Stones of Venice [introductions]
John Ruskin

Part 2 out of 4

strength of heart that was kindled within them, when first, after the
pillars of it had settled in the sand, and the roof of it had been
closed against the angry sky that was still reddened by the fires of
their homesteads,--first, within the shelter of its knitted walls,
amidst the murmur of the waste of waves and the beating of the wings of
the sea-birds round the rock that was strange to them,--rose that
ancient hymn, in the power of their gathered voices:




SECTION I. "And so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus." If as
the shores of Asia lessened upon his sight, the spirit of prophecy had
entered into the heart of the weak disciple who had turned back when his
hand was on the plough, and who had been judged, by the chiefest of
Christ's captains, unworthy thenceforward to go forth with him to the
work, [Footnote: Acts, xiii. 13; xv. 38, 39.] how wonderful would he
have thought it, that by the lion symbol in future ages he was to be
represented among men! how woful, that the war-cry of his name should so
often reanimate the rage of the soldier, on those very plains where he
himself had failed in the courage of the Christian, and so often dye
with fruitless blood that very Cypriot Sea, over whose waves, in
repentance and shame, he was following the Son of Consolation!

SECTION II. That the Venetians possessed themselves of his body in the
ninth century, there appears no sufficient reason to doubt, nor that it
was principally in consequence of their having done so, that they chose
him for their patron saint. There exists, however, a tradition that
before he went into Egypt he had founded the Church at Aquileia, and was
thus, in some sort, the first bishop of the Venetian isles and people. I
believe that this tradition stands on nearly as good grounds as that of
St. Peter having been the first bishop of Rome; [Footnote: The reader
who desires to investigate it may consult Galliciolli, "Delle Memorie
Venete" (Venice, 1795), tom. ii. p. 332, and the authorities quoted by
him.] but, as usual, it is enriched by various later additions and
embellishments, much resembling the stories told respecting the church
of Murano. Thus we find it recorded by the Santo Padre who compiled the
"Vite de' Santi spettanti alle Chiese di Venezia," [Footnote: Venice,
1761, tom. i. p. 126.] that "St. Mark having seen the people of Aquileia
well grounded in religion, and being called to Rome by St. Peter, before
setting off took with him the holy bishop Hermagoras, and went in a
small boat to the marshes of Venice. There were at that period some
houses built upon a certain high bank called Rialto, and the boat being
driven by the wind was anchored in a marshy place, when St. Mark,
snatched into ecstasy, heard the voice of an angel saying to him: 'Peace
be to thee, Mark; here shall thy body rest.'" The angel goes on to
foretell the building of "una stupenda, ne più veduta Città;" but the
fable is hardly ingenious enough to deserve farther relation.

SECTION III. But whether St. Mark was first bishop of Aquileia or not,
St. Theodore was the first patron of the city; nor can he yet be
considered as having entirely abdicated his early right, as his statue,
standing on a crocodile, still companions the winged lion on the
opposing pillar of the piazzetta. A church erected to this Saint is said
to have occupied, before the ninth century, the site of St. Mark's; and
the traveller, dazzled by the brilliancy of the great square, ought not
to leave it without endeavoring to imagine its aspect in that early
time, when it was a green field cloister-like and quiet, [Footnote: St.
Mark's Place, "partly covered by turf, and planted with a few trees; and
on account of its pleasant aspect called Brollo or Broglio, that is to
say, Garden." The canal passed through it, over which is built the
bridge of the Malpassi. Galliciolli, lib. I, cap. viii.] divided by a
small canal, with a line of trees on each side; and extending between
the two churches of St. Theodore and St. Geminian, as the little piazza,
of Torcello lies between its "palazzo" and cathedral.

SECTION IV. But in the year 813, when the seat of government was finally
removed to the Rialto, a Ducal Palace, built on the spot where the
present one stands, with a Ducal Chapel beside it, [Footnote: My
authorities for this statement are given below, in the chapter on the
Ducal Palace.] gave a very different character to the Square of St.
Mark; and fifteen years later, the acquisition of the body of the Saint,
and its deposition in the Ducal Chapel, perhaps not yet completed,
occasioned the investiture of that chapel with all possible splendor.
St. Theodore was deposed from his patronship, and his church destroyed,
to make room for the aggrandizement of the one attached to the Ducal
Palace, and thenceforward known as "St. Mark's." [Footnote: In the
Chronicles, "Sancti Marci Ducalis Cappella."]

SECTION V. This first church was however destroyed by fire, when the
Ducal Palace was burned in the revolt against Candiano, in 976. It was
partly rebuilt by his successor, Pietro Orseolo, on a larger scale; and
with the assistance of Byzantine architects, the fabric was carried on
under successive Doges for nearly a hundred years; the main building
being completed in 1071, but its incrustation with marble not till
considerably later. It was consecrated on the 8th of October, 1085,
[Footnote: "To God the Lord, the glorious Virgin Annunciate, and the
Protector St. Mark."--_Corner_, p. 14. It is needless to trouble the
reader with the various authorities for the above statements: I have
consulted the best. The previous inscription once existing on the church

"Anno milleno transacto bisque trigeno
Desuper undecimo fuit facta primo,"

is no longer to be seen, and is conjectured by Corner, with much
probability, to have perished "in qualche ristauro."] according to
Sansovino and the author of the "Chiesa Ducale di S. Marco," in 1094
according to Lazari, but certainly between 1084 and 1096, those years
being the limits of the reign of Vital Falier; I incline to the
supposition that it was soon after his accession to the throne in 1085,
though Sansovino writes, by mistake, Ordelafo instead of Vital Falier.
But, at all events, before the close of the eleventh century the great
consecration of the church took place. It was again injured by fire in
1106, but repaired; and from that time to the fall of Venice there was
probably no Doge who did not in some slight degree embellish or alter
the fabric, so that few parts of it can be pronounced boldly to be of
any given date. Two periods of interference are, however, notable above
the rest: the first, that in which the Gothic school had superseded the
Byzantine towards the close of the fourteenth century, when the
pinnacles, upper archivolts, and window traceries were added to the
exterior, and the great screen, with various chapels and
tabernacle-work, to the interior; the second, when the Renaissance
school superseded the Gothic, and the pupils of Titian and Tintoret
substituted, over one half of the church, their own compositions for the
Greek mosaics with which it was originally decorated; [Footnote: Signed
Bartolomeus Bozza, 1634, 1647, 1656, etc.] happily, though with no good
will, having left enough to enable us to imagine and lament what they
destroyed. Of this irreparable loss we shall have more to say hereafter;
meantime, I wish only to fix in the reader's mind the succession of
periods of alteration as firmly and simply as possible.

SECTION VI. We have seen that the main body of the church may be broadly
stated to be of the eleventh century, the Gothic additions of the
fourteenth, and the restored mosaics of the seventeenth. There is no
difficulty in distinguishing at a glance the Gothic portions from the
Byzantine; but there is considerable difficulty in ascertaining how
long, during the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
additions were made to the Byzantine church, which cannot be easily
distinguished from the work of the eleventh century, being purposely
executed in the same manner. Two of the most important pieces of
evidence on this point are, a mosaic in the south transept, and another
over the northern door of the façade; the first representing the
interior, the second the exterior, of the ancient church.

SECTION VII. It has just been stated that the existing building was
consecrated by the Doge Vital Falier. A peculiar solemnity was given to
that of consecration, in the minds of the Venetian people, by what
appears to have been one of the best arranged and most successful
impostures ever attempted by the clergy of the Romish church. The body
of St. Mark had, without doubt, perished in the conflagration of 976;
but the revenues of the church depended too much upon the devotion
excited by these relics to permit the confession of their loss. The
following is the account given by Corner, and believed to this day by
the Venetians, of the pretended miracle by which it was concealed.

"After the repairs undertaken by the Doge Orseolo, the place in which
the body of the holy Evangelist rested had been altogether forgotten, so
that the Doge Vital Falier was entirely ignorant of the place of the
venerable deposit. This was no light affliction, not only to the pious
Doge, but to all the citizens and people; so that at last, moved by
confidence in the Divine mercy, they determined to implore, with prayer
and fasting, the manifestation of so great a treasure, which did not now
depend upon any human effort. A general fast being therefore proclaimed,
and a solemn procession appointed for the 25th day of June, while the
people assembled in the church interceded with God in fervent prayers
for the desired boon, they beheld, with as much amazement as joy, a
slight shaking in the marbles of a pillar (near the place where the
altar of the Cross is now), which, presently falling to the earth,
exposed to the view of the rejoicing people the chest of bronze in which
the body of the Evangelist was laid."

