it that these colums were once part of Solomon's temple (source: Venezia insolita e segreta).
The third treasure to witness is the concert given by the Choir of the Basilica: Mystic chants and local and Italian Christms carols. The Choir is called Cantori di San Marco, set up in the year 1316. Click here to listen to them. You can also listen to them every Sunday at the 10:30 am mass service.
The forth treasure you can encounter on a Christmas eve is a special concert - given by bells, to be precise, by the Campanile bells. During the Vigilia di Natale mass service, held by the Venetian Patriarch, the Campanile bells chime audibly for everyone at midnight. The marangona - the biggest bell of the five bells housed by the Venetian clocktower Campanile - chimes unmistakably every night at 12 pm (click here for the marangona chiming midnight on any given day of the year), but the bells in concert at midnight on Christmas eve are so special. Clicking below you can listen to the bells on Christmas eve, ushering in Christmas festivities in Venice:
The fifth treasure is of course the Glittering Christmas tree, slightly differing over the years, but it is not like Christmas trees in other parts of the world: Some years, the Venetian Christmas tree is even made of Murano glass, in view for everyone located right on the Piazzetta dei Leoncini next to the Cathedral, representing THE illuminated spot next to the Basilica...
And finally, since I am interested in flowers, I would like to show you this year's Christmas flower decoration at the Basilica, it is Stella di Natale and white lilies.

The Christmas tree, and to the right, you can also see the Do Mori on top of the Clock Tower illuminated for the Night
On Christmas day in the early morning, you can come back from the Riva degli Schiavoni side, and witness gondolas under their typical blue coverings, with the Church and Convent of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. It was there that the Doge paid his Christmas visits, both at Christmas eve and then again  in the morning of Christmas Day ...
A view from the Piazzetta, with its gondolas, Christmas Day morning towards the Isola San Giorgio Maggiore Church and Convent 


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