SECTION VIII. Of the main facts of this tale there is no doubt. They
were embellished afterwards, as usual, by many fanciful traditions; as,
for instance, that, when the sarcophagus was discovered, St. Mark
extended his hand out of it, with a gold ring on one of the fingers,
which he permitted a noble of the Dolfin family to remove; and a quaint
and delightful story was further invented of this ring, which I shall
not repeat here, as it is now as well known as any tale of the Arabian
Nights. But the fast and the discovery of the coffin, by whatever means
effected, are facts; and they are recorded in one of the best-preserved
mosaics of the north transept, executed very certainly not long after
the event had taken place, closely resembling in its treatment that of
the Bayeux tapestry, and showing, in a conventional manner, the interior
of the church, as it then was, filled by the people, first in prayer,
then in thanksgiving, the pillar standing open before them, and the
Doge, in the midst of them, distinguished by his crimson bonnet
embroidered with gold, but more unmistakably by the inscription "Dux"
over his head, as uniformly is the case in the Bayeux tapestry, and most
other pictorial works of the period. The church is, of course, rudely
represented, and the two upper stories of it reduced to a small scale in
order to form a background to the figures; one of those bold pieces of
picture history which we in our pride of perspective, and a thousand
things besides, never dare attempt. We should have put in a column or
two of the real or perspective size, and subdued it into a vague
background: the old workman crushed the church together that he might
get it all in, up to the cupolas; and has, therefore, left us some
useful notes of its ancient form, though any one who is familiar with
the method of drawing employed at the period will not push the evidence
too far. The two pulpits are there, however, as they are at this day,
and the fringe of mosaic flowerwork which then encompassed the whole
church, but which modern restorers have destroyed, all but one fragment
still left in the south aisle. There is no attempt to represent the
other mosaics on the roof, the scale being too small to admit of their
being represented with any success; but some at least of those mosaics
had been executed at that period, and their absence in the
representation of the entire church is especially to be observed, in
order to show that we must not trust to any negative evidence in such
works. M. Lazari has rashly concluded that the central archivolt of St.
Mark's _must_ be posterior to the year 1205, because it does not
appear in the representation of the exterior of the church over the
northern door; [Footnote: Guida di Venezia, p. 6. (He is right,
however.)] but he justly observes that this mosaic (which is the other
piece of evidence we possess respecting the ancient form of the
building) cannot itself be earlier than 1205, since it represents the
bronze horses which were brought from Constantinople in that year. And
this one fact renders it very difficult to speak with confidence
respecting the date of any part of the exterior of St. Mark's; for we
have above seen that it was consecrated in the eleventh century, and yet
here is one of the most important exterior decorations assuredly
retouched, if not entirely added, in the thirteenth, although its style
would have led us to suppose it had been an original part of the fabric.
However, for all our purposes, it will be enough for the reader to
remember that the earliest parts of the building belong to the eleventh,
twelfth, and first part of the thirteenth century; the Gothic portions
to the fourteenth; some of the altars and embellishments to the
fifteenth and sixteenth; and the modern portion of the mosaics to the

SECTION IX. This, however, I only wish him to recollect in order that I
may speak generally of the Byzantine architecture of St. Mark's, without
leading him to suppose the whole church to have been built and decorated
by Greek artists. Its later portions, with the single exception of the
seventeenth century mosaics, have been so dexterously accommodated to
the original fabric that the general effect is still that of a Byzantine
building; and I shall not, except when it is absolutely necessary,
direct attention to the discordant points, or weary the reader with
anatomical criticism. Whatever in St. Mark's arrests the eye, or affects
the feelings, is either Byzantine, or has been modified by Byzantine
influence; and our inquiry into its architectural merits need not
therefore be disturbed by the anxieties of antiquarianism, or arrested
by the obscurities of chronology.

SECTION X. And now I wish that the reader, before I bring him into St.
Mark's Place, would imagine himself for a little time in a quiet English
cathedral town, and walk with me to the west front of its cathedral. Let
us go together up the more retired street, at the end of which we can
see the pinnacles of one of the towers, and then through the low gray
gateway, with its battlemented top and small latticed window in the
centre, into the inner private-looking road or close, where nothing goes
in but the carts of the tradesmen who supply the bishop and the chapter,
and where there are little shaven grass-plots, fenced in by neat rails,
before old-fashioned groups of somewhat diminutive and excessively trim
houses, with little oriel and bay windows jutting out here and there,
and deep wooden cornices and eaves painted cream color and white, and
small porches to their doors in the shape of cockle-shells, or little,
crooked, thick, indescribable wooden gables warped a little on one side;
and so forward till we come to larger houses, also old-fashioned, but of
red brick, and with gardens behind them, and fruit walls, which show
here and there, among the nectarines, the vestiges of an old cloister
arch or shaft, and looking in front on the cathedral square itself, laid
out in rigid divisions of smooth grass and gravel walk, yet not
uncheerful, especially on the sunny side where the canons' children are
walking with their nurserymaids. And so, taking care not to tread on the
grass, we will go along the straight walk to the west front, and there
stand for a time, looking up at its deep-pointed porches and the dark
places between their pillars where there were statues once, and where
the fragments, here and there, of a stately figure are still left, which
has in it the likeness of a king, perhaps indeed a king on earth,
perhaps a saintly king long ago in heaven; and so higher and higher up
to the great mouldering wall of rugged sculpture and confused arcades,
shattered, and gray, and grisly with heads of dragons and mocking
fiends, worn by the rain and swirling winds into yet unseemlier shape,
and colored on their stony scales by the deep russet-orange lichen,
melancholy gold; and so, higher still, to the bleak towers, so far above
that the eye loses itself among the bosses of their traceries, though
they are rude and strong, and only sees like a drift of eddying black
points, now closing, now scattering, and now settling suddenly into
invisible places among the bosses and flowers, the crowd of restless
birds that fill the whole square with that strange clangor of theirs, so
harsh and yet so soothing, like the cries of birds on a solitary coast
between the cliffs and sea.

SECTION XI. Think for a little while of that scene, and the meaning of
all its small formalisms, mixed with its serene sublimity. Estimate its
secluded, continuous, drowsy felicities, and its evidence of the sense
and steady performance of such kind of duties as can be regulated by the
cathedral clock; and weigh the influence of those dark towers on all who
have passed through the lonely square at their feet for centuries, and
on all who have seen them rising far away over the wooded plain, or
catching on their square masses the last rays of the sunset, when the
city at their feet was indicated only by the mist at the bend of the
river. And then let us quickly recollect that we are in Venice, and land
at the extremity of the Calle Lunga San Moisè, which may be considered
as there answering to the secluded street that led us to our English
cathedral gateway.

SECTION XII. We find ourselves in a paved alley, some seven feet wide
where it is widest, full of people, and resonant with cries of itinerant
salesmen,--a shriek in their beginning, and dying away into a kind of
brazen ringing, all the worse for its confinement between the high
houses of the passage along which we have to make our way. Over head an
inextricable confusion of rugged shutters, and iron balconies and
chimney flues pushed out on brackets to save room, and arched windows
with projecting sills of Istrian stone, and gleams of green leaves here
and there where a fig-tree branch escapes over a lower wall from some
inner cortile, leading the eye up to the narrow stream of blue sky high
over all. On each side, a row of shops, as densely set as may be,
occupying, in fact, intervals between the square stone shafts, about
eight feet high, which carry the first floors: intervals of which one is
narrow and serves as a door; the other is, in the more respectable
shops, wainscoted to the height of the counter and glazed above, but in
those of the poorer tradesmen left open to the ground, and the wares
laid on benches and tables in the open air, the light in all cases
entering at the front only,--and fading away in a few feet from the
threshold into a gloom which the eye from without cannot penetrate, but
which is generally broken by a ray or two from a feeble lamp at the back
of the shop, suspended before a print of the Virgin. The less pious
shop-keeper sometimes leaves his lamp unlighted, and is contented with a
penny print; the more religious one has his print colored and set in a
little shrine with a gilded or figured fringe, with perhaps a faded
flower or two on each side, and his lamp burning brilliantly. Here at
the fruiterer's, where the dark-green watermelons are heaped upon the
counter like cannon balls, the Madonna has a tabernacle of fresh laurel
leaves; but the pewterer next door has let his lamp out, and there is
nothing to be seen in his shop but the dull gleam of the studded
patterns on the copper pans, hanging from his roof in the darkness. Next
comes a "Vendita Frittole e Liquori," where the Virgin, enthroned in a
very humble manner beside a tallow candle on a back shelf, presides over
certain ambrosial morsels of a nature too ambiguous to be denned or
enumerated. But a few steps farther on, at the regular wineshop of the
calle, where we are offered "Vino Nostrani a Soldi 28'32," the Madonna
is in great glory, enthroned above ten or a dozen large red casks of
three-year-old vintage, and flanked by goodly ranks of bottles of
Maraschino, and two crimson lamps; and for the evening, when the
gondoliers will come to drink out, under her auspices, the money they
have gained during the day, she will have a whole chandelier.

SECTION XIII. A yard or two farther, we pass the hostelry of the Black
Eagle, and, glancing as we pass through the square door of marble,
deeply moulded, in the outer wall, we see the shadows of its pergola of
vines resting on an ancient well, with a pointed shield carved on its
side; and so presently emerge on the bridge and Campo San Moisè, whence
to the entrance into St. Mark's Place, called the Bocca di Piazza,
(mouth of the square), the Venetian character is nearly destroyed, first
by the frightful façade of San Moisè, which we will pause at another
time to examine, and then by the modernizing of the shops as they near
the piazza, and the mingling with the lower Venetian populace of
lounging groups of English and Austrians. We will push fast through them
into the shadow of the pillars at the end of the "Bocca di Piazza," and
then we forget them all; for between those pillars there opens a great
light, and, in the midst of it, as we advance slowly, the vast tower of
St. Mark seems to lift itself visibly forth from the level field of
chequered stones; and, on each side, the countless arches prolong
themselves into ranged symmetry, as if the rugged and irregular houses
that pressed together above us in the dark alley had been struck back
into sudden obedience and lovely order, and all their rude casements and
broken walls had been transformed into arches charged with goodly
sculpture, and fluted shafts of delicate stone.

SECTION XIV. And well may they fall back, for beyond those troops of
ordered arches there rises a vision out of the earth, and all the great
square seems to have opened from it in a kind of awe, that we may see it
far away;--a multitude of pillars and white domes, clustered into a long
low pyramid of colored light; a treasure-heap, it seems, partly of gold,
and partly of opal and mother-of-pearl, hollowed beneath into five great
vaulted porches, ceiled with fair mosaic, and beset with sculpture of
alabaster, clear as amber and delicate as ivory,--sculpture fantastic
and involved, of palm leaves and lilies, and grapes and pomegranates,
and birds clinging and fluttering among the branches, all twined
together into an endless network of buds and plumes; and, in the midst
of it, the solemn forms of angels, sceptred, and robed to the feet, and
leaning to each other across the gates, their figures indistinct among
the gleaming of the golden ground through the leaves beside them,
interrupted and dim, like the morning light as it faded back among the
branches of Eden, when first its gates were angel-guarded long ago. And
round the walls of the porches there are set pillars of variegated
stones, jasper and porphyry, and deep-green serpentine spotted with
flakes of snow, and marbles, that half refuse and half yield to the
sunshine, Cleopatra-like, "their bluest veins to kiss"--the shadow, as
it steals back from them, revealing line after line of azure undulation,
as a receding tide leaves the waved sand; their capitals rich with
interwoven tracery, rooted knots of herbage, and drifting leaves of
acanthus and vine, and mystical signs, all beginning and ending in the
Cross; and above them, in the broad archivolts, a continuous chain of
language and of life--angels, and the signs of heaven, and the labors of
men, each in its appointed season upon the earth; and above these,
another range of glittering pinnacles, mixed with white arches edged
with scarlet flowers,--a confusion of delight, amidst which the breasts
of the Greek horses are seen blazing in their breadth of golden
strength, and the St. Mark's Lion, lifted on a blue field covered with
stars, until at last, as if in ecstasy, the crests of the arches break
into a marble foam, and toss themselves far into the blue sky in flashes
and wreaths of sculptured spray, as if the breakers on the Lido shore
had been frost-bound before they fell, and the sea-nymphs had inlaid
them with coral and amethyst.

Between that grim cathedral of England and this, what an interval! There
is a type of it in the very birds that haunt them; for, instead of the
restless crowd, hoarse-voiced and sable-winged, drifting on the bleak
upper air, the St. Mark's porches are full of doves, that nestle among
the marble foliage, and mingle the soft iridescence of their living
plumes, changing at every motion, with the tints, hardly less lovely,
that have stood unchanged for seven hundred years.

SECTION XV. And what effect has this splendor on those who pass beneath
it? You may walk from sunrise to sunset, to and fro, before the gateway
of St. Mark's, and you will not see an eye lifted to it, nor a
countenance brightened by it. Priest and layman, soldier and civilian,
rich and poor, pass by it alike regardlessly. Up to the very recesses of
the porches, the meanest tradesmen of the city push their counters; nay,
the foundations of its pillars are themselves the seats--not "of them
that sell doves" for sacrifice, but of the vendors of toys and
caricatures. Round the whole square in front of the church there is
almost a continuous line of cafes, where the idle Venetians of the
middle classes lounge, and read empty journals; in its centre the
Austrian bands play during the time of vespers, their martial music
jarring with the organ notes,--the march drowning the miserere, and the
sullen crowd thickening round them,--a crowd, which, if it had its will,
would stiletto every soldier that pipes to it. And in the recesses of
the porches, all day long, knots of men of the lowest classes,
unemployed and listless, lie basking in the sun like lizards; and
unregarded children,--every heavy glance of their young eyes full of
desperation and stony depravity, and their throats hoarse with
cursing,--gamble, and fight, and snarl, and sleep, hour after hour,
clashing their bruised centesimi upon the marble ledges of the church
porch. And the images of Christ and His angels look down upon it

That we may not enter the church out of the midst of the horror of this,
let us turn aside under the portico which looks towards the sea, and
passing round within the two massive pillars brought from St. Jean
d'Acre, we shall find the gate of the Baptistery; let us enter there.
The heavy door closes behind us instantly, and the light, and the
turbulence of the Piazzetta, are together shut out by it.

SECTION XVI. We are in a low vaulted room; vaulted, not with arches, but
with small cupolas starred with gold, and chequered with gloomy figures:
in the centre is a bronze font charged with rich bas-reliefs, a small
figure of the Baptist standing above it in a single ray of light that
glances across the narrow room, dying as it falls from a window high in
the wall, and the first thing that it strikes, and the only thing that
it strikes brightly, is a tomb. We hardly know if it be a tomb indeed;
for it is like a narrow couch set beside the window, low-roofed and
curtained, so that it might seem, but that it has some height above the
pavement, to have been drawn towards the window, that the sleeper might
be wakened early;--only there are two angels who have drawn the curtain
back, and are looking down upon him. Let us look also and thank that
gentle light that rests upon his forehead for ever, and dies away upon
his breast.

The face is of a man in middle life, but there are two deep furrows
right across the forehead, dividing it like the foundations of a tower:
the height of it above is bound by the fillet of the ducal cap. The rest
of the features are singularly small and delicate, the lips sharp,
perhaps the sharpness of death being added to that of the natural lines;
but there is a sweet smile upon them, and a deep serenity upon the whole
countenance. The roof of the canopy above has been blue, filled with
stars; beneath, in the centre of the tomb on which the figure rests, is
a seated figure of the Virgin, and the border of it all around is of
flowers and soft leaves, growing rich and deep, as if in a field in

It is the Doge Andrea Dandolo, a man early great among the great of
Venice; and early lost. She chose him for her king in his 36th year; he
died ten years later, leaving behind him that history to which we owe
half of what we know of her former fortunes.

SECTION XVII. Look round at the room in which he lies. The floor of it
is of rich mosaic, encompassed by a low seat of red marble, and its
walls are of alabaster, but worn and shattered, and darkly stained with
age, almost a ruin,--in places the slabs of marble have fallen away
altogether, and the rugged brickwork is seen through the rents, but all
beautiful; the ravaging fissures fretting their way among the islands
and channelled zones of the alabaster, and the time-stains on its
translucent masses darkened into fields of rich golden brown, like the
color of seaweed when the sun strikes on it through deep sea. The light
fades away into the recess of the chamber towards the altar, and the eye
can hardly trace the lines of the bas-relief behind it of the baptism of
Christ: but on the vaulting of the roof the figures are distinct, and
there are seen upon it two great circles, one surrounded by the
"Principalities and powers in heavenly places," of which Milton has
expressed the ancient division in the single massy line,

"Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers,"

and around the other, the Apostles; Christ the centre of both; and upon
the walls, again and again repeated, the gaunt figure of the Baptist, in
every circumstance of his life and death; and the streams of the Jordan
running down between their cloven rocks; the axe laid to the root of a
fruitless tree that springs upon their shore. "Every tree that bringeth
not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire." Yes,
verily: to be baptized with fire, or to be cast therein; it is the
choice set before all men. The march-notes still murmur through the
grated window, and mingle with the sounding in our ears of the sentence
of judgment, which the old Greek has written on that Baptistery wall.
Venice has made her choice.

SECTION XVIII. He who lies under that stony canopy would have taught her
another choice, in his day, if she would have listened to him; but he
and his counsels have long been forgotten by her, the dust lies upon his

Through the heavy door whose bronze network closes the place of his
rest, let us enter the church itself. It is lost in still deeper
twilight, to which the eye must be accustomed for some moments before
the form of the building can be traced; and then there opens before us a
vast cave, hewn out into the form of a Cross, and divided into shadowy
aisles by many pillars. Round the domes of its roof the light enters
only through narrow apertures like large stars; and here and there a ray
or two from some far away casement wanders into the darkness, and casts
a narrow phosphoric stream upon the waves of marble that heave and fall
in a thousand colors along the floor. What else there is of light is
from torches, or silver lamps, burning ceaselessly in the recesses of
the chapels; the roof sheeted with gold, and the polished walls covered
with alabaster, give back at every curve and angle some feeble gleaming
to the flames; and the glories round the heads of the sculptured saints
flash out upon us as we pass them, and sink again into the gloom. Under
foot and over head, a continual succession of crowded imagery, one
picture passing into another, as in a dream; forms beautiful and
terrible mixed together; dragons and serpents, and ravening beasts of
prey, and graceful birds that in the midst of them drink from running
fountains and feed from vases of crystal; the passions and the pleasures
of human life symbolized together, and the mystery of its redemption;
for the mazes of interwoven lines and changeful pictures lead always at
last to the Cross, lifted and carved in every place and upon every
stonel sometimes with the serpent of eternity wrapt round it, sometimes
with doves beneath its arms, and sweet herbage growing forth from its
feet; but conspicuous most of all on the great rood that crosses the
church before the altar, raised in bright blazonry against the shadow of
the apse. And although in the recesses of the aisles and chapels, when
the mist of the incense hangs heavily, we may see continually a figure
traced in faint lines upon their marble, a woman standing with her eyes
raised to heaven, and the inscription above her, "Mother of God," she is
not here the presiding deity. It is the Cross that is first seen, and
always, burning in the centre of the temple; and every dome and hollow
of its roof has the figure of Christ in the utmost height of it, raised
in power, or returning in judgment.

SECTION XIX. Nor is this interior without effect on the minds of the
people. At every hour of the day there are groups collected before the
various shrines, and solitary worshippers scattered through the dark
places of the church, evidently in prayer both deep and reverent, and,
for the most part, profoundly sorrowful. The devotees at the greater
number of the renowned shrines of Romanism may be seen murmuring their
appointed prayers with wandering eyes and unengaged gestures; but the
step of the stranger does not disturb those who kneel on the pavement of
St. Mark's; and hardly a moment passes, from early morning to sunset, in
which we may not see some half-veiled figure enter beneath the Arabian
porch, cast itself into long abasement on the floor of the temple, and
then rising slowly with more confirmed step, and with a passionate kiss
and clasp of the arms given to the feet of the crucifix, by which the
lamps burn always in the northern aisle, leave the church, as if

SECTION XX. But we must not hastily conclude from this that the nobler
characters of the building have at present any influence in fostering a
devotional spirit. There is distress enough in Venice to bring many to
their knees, without excitement from external imagery; and whatever
there may be in the temper of the worship offered in St. Mark's more
than can be accounted for by reference to the unhappy circumstances of
the city, is assuredly not owing either to the beauty of its
architecture or to the impressiveness of the Scripture histories
embodied in its mosaics. That it has a peculiar effect, however slight,
on the popular mind, may perhaps be safely conjectured from the number
of worshippers which it attracts, while the churches of St. Paul and the
Frari, larger in size and more central in position, are left
comparatively empty. [Footnote: The mere warmth of St. Mark's in winter,
which is much greater than that of the other two churches above named,
must, however, be taken into consideration, as one of the most efficient
causes of its being then more frequented.] But this effect is altogether
to be ascribed to its richer assemblage of those sources of influence
which address themselves to the commonest instincts of the human mind,
and which, in all ages and countries, have been more or less employed in
the support of superstition. Darkness and mystery; confused recesses of
building; artificial light employed in small quantity, but maintained
with a constancy which seems to give it a kind of sacredness;
preciousness of material easily comprehended by the vulgar eye; close
air loaded with a sweet and peculiar odor associated only with religious
services, solemn music, and tangible idols or images having popular
legends attached to them,--these, the stage properties of superstition,
which have been from the beginning of the world, and must be to the end
of it, employed by all nations, whether openly savage or nominally
civilized, to produce a false awe in minds incapable of apprehending the
true nature of the Deity, are assembled in St. Mark's to a degree, as
far as I know, unexampled in any other European church. The arts of the
Magus and the Brahmin are exhausted in the animation of a paralyzed
Christianity; and the popular sentiment which these arts excite is to be
regarded by us with no more respect than we should have considered
ourselves justified in rendering to the devotion of the worshippers at
Eleusis, Ellora, or Edfou. [Footnote: I said above that the larger
number of the devotees entered by the "Arabian" porch; the porch, that
is to say, on the north side of the church, remarkable for its rich
Arabian archivolt, and through which access is gained immediately to the
northern transept. The reason is, that in that transept is the chapel of
the Madonna, which has a greater attraction for the Venetians than all
the rest of the church besides. The old builders kept their images of
the Virgin subordinate to those of Christ; but modern Romanism has
retrograded from theirs, and the most glittering portions of the whole
church are the two recesses behind this lateral altar, covered with
silver hearts dedicated to the Virgin.]

SECTION XXI. Indeed, these inferior means of exciting religious emotion
were employed in the ancient Church as they are at this day, but not
employed alone. Torchlight there was, as there is now; but the
torchlight illumined Scripture histories on the walls, which every eye
traced and every heart comprehended, but which, during my whole
residence in Venice, I never saw one Venetian regard for an instant. I
never heard from any one the most languid expression of interest in any
feature of the church, or perceived the slightest evidence of their
understanding the meaning of its architecture; and while, therefore, the
English cathedral, though no longer dedicated to the kind of services
for which it was intended by its builders, and much at variance in many
of its characters with the temper of the people by whom it is now
surrounded, retains yet so much of its religious influence that no
prominent feature of its architecture can be said to exist altogether in
vain, we have in St. Mark's a building apparently still employed in the
ceremonies for which it was designed, and yet of which the impressive
attributes have altogether ceased to be comprehended by its votaries.
The beauty which it possesses is unfelt, the language it uses is
forgotten; and in the midst of the city to whose service it has so long
been consecrated, and still filled by crowds of the descendants of those
to whom it owes its magnificence; it stands, in reality, more desolate
than the ruins through which the sheep-walk passes unbroken in our
English valleys; and the writing on its marble walls is less regarded
and less powerful for the teaching of men, than the letters which the
shepherd follows with his finger, where the moss is lightest on the
tombs in the desecrated cloister.

SECTION XXII. It must therefore be altogether without reference to its
present usefulness, that we pursue our inquiry into the merits and
meaning of the architecture of this marvellous building; and it can only
be after we have terminated that inquiry, conducting it carefully on
abstract grounds, that we can pronounce with any certainty how far the
present neglect of St. Mark's is significative of the decline of the
Venetian character, or how far this church is to be considered as the
relic of a barbarous age, incapable of attracting the admiration, or
influencing the feelings of a civilized community.

The inquiry before us is twofold. Throughout the first volume, I
carefully kept the study of _expression_ distinct from that of abstract
architectural perfection; telling the reader that in every building we
should afterwards examine, he would have first to form a judgment of its
construction and decorative merit, considering it merely as a work of
art; and then to examine farther, in what degree it fulfilled its
expressional purposes. Accordingly, we have first to judge of St. Mark's
merely as a piece of architecture, not as a church; secondly, to estimate
its fitness for its special duty as a place of worship, and the relation
in which it stands, as such, to those northern cathedrals that still
retain so much of the power over the human heart, which the Byzantine
domes appear to have lost for ever.

SECTION XXIII. In the two succeeding sections of this work, devoted
respectively to the examination of the Gothic and Renaissance buildings
in Venice, I have endeavored to analyze and state, as briefly as
possible, the true nature of each school,--first in Spirit, then in
Form. I wished to have given a similar analysis, in this section, of the
nature of Byzantine architecture; but could not make my statements
general, because I have never seen this kind of building on its native
soil. Nevertheless, in the following sketch of the principles
exemplified in St. Mark's, I believe that most of the leading features
and motives of the style will be found clearly enough distinguished to
enable the reader to judge of it with tolerable fairness, as compared
with the better known systems of European architecture in the middle

SECTION XXIV. Now the first broad characteristic of the building, and
the root nearly of every other important peculiarity in it, is its
confessed _incrustation_. It is the purest example in Italy of the
great school of architecture in which the ruling principle is the
incrustation of brick with more precious materials; and it is necessary
before we proceed to criticise any one of its arrangements, that the
reader should carefully consider the principles which are likely to have
influenced, or might legitimately influence, the architects of such a
school, as distinguished from those whose designs are to be executed in
massive materials.

It is true, that among different nations, and at different times, we may
find examples of every sort and degree of incrustation, from the mere
setting of the larger and more compact stones by preference at the
outside of the wall, to the miserable construction of that modern brick
cornice, with its coating of cement, which, but the other day, in
London, killed its unhappy workmen in its fall. [Footnote: Vide
"Builder," for October, 1851.] But just as it is perfectly possible to
have a clear idea of the opposing characteristics of two different
species of plants or animals, though between the two there are varieties
which it is difficult to assign either to the one or the other, so the
reader may fix decisively in his mind the legitimate characteristics of
the incrusted and the massive styles, though between the two there are
varieties which confessedly unite the attributes of both. For instance,
in many Roman remains, built of blocks of tufa and incrusted with
marble, we have a style, which, though truly solid, possesses some of
the attributes of incrustation; and in the Cathedral of Florence, built
of brick and coated with marble, the marble facing is so firmly and
exquisitely set, that the building, though in reality incrusted, assumes
the attributes of solidity. But these intermediate examples need not in
the least confuse our generally distinct ideas of the two families of
buildings: the one in which the substance is alike throughout, and the
forms and conditions of the ornament assume or prove that it is so, as
in the best Greek buildings, and for the most part in our early Norman
and Gothic; and the other, in which the substance is of two kinds, one
internal, the other external, and the system of decoration is founded on
this duplicity, as pre-eminently in St. Mark's.

SECTION XXV. I have used the word duplicity in no depreciatory sense. In
chapter ii. of the "Seven Lamps," Section 18, I especially guarded this
incrusted school from the imputation of insincerity, and I must do so
now at greater length. It appears insincere at first to a Northern
builder, because, accustomed to build with solid blocks of freestone, he
is in the habit of supposing the external superficies of a piece of
masonry to be some criterion of its thickness. But, as soon as he gets
acquainted with the incrusted style, he will find that the Southern
builders had no intention to deceive him. He will see that every slab of
facial marble is fastened to the next by a confessed _rivet_, and that
the joints of the armor are so visibly and openly accommodated to the
contours of the substance within, that he has no more right to complain
of treachery than a savage would have, who, for the first time in his
life seeing a man in armor, had supposed him to be made of solid steel.
Acquaint him with the customs of chivalry, and with the uses of the coat
of mail, and he ceases to accuse of dishonesty either the panoply or the

These laws and customs of the St. Mark's architectural chivalry it must
be our business to develop.

SECTION XXVI. First, consider the natural circumstances which give rise
to such a style. Suppose a nation of builders, placed far from any
quarries of available stone, and having precarious access to the
mainland where they exist; compelled therefore either to build entirely
with brick, or to import whatever stone they use from great distances,
in ships of small tonnage, and for the most part dependent for speed on
the oar rather than the sail. The labor and cost of carriage are just as
great, whether they import common or precious stone, and therefore the
natural tendency would always be to make each shipload as valuable as
possible. But in proportion to the preciousness of the stone, is the
limitation of its possible supply; limitation not determined merely by
cost, but by the physical conditions of the material, for of many
marbles, pieces above a certain size are not to be had for money. There
would also be a tendency in such circumstances to import as much stone
as possible ready sculptured, in order to save weight; and therefore, if
the traffic of their merchants led them to places where there were ruins
of ancient edifices, to ship the available fragments of them home. Out
of this supply of marble, partly composed of pieces of so precious a
quality that only a few tons of them could be on any terms obtained, and
partly of shafts, capitals, and other portions of foreign buildings, the
island architect has to fashion, as best he may, the anatomy of his
edifice. It is at his choice either to lodge his few blocks of precious
marble here and there among his masses of brick, and to cut out of the
sculptured fragments such new forms as may be necessary for the
observance of fixed proportions in the new building; or else to cut the
colored stones into thin pieces, of extent sufficient to face the whole
surface of the walls, and to adopt a method of construction irregular
enough to admit the insertion of fragmentary sculptures; rather with a
view of displaying their intrinsic beauty, than of setting them to any
regular service in the support of the building.

An architect who cared only to display his own skill, and had no respect
for the works of others, would assuredly have chosen the former
alternative, and would have sawn the old marbles into fragments in order
to prevent all interference with his own designs. But an architect who
cared for the preservation of noble work, whether his own or others',
and more regarded the beauty of his building than his own fame, would
have done what those old builders of St. Mark's did for us, and saved
every relic with which he was entrusted.

SECTION XXVII. But these were not the only motives which influenced the
Venetians in the adoption of their method of architecture. It might,
under all the circumstances above stated, have been a question with
other builders, whether to import one shipload of costly jaspers, or
twenty of chalk flints; and whether to build a small church faced with
porphyry and paved with agate, or to raise a vast cathedral in
freestone. But with the Venetians it could not be a question for an
instant; they were exiles from ancient and beautiful cities, and had
been accustomed to build with their ruins, not less in affection than in
admiration: they had thus not only grown familiar with the practice of
inserting older fragments in modern buildings, but they owed to that
practice a great part of the splendor of their city, and whatever charm
of association might aid its change from a Refuge into a Home. The
practice which began in the affections of a fugitive nation, was
prolonged in the pride of a conquering one; and beside the memorials of
departed happiness, were elevated the trophies of returning victory. The
ship of war brought home more marble in triumph than 'the merchant
vessel in speculation; and the front of St. Mark's became rather a
shrine at which to dedicate the splendor of miscellaneous spoil, than
the organized expression of any fixed architectural law, or religious

SECTION XXVIII. Thus far, however, the justification of the style of
this church depends on circumstances peculiar to the time of its
erection, and to the spot where it arose. The merit of its method,
considered in the abstract, rests on far broader grounds.

In the fifth chapter of the "Seven Lamps," Section 14, the reader will
find the opinion of a modern architect of some reputation, Mr. Wood,
that the chief thing remarkable in this church "is its extreme
ugliness;" and he will find this opinion associated with another,
namely, that the works of the Caracci are far preferable to those of the
Venetian painters. This second statement of feeling reveals to us one of
the principal causes of the first; namely, that Mr. Wood had not any
perception of color, or delight in it. The perception of color is a gift
just as definitely granted to one person, and denied to another, as an
ear for music; and the very first requisite for true judgment of St.
Mark's, is the perfection of that color-faculty which few people ever
set themselves seriously to find out whether they possess or not. For it
is on its value as a piece of perfect and unchangeable coloring, that
the claims of this edifice to our respect are finally rested; and a deaf
man might as well pretend to pronounce judgment on the merits of a full
orchestra, as an architect trained in the composition of form only, to
discern the beauty of St. Mark's. It possesses the charm of color in
common with the greater part of the architecture, as well as of the
manufactures, of the East; but the Venetians deserve especial note as
the only European people who appear to have sympathized to the full with
the great instinct of the Eastern races. They indeed were compelled to
bring artists from Constantinople to design the mosaics of the vaults of
St. Mark's, and to group the colors of its porches; but they rapidly
took up and developed, under more masculine conditions, the system of
which the Greeks had shown them the example: while the burghers and
barons of the North were building their dark streets and grisly castles
of oak and sandstone, the merchants of Venice were covering their
palaces with porphyry and gold; and at last, when her mighty painters
had created for her a color more priceless than gold or porphyry, even
this, the richest of her treasures, she lavished upon walls whose
foundations were beaten by the sea; and the strong tide, as it runs
beneath the Rialto, is reddened to this day by the reflection of the
frescoes of Giorgione.

SECTION XXIX. If, therefore, the reader does not care for color, I must
protest against his endeavor to form any judgment whatever of this
church of St. Mark's. But, if he both cares for and loves it, let him
remember that the school of incrusted architecture is _the only one in
which perfect and permanent chromatic decoration is possible_; and
let him look upon every piece of jasper and alabaster given to the
architect as a cake of very hard color, of which a certain portion is to
be ground down or cut off, to paint the walls with. Once understand this
thoroughly, and accept the condition that the body and availing strength
of the edifice are to be in brick, and that this under muscular power of
brickwork is to be clothed with the defence and the brightness of the
marble, as the body of an animal is protected and adorned by its scales
or its skin, and all the consequent fitnesses and laws of the structure
will be easily discernible. These I shall state in their natural order.

SECTION XXX. LAW I. _That the plinths and cornices used for binding
the armor are to be light and delicate._ A certain thickness, at
least two or three inches, must be required in the covering pieces (even
when composed of the strongest stone, and set on the least exposed
parts), in order to prevent the chance of fracture, and to allow for the
wear of time. And the weight of this armor must not be trusted to
cement; the pieces must not be merely glued to the rough brick surface,
but connected with the mass which they protect by binding cornices and
string courses; and with each other, so as to secure mutual support,
aided by the rivetings, but by no means dependent upon them. And, for
the full honesty and straightforwardness of the work, it is necessary
that these string courses and binding plinths should not be of such
proportions as would fit them for taking any important part in the hard
work of the inner structure, or render them liable to be mistaken for
the great cornices and plinths already explained as essential parts of
the best solid building. They must be delicate, slight, and visibly
incapable of severer work than that assigned to them.

SECTION XXXI. LAW II. _Science of inner structure is to be abandoned._ As
the body of the structure is confessedly of inferior, and comparatively
incoherent materials, it would be absurd to attempt in it any expression
of the higher refinements of construction. It will be enough that by its
mass we are assured of its sufficiency and strength; and there is the
less reason for endeavoring to diminish the extent of its surface by
delicacy of adjustment, because on the breadth of that surface we are to
depend for the better display of the color, which is to be the chief
source of our pleasure in the building. The main body of the work,
therefore, will be composed of solid walls and massive piers; and
whatever expression of finer structural science we may require, will be
thrown either into subordinate portions of it, or entirely directed to
the support of the external mail, where in arches or vaults it might
otherwise appear dangerously independent of the material within.

SECTION XXXII. LAW III. _All shafts are to be solid._ Wherever, by the
smallness of the parts, we may be driven to abandon the incrusted
structure at all, it must be abandoned altogether. The eye must never be
left in the least doubt as to what is solid and what is coated. Whatever
appears _probably_ solid, must be _assuredly_ so, and therefore it
becomes an inviolable law that no shaft shall ever be incrusted. Not only
does the whole virtue of a shaft depend on its consolidation, but the
labor of cutting and adjusting an incrusted coat to it would be greater
than the saving of material is worth. Therefore the shaft, of whatever
size, is always to be solid; and because the incrusted character of the
rest of the building renders it more difficult for the shafts to clear
themselves from suspicion, they must not, in this incrusted style, be in
any place jointed. No shaft must ever be used but of one block; and this
the more, because the permission given to the builder to have his walls
and piers as ponderous as he likes, renders it quite unnecessary for him
to use shafts of any fixed size. In our Norman and Gothic, where definite
support is required at a definite point, it becomes lawful to build up a
tower of small stones in the shape of a shaft. But the Byzantine is
allowed to have as much support as he wants from the walls in every
direction, and he has no right to ask for further license in the
structure of his shafts. Let him, by generosity in the substance of his
pillars, repay us for the permission we have given him to be superficial
in his walls. The builder in the chalk valleys of France and England may
be blameless in kneading his clumsy pier out of broken flint and calcined
lime; but the Venetian, who has access to the riches of Asia and the
quarries of Egypt, must frame at least his shafts out of flawless stone.

SECTION XXXIII. And this for another reason yet. Although, as we have
said, it is impossible to cover the walls of a large building with
color, except on the condition of dividing the stone into plates, there
is always a certain appearance of meanness and niggardliness in the
procedure. It is necessary that the builder should justify himself from
this suspicion; and prove that it is not in mere economy or poverty, but
in the real impossibility of doing otherwise, that he has sheeted his
walls so thinly with the precious film. Now the shaft is exactly the
portion of the edifice in which it is fittest to recover his honor in
this respect. For if blocks of jasper or porphyry be inserted in the
walls, the spectator cannot tell their thickness, and cannot judge of
the costliness of the sacrifice. But the shaft he can measure with his
eye in an instant, and estimate the quantity of treasure both in the
mass of its existing substance, and in that which has been hewn away to
bring it into its perfect and symmetrical form. And thus the shafts of
all buildings of this kind are justly regarded as an expression of their
wealth, and a form of treasure, just as much as the jewels or gold in
the sacred vessels; they are, in fact, nothing else than large jewels,
[Footnote: "Quivi presso si vedi una colonna di tanta bellezza e finezza
che e riputato _piutosto gioia che pietra_,"--Sansovino, of the
verd-antique pillar in San Jacomo dell' Orio. A remarkable piece of
natural history and moral philosophy, connected with this subject, will
be found in the second chapter of our third volume, quoted from the work
of a Florentine architect of the fifteenth century.] the block of
precious serpentine or jasper being valued according to its size and
brilliancy of color, like a large emerald or ruby; only the bulk
required to bestow value on the one is to be measured in feet and tons,
and on the other in lines and carats. The shafts must therefore be,
without exception, of one block in all buildings of this kind; for the
attempt in any place to incrust or joint them would be a deception like
that of introducing a false stone among jewellery (for a number of
joints of any precious stone are of course not equal in value to a
single piece of equal weight), and would put an end at once to the
spectator's confidence in the expression of wealth in any portion of the
structure, or of the spirit of sacrifice in those who raised it.

SECTION XXXIV. LAW IV. _The shafts may sometimes be independent of the
construction._ Exactly in proportion to the importance which the
shaft assumes as a large jewel, is the diminution of its importance as a
sustaining member; for the delight which we receive in its abstract
bulk, and beauty of color, is altogether independent of any perception
of its adaptation to mechanical necessities. Like other beautiful things
in this world, its end is to _be_ beautiful; and, in proportion to
its beauty, it receives permission to be otherwise useless. We do not
blame emeralds and rubies because we cannot make them into heads of
hammers. Nay, so far from our admiration of the jewel shaft being
dependent on its doing work for us, it is very possible that a chief
part of its preciousness may consist in a delicacy, fragility, and
tenderness of material, which must render it utterly unfit for hard
work; and therefore that we shall admire it the more, because we
perceive that if we were to put much weight upon it, it would be
crushed. But, at all events, it is very clear that the primal object in
the placing of such shafts must be the display of their beauty to the
best advantage, and that therefore all imbedding of them in walls, or
crowding of them into groups, in any position in which either their real
size or any portion of their surface would be concealed, is either
inadmissible together, or objectionable in proportion to their value;
that no symmetrical or scientific arrangements of pillars are therefore
ever to be expected in buildings of this kind, and that all such are
even to be looked upon as positive errors and misapplications of
materials: but that, on the contrary, we must be constantly prepared to
see, and to see with admiration, shafts of great size and importance set
in places where their real service is little more than nominal, and
where the chief end of their existence is to catch the sunshine upon
their polished sides, and lead the eye into delighted wandering among
the mazes of their azure veins.

SECTION XXXV. LAW V. _The shafts may be of variable size._ Since
the value of each shaft depends upon its bulk, and diminishes with the
diminution of its mass, in a greater ratio than the size itself
diminishes, as in the case of all other jewellery, it is evident that we
must not in general expect perfect symmetry and equality among the
series of shafts, any more than definiteness of application; but that,
on the contrary, an accurately observed symmetry ought to give us a kind
of pain, as proving that considerable and useless loss has been
sustained by some of the shafts, in being cut down to match with the
rest. It is true that symmetry is generally sought for in works of
smaller jewellery; but, even there, not a perfect symmetry, and obtained
under circumstances quite different from those which affect the placing
of shafts in architecture. First: the symmetry is usually imperfect. The
stones that seem to match each other in a ring or necklace, appear to do
so only because they are so small that their differences are not easily
measured by the eye; but there is almost always such difference between
them as would be strikingly apparent if it existed in the same
proportion between two shafts nine or ten feet in height. Secondly: the
quantity of stones which pass through a jeweller's hands, and the
facility of exchange of such small objects, enable the tradesman to
select any number of stones of approximate size; a selection, however,
often requiring so much time, that perfect symmetry in a group of very
fine stones adds enormously to their value. But the architect has
neither the time nor the facilities of exchange. He cannot lay aside one
column in a corner of his church till, in the course of traffic, he
obtain another that will match it; he has not hundreds of shafts
fastened up in bundles, out of which he can match sizes at his ease; he
cannot send to a brother-tradesman and exchange the useless stones for
available ones, to the convenience of both. His blocks of stone, or his
ready hewn shafts, have been brought to him in limited number, from
immense distances; no others are to be had; and for those which he does
not bring into use, there is no demand elsewhere. His only means of
obtaining symmetry will therefore be, in cutting down the finer masses
to equality with the inferior ones; and this we ought not to desire him
often to do. And therefore, while sometimes in a Baldacchino, or an
important chapel or shrine, this costly symmetry may be necessary, and
admirable in proportion to its probable cost, in the general fabric we
must expect to see shafts introduced of size and proportion continually
varying, and such symmetry as may be obtained among them never
altogether perfect, and dependent for its charm frequently on strange
complexities and unexpected rising and falling of weight and accent in
its marble syllables; bearing the same relation to a rigidly chiselled
and proportioned architecture that the wild lyric rhythm of Aeschylus or
Pindar bears to the finished measures of Pope.

SECTION XXXVI. The application of the principles of jewellery to the
smaller as well as the larger blocks, will suggest to us another reason
for the method of incrustation adopted in the walls. It often happens
that the beauty of the veining in some varieties of alabaster is so
great, that it becomes desirable to exhibit it by dividing the stone,
not merely to economize its substance, but to display the changes in the
disposition of its fantastic lines. By reversing one of two thin plates
successively taken from the stone, and placing their corresponding edges
in contact, a perfectly symmetrical figure may be obtained, which will
enable the eye to comprehend more thoroughly the position of the veins.
And this is actually the method in which, for the most part, the
alabasters of St. Mark are employed; thus accomplishing a double
good,--directing the spectator, in the first place, to close observation
of the nature of the stone employed, and in the second, giving him a
farther proof of the honesty of intention in the builder: for wherever
similar veining is discovered in two pieces, the fact is declared that
they have been cut from the same stone. It would have been easy to
disguise the similarity by using them in different parts of the
building; but on the contrary they are set edge to edge, so that the
whole system of the architecture may be discovered at a glance by any
one acquainted with the nature of the stones employed. Nay, but, it is
perhaps answered me, not by an ordinary observer; a person ignorant of
the nature of alabaster might perhaps fancy all these symmetrical
patterns to have been found in the stone itself, and thus be doubly
deceived, supposing blocks to be solid and symmetrical which were in
reality subdivided and irregular. I grant it; but be it remembered, that
in all things, ignorance is liable to be deceived, and has no right to
accuse anything but itself as the source of the deception. The style and
the words are dishonest, not which are liable to be misunderstood if
subjected to no inquiry, but which are deliberately calculated to lead
inquiry astray. There are perhaps no great or noble truths, from those
of religion downwards, which present no mistakable aspect to casual or
ignorant contemplation. Both the truth and the lie agree in hiding
themselves at first, but the lie continues to hide itself with effort,
as we approach to examine it; and leads us, if undiscovered, into deeper
lies; the truth reveals itself in proportion to our patience and
knowledge, discovers itself kindly to our pleading, and leads us, as it
is discovered, into deeper truths.

SECTION XXXVII. LAW VI. _The decoration must be shallow in
cutting._ The method of construction being thus systematized, it is
evident that a certain style of decoration must arise out of it, based
on the primal condition that over the greater part of the edifice there
can be _no deep cutting_. The thin sheets of covering stones do not
admit of it; we must not cut them through to the bricks; and whatever
ornaments we engrave upon them cannot, therefore, be more than an inch
deep at the utmost. Consider for an instant the enormous differences
which this single condition compels between the sculptural decoration of
the incrusted style, and that of the solid stones of the North, which
may be hacked and hewn into whatever cavernous hollows and black
recesses we choose; struck into grim darknesses and grotesque
projections, and rugged ploughings up of sinuous furrows, in which any
form or thought may be wrought out on any scale,--mighty statues with
robes of rock and crowned foreheads burning in the sun, or venomous
goblins and stealthy dragons shrunk into lurking-places of untraceable
shade: think of this, and of the play and freedom given to the
sculptor's hand and temper, to smite out and in, hither and thither, as
he will; and then consider what must be the different spirit of the
design which is to be wrought on the smooth surface of a film of marble,
where every line and shadow must be drawn with the most tender
pencilling and cautious reserve of resource,--where even the chisel must
not strike hard, lest it break through the delicate stone, nor the mind
be permitted in any impetuosity of conception inconsistent with the fine
discipline of the hand. Consider that whatever animal or human form is
to be suggested, must be projected on a flat surface; that all the
features of the countenance, the folds of the drapery, the involutions
of the limbs, must be so reduced and subdued that the whole work becomes
rather a piece of fine drawing than of sculpture; and then follow out,
until you begin to perceive their endlessness, the resulting differences
of character which will be necessitated in every part of the ornamental
designs of these incrusted churches, as compared with that of the
Northern schools. I shall endeavor to trace a few of them only.

SECTION XXXVIII. The first would of course be a diminution of the
builder's dependence upon human form as a source of ornament: since
exactly in proportion to the dignity of the form itself is the loss
which it must sustain in being reduced to a shallow and linear
bas-relief, as well as the difficulty of expressing it at all under such
conditions. Wherever sculpture can be solid, the nobler characters of
the human form at once lead the artist to aim at its representation,
rather than at that of inferior organisms; but when all is to be reduced
to outline, the forms of flowers and lower animals are always more
intelligible, and are felt to approach much more to a satisfactory
rendering of the objects intended, than the outlines of the human body.
This inducement to seek for resources of ornament in the lower fields of
creation was powerless in the minds of the great Pagan nations,
Ninevite, Greek, or Egyptian: first, because their thoughts were so
concentrated on their own capacities and fates, that they preferred the
rudest suggestion of human form to the best of an inferior organism;
secondly, because their constant practice in solid sculpture, often
colossal, enabled them to bring a vast amount of science into the
treatment of the lines, whether of the low relief, the monochrome vase,
or shallow hieroglyphic.

SECTION XXXIX. But when various ideas adverse to the representation of
animal, and especially of human, form, originating with the Arabs and
iconoclast Greeks, had begun at any rate to direct the builders' minds
to seek for decorative materials in inferior types, and when diminished
practice in solid sculpture had rendered it more difficult to find
artists capable of satisfactorily reducing the high organisms to their
elementary outlines, the choice of subject for surface sculpture would
be more and more uninterruptedly directed to floral organisms, and human
and animal form would become diminished in size, frequency, and general
importance. So that, while in the Northern solid architecture we
constantly find the effect of its noblest features dependent on ranges
of statues, often colossal, and full of abstract interest, independent
of their architectural service, in the Southern incrusted style we must
expect to find the human form for the most part subordinate and
diminutive, and involved among designs of foliage and flowers, in the
manner of which endless examples had been furnished by the fantastic
ornamentation of the Romans, from which the incrusted style had been
directly derived.

SECTION XL. Farther. In proportion to the degree in which his subject
must be reduced to abstract outline will be the tendency in the sculptor
to abandon naturalism of representation, and subordinate every form to
architectural service. Where the flower or animal can be hewn into bold
relief, there will always be a temptation to render the representation
of it more complete than is necessary, or even to introduce details and
intricacies inconsistent with simplicity of distant effect. Very often a
worse fault than this is committed; and in the endeavor to give vitality
to the stone, the original ornamental purpose of the design is
sacrificed or forgotten. But when nothing of this kind can be attempted,
and a slight outline is all that the sculptor can command, we may
anticipate that this outline will be composed with exquisite grace; and
that the richness of its ornamental arrangement will atone for the
feebleness of its power of portraiture. On the porch of a Northern
cathedral we may seek for the images of the flowers that grow in the
neighboring fields, and as we watch with wonder the gray stones that
fret themselves into thorns, and soften into blossoms, we may care
little that these knots of ornament, as we retire from them to
contemplate the whole building, appear unconsidered or confused. On the
incrusted building we must expect no such deception of the eye or
thoughts. It may sometimes be difficult to determine, from the
involutions of its linear sculpture, what were the natural forms which
originally suggested them: but we may confidently expect that the grace
of their arrangement will always be complete; that there will not be a
line in them which could be taken away without injury, nor one wanting
which could be added with advantage.

SECTION XLI. Farther. While the sculptures of the incrusted school will
thus be generally distinguished by care and purity rather than force,
and will be, for the most part, utterly wanting in depth of shadow,
there will be one means of obtaining darkness peculiarly simple and
obvious, and often in the sculptor's power. Wherever he can, without
danger, leave a hollow behind his covering slabs, or use them, like
glass, to fill an aperture in the wall, he can, by piercing them with
holes, obtain points or spaces of intense blackness to contrast with the
light tracing of the rest of his design. And we may expect to find this
artifice used the more extensively, because, while it will be an
effective means of ornamentation on the exterior of the building, it
will be also the safest way of admitting light to the interior, still
totally excluding both rain and wind. And it will naturally follow that
the architect, thus familiarized with the effect of black and sudden
points of shadow, will often seek to carry the same principle into other
portions of his ornamentation, and by deep drill-holes, or perhaps
inlaid portions of black color, to refresh the eye where it may be
wearied by the lightness of the general handling.

SECTION XLII. Farther. Exactly in proportion to the degree in which the
force of sculpture is subdued, will be the importance attached to color
as a means of effect or constituent of beauty. I have above stated that
the incrusted style was the only one in which perfect or permanent color
decoration was _possible_. It is also the only one in which a true
system of color decoration was ever likely to be invented. In order to
understand this, the reader must permit me to review with some care the
nature of the principles of coloring adopted by the Northern and
Southern nations.

SECTION XLIII. I believe that from the beginning of the world there has
never been a true or fine school of art in which color was despised. It
has often been imperfectly attained and injudiciously applied, but I
believe it to be one of the essential signs of life in a school of art,
that it loves color; and I know it to be one of the first signs of death
in the Renaissance schools, that they despised color.

Observe, it is not now the question whether our Northern cathedrals are
better with color or without. Perhaps the great monotone gray of Nature
and of Time is a better color than any that the human hand can give; but
that is nothing to our present business. The simple fact is, that the
builders of those cathedrals laid upon them the brightest colors they
could obtain, and that there is not, as far as I am aware, in Europe,
any monument of a truly noble school which has not been either painted
all over, or vigorously touched with paint, mosaic, and gilding in its
prominent parts. Thus far Egyptians, Greeks, Goths, Arabs, and mediaeval
Christians all agree: none of them, when in their right senses, ever
think of doing without paint; and, therefore, when I said above that the
Venetians were the only people who had thoroughly sympathized with the
Arabs in this respect, I referred, first, to their intense love of
color, which led them to lavish the most expensive decorations on
ordinary dwelling-houses; and, secondly, to that perfection of the
color-instinct in them, which enabled them to render whatever they did,
in this kind, as just in principle as it was gorgeous in appliance. It
is this principle of theirs, as distinguished from that of the Northern
builders, which we have finally to examine.

SECTION XLIV. In the second chapter of the first volume, it was noticed
that the architect of Bourges Cathedral liked hawthorn, and that the
porch of his cathedral was therefore decorated with a rich wreath of it;
but another of the predilections of that architect was there unnoticed,
namely, that he did not at all like _gray_ hawthorn, but preferred
it green, and he painted it green accordingly, as bright as he could.
The color is still left in every sheltered interstice of the foliage. He
had, in fact, hardly the choice of any other color; he might have gilded
the thorns, by way of allegorizing human life, but if they were to be
painted at all, they could hardly be painted anything but green, and
green all over. People would have been apt to object to any pursuit of
abstract harmonies of color, which might have induced him to paint his
hawthorn blue.

SECTION XLV. In the same way, whenever the subject of the sculpture was
definite, its color was of necessity definite also; and, in the hands of
the Northern builders, it often became, in consequence, rather the means
of explaining and animating the stories of their stone-work, than a
matter of abstract decorative science. Flowers were painted red, trees
green, and faces flesh-color; the result of the whole being often far
more entertaining than beautiful. And also, though in the lines of the
mouldings and the decorations of shafts or vaults, a richer and more
abstract method of coloring was adopted (aided by the rapid development
of the best principles of color in early glass-painting), the vigorous
depths of shadow in the Northern sculpture confused the architect's eye,
compelling him to use violent colors in the recesses, if these were to
be seen as color at all, and thus injured his perception of more
delicate color harmonies; so that in innumerable instances it becomes
very disputable whether monuments even of the best times were improved
by the color bestowed upon them, or the contrary. But, in the South, the
flatness and comparatively vague forms of the sculpture, while they
appeared to call for color in order to enhance their interest, presented
exactly the conditions which would set it off to the greatest advantage;
breadth or surface displaying even the most delicate tints in the
lights, and faintness of shadow joining with the most delicate and
pearly grays of color harmony; while the subject of the design being in
nearly all cases reduced to mere intricacy of ornamental line, might be
colored in any way the architect chose without any loss of rationality.
Where oak-leaves and roses were carved into fresh relief and perfect
bloom, it was necessary to paint the one green and the other red; but in
portions of ornamentation where there was nothing which could be
definitely construed into either an oak-leaf or a rose, but a mere
labyrinth of beautiful lines, becoming here something like a leaf, and
there something like a flower, the whole tracery of the sculpture might
be left white, and grounded with gold or blue, or treated in any other
manner best harmonizing with the colors around it. And as the
necessarily feeble character of the sculpture called for and was ready
to display the best arrangements of color, so the precious marbles in
the architect's hands give him at once the best examples and the best
means of color. The best examples, for the tints of all natural stones
are as exquisite in quality as endless in change; and the best means,
for they are all permanent.

SECTION XLVI. Every motive thus concurred in urging him to the study of
chromatic decoration, and every advantage was given him in the pursuit
of it; and this at the very moment when, as presently to be noticed, the
_naïveté_ of barbaric Christianity could only be forcibly appealed
to by the help of colored pictures: so that, both externally and
internally, the architectural construction became partly merged in
pictorial effect; and the whole edifice is to be regarded less as a
temple wherein to pray, than as itself a Book of Common Prayer, a vast
illuminated missal, bound with alabaster instead of parchment, studded
with porphyry pillars instead of jewels, and written within and without
in letters of enamel and gold.

SECTION XLVII. LAW VII. _That the impression of the architecture is
not to be dependent on size._ And now there is but one final
consequence to be deduced. The reader understands, I trust, by this
time, that the claims of these several parts of the building upon his
attention will depend upon their delicacy of design, their perfection of
color, their preciousness of material, and their legendary interest. All
these qualities are independent of size, and partly even inconsistent
with it. Neither delicacy of surface sculpture, nor subtle gradations of
color, can be appreciated by the eye at a distance; and since we have
seen that our sculpture is generally to be only an inch or two in depth,
and that our coloring is in great part to be produced with the soft
tints and veins of natural stones, it will follow necessarily that none
of the parts of the building can be removed far from the eye, and
therefore that the whole mass of it cannot be large. It is not even
desirable that it should be so; for the temper in which the mind
addresses itself to contemplate minute and beautiful details is
altogether different from that in which it submits itself to vague
impressions of space and size. And therefore we must not be
disappointed, but grateful, when we find all the best work of the
building concentrated within a space comparatively small; and that, for
the great cliff-like buttresses and mighty piers of the North, shooting
up into indiscernible height, we have here low walls spread before us
like the pages of a book, and shafts whose capitals we may touch with
our hand.

SECTION XLVIII. The due consideration of the principles above stated
will enable the traveller to judge with more candor and justice of the
architecture of St. Mark's than usually it would have been possible for
him to do while under the influence of the prejudices necessitated by
familiarity with the very different schools of Northern art. I wish it
were in my power to lay also before the general reader some
exemplification of the manner in which these strange principles are
developed in the lovely building. But exactly in proportion to the
nobility of any work, is the difficulty of conveying a just impression
of it: and wherever I have occasion to bestow high praise, there it is
exactly most dangerous for me to endeavor to illustrate my meaning,
except by reference to the work itself. And, in fact, the principal
reason why architectural criticism is at this day so far behind all
other, is the impossibility of illustrating the best architecture
faithfully. Of the various schools of painting, examples are accessible
to every one, and reference to the works themselves is found sufficient
for all purposes of criticism; but there is nothing like St. Mark's or
the Ducal Palace to be referred to in the National Gallery, and no
faithful illustration of them is possible on the scale of such a volume
as this. And it is exceedingly difficult on any scale. Nothing is so
rare in art, as far as my own experience goes, as a fair illustration of
architecture; _perfect_ illustration of it does not exist. For all
good architecture depends upon the adaptation of its chiselling to the
effect at a certain distance from the eye; and to render the peculiar
confusion in the midst of order, and uncertainty in the midst of
decision, and mystery in the midst of trenchant lines, which are the
result of distance, together with perfect expression of the
peculiarities of the design, requires the skill of the most admirable
artist, devoted to the work with the most severe conscientiousness,
neither the skill nor the determination having as yet been given to the
subject. And in the illustration of details, every building of any
pretensions to high architectural rank would require a volume of plates,
and those finished with extraordinary care. With respect to the two
buildings which are the principal subjects of the present volume, St.
Mark's and the Ducal Palace, I have found it quite impossible to do them
the slightest justice by any kind of portraiture; and I abandoned the
endeavor in the case of the latter with less regret, because in the new
Crystal Palace (as the poetical public insist upon calling it, though it
is neither a palace, nor of crystal) there will be placed, I believe, a
noble cast of one of its angles. As for St. Mark's, the effort was
hopeless from the beginning. For its effect depends not only upon the
most delicate sculpture in every part, out, as we have just stated,
eminently on its color also, and that the most subtle, variable,
inexpressible color in the world,--the color of glass, of transparent
alabaster, of polished marble, and lustrous gold. It would be easier to
illustrate a crest of Scottish mountain, with its purple heather and
pale harebells at their fullest and fairest, or a glade of Jura forest,
with its floor of anemone and moss, than a single portico of St. Mark's.
The fragment of one of its archivolts, given at the bottom of the
opposite Plate, is not to illustrate the thing itself, but to illustrate
the impossibility of illustration.

SECTION XLIX. It is left a fragment, in order to get it on a larger
scale; and yet even on this scale it is too small to show the sharp
folds and points of the marble vine-leaves with sufficient clearness.
The ground of it is gold, the sculpture in the spandrils is not more
than an inch and a half deep, rarely so much. It is in fact nothing more
than an exquisite sketching of outlines in marble, to about the same
depth as in the Elgin frieze; the draperies, however, being filled with
close folds, in the manner of the Byzantine pictures, folds especially
necessary here, as large masses could not be expressed in the shallow
sculpture without becoming insipid; but the disposition of these folds
is always most beautiful, and often opposed by broad and simple spaces,
like that obtained by the scroll in the hand of the prophet seen in the

The balls in the archivolt project considerably, and the interstices
between their interwoven bands of marble are filled with colors like the
illuminations of a manuscript; violet, crimson, blue, gold, and green
alternately: but no green is ever used without an intermixture of blue
pieces in the mosaic, nor any blue without a little centre of pale
green; sometimes only a single piece of glass a quarter of an inch
square, so subtle was the feeling for color which was thus to be
satisfied. [Footnote: The fact is, that no two tesserae of the glass are
exactly of the same tint, the greens being all varied with blues, the
blues of different depths, the reds of different clearness, so that the
effect of each mass of color is full of variety, like the stippled color
of a fruit piece.] The intermediate circles have golden stars set on an
azure ground, varied in the same manner; and the small crosses seen in
the intervals are alternately blue and subdued scarlet, with two small
circles of white set in the golden ground above and beneath them, each
only about half an inch across (this work, remember, being on the
outside of the building, and twenty feet above the eye), while the blue
crosses have each a pale green centre. Of all this exquisitely mingled
hue, no plate, however large or expensive, could give any adequate
conception; but, if the reader will supply in imagination to the
engraving what he supplies to a common woodcut of a group of flowers,
the decision of the respective merits of modern and of Byzantine
architecture may be allowed to rest on this fragment of St. Mark's

From the vine-leaves of that archivolt, though there is no direct
imitation of nature in them, but on the contrary a studious subjection
to architectural purpose more particularly to be noticed hereafter, we
may yet receive the same kind of pleasure which we have in seeing true
vine-leaves and wreathed branches traced upon golden light; its stars
upon their azure ground ought to make us remember, as its builder
remembered, the stars that ascend and fall in the great arch of the sky:
and I believe that stars, and boughs, and leaves, and bright colors are
everlastingly lovely, and to be by all men beloved; and, moreover, that
church walls grimly seared with squared lines, are not better nor nobler
things than these. I believe the man who designed and the men who
delighted in that archivolt to have been wise, happy, and holy. Let the
reader look back to the archivolt I have already given out of the
streets of London (Plate XIII. Vol. I., Stones of Venice), and see what
there is in it to make us any of the three. Let him remember that the
men who design such work as that call St. Mark's a barbaric monstrosity,
and let him judge between us.

SECTION L. Some farther details of the St. Mark's architecture, and
especially a general account of Byzantine capitals, and of the principal
ones at the angles of the church, will be found in the following
chapter. [Footnote: Some illustration, also, of what was said in SECTION
XXXIII above, respecting the value of the shafts of St. Mark's as large
jewels, will be found in Appendix 9, "Shafts of St. Mark's."] Here I
must pass on to the second part of our immediate subject, namely, the
inquiry how far the exquisite and varied ornament of St. Mark's fits it,
as a Temple, for its sacred purpose, and would be applicable in the
churches of modern times. We have here evidently two questions: the
first, that wide and continually agitated one, whether richness of
ornament be right in churches at all; the second, whether the ornament
of St. Mark's be of a truly ecclesiastical and Christian character.

SECTION LI. In the first chapter of the "Seven Lamps of Architecture" I
endeavored to lay before the reader some reasons why churches ought to
be richly adorned, as being the only places in which the desire of
offering a portion of all precious things to God could be legitimately
expressed. But I left wholly untouched the question: whether the church,
as such, stood in need of adornment, or would be better fitted for its
purposes by possessing it. This question I would now ask the reader to
deal with briefly and candidly.

The chief difficulty in deciding it has arisen from its being always
presented to us in an unfair form. It is asked of us, or we ask of
ourselves, whether the sensation which we now feel in passing from our
own modern dwelling-house, through a newly built street, into a
cathedral of the thirteenth century, be safe or desirable as a
preparation for public worship. But we never ask whether that sensation
was at all calculated upon by the builders of the cathedral.

SECTION LII. Now I do not say that the contrast of the ancient with the
modern building, and the strangeness with which the earlier
architectural forms fall upon the eye, are at this day disadvantageous.
But I do say, that their effect, whatever it may be, was entirely
uncalculated upon by the old builder. He endeavored to make his work
beautiful, but never expected it to be strange. And we incapacitate
ourselves altogether from fair judgment of its intention, if we forget
that, when it was built, it rose in the midst of other work fanciful and
beautiful as itself; that every dwelling-house in the middle ages was
rich with the same ornaments and quaint with the same grotesques which
fretted the porches or animated the gargoyles of the cathedral; that
what we now regard with doubt and wonder, as well as with delight, was
then the natural continuation, into the principal edifice of the city,
of a style which was familiar to every eye throughout all its lanes and
streets; and that the architect had often no more idea of producing a
peculiarly devotional impression by the richest color and the most
elaborate carving, than the builder of a modern meetinghouse has by his
white-washed walls and square-cut casements. [Footnote: See the farther
notice of this subject in Vol. III., Chap. IV. Stones of Venice.]

SECTION LIII. Let the reader fix this great fact well in his mind, and
then follow out its important corollaries. We attach, in modern days, a
kind of sacredness to the pointed arch and the groined roof, because,
while we look habitually out of square windows and live under flat
ceilings, we meet with the more beautiful forms in the ruins of our
abbeys. But when those abbeys were built, the pointed arch was used for
every shop door, as well as for that of the cloister, and the feudal
baron and freebooter feasted, as the monk sang, under vaulted roofs; not
because the vaulting was thought especially appropriate to either the
revel or psalm, but because it was then the form in which a strong roof
was easiest built. We have destroyed the goodly architecture of our
cities; we have substituted one wholly devoid of beauty or meaning; and
then we reason respecting the strange effect upon our minds of the
fragments which, fortunately, we have left in our churches, as if those
churches had always been designed to stand out in strong relief from all
the buildings around them, and Gothic architecture had always been, what
it is now, a religious language, like Monkish Latin. Most readers know,
if they would arouse their knowledge, that this was not so; but they
take no pains to reason the matter out: they abandon themselves drowsily
to the impression that Gothic is a peculiarly ecclesiastical style; and
sometimes, even, that richness in church ornament is a condition or
furtherance of the Romish religion. Undoubtedly it has become so in
modern times: for there being no beauty in our recent architecture, and
much in the remains of the past, and these remains being almost
exclusively ecclesiastical, the High Church and Romanist parties have
not been slow in availing themselves of the natural instincts which were
deprived of all food except from this source; and have willingly
promulgated the theory, that because all the good architecture that is
now left is expressive of High Church or Romanist doctrines, all good
architecture ever has been and must be so,--a piece of absurdity from
which, though here and there a country clergyman may innocently believe
it, I hope the common sense of the nation will soon manfully quit
itself. It needs but little inquiry into the spirit of the past, to
ascertain what, once for all, I would desire here clearly and forcibly
to assert, that wherever Christian church architecture has been good and
lovely, it has been merely the perfect development of the common
dwelling-house architecture of the period; that when the pointed arch
was used in the street, it was used in the church; when the round arch
was used in the street, it was used in the church; when the pinnacle
was set over the garret window, it was set over the belfry tower; when
the flat roof was used for the drawing-room, it was used for the nave.
There is no sacredness in round arches, nor in pointed; none in
pinnacles, nor in buttresses; none in pillars, nor traceries. Churches
were larger than in most other buildings, because they had to hold more
people; they were more adorned than most other buildings, because they
were safer from violence, and were the fitting subjects of devotional
offering: but they were never built in any separate, mystical, and
religious style; they were built in the manner that was common and
familiar to everybody at the time. The flamboyant traceries that adorn
the façade of Rouen Cathedral had once their fellows in every window of
every house in the market place; the sculptures that adorn the porches
of St. Mark's had once their match on the walls, of every palace on the
Grand Canal; and the only difference between the church and the
dwelling-house was, that there existed a symbolical meaning in the
distribution of the parts of all buildings meant for worship, and that
the painting or sculpture was, in the one case, less frequently of
profane subject than in the other. A more severe distinction cannot be
drawn: for secular history was constantly introduced into church
architecture; and sacred history or allusion generally formed at least
one half of the ornament of the dwelling-house.

SECTION LIV. This fact is so important, and so little considered, that I
must be pardoned for dwelling upon it at some length, and accurately
marking the limits of the assertion I have made. I do not mean that
every dwelling-house of mediaeval cities was as richly adorned and as
exquisite in composition as the fronts of their cathedrals, but that
they presented features of the same kind, often in parts quite as
beautiful; and that the churches were not separated by any change of
style from the buildings round them, as they are now, but were merely
more finished and full examples of a universal style, rising out of the
confused streets of the city as an oak tree does out of an oak copse,
not differing in leafage, but in size and symmetry. Of course the
quainter and smaller forms of turret and window necessary for domestic
service, the inferior materials, often wood instead of stone, and the
fancy of the inhabitants, which had free play in the design, introduced
oddnesses, vulgarities, and variations into house architecture, which
were prevented by the traditions, the wealth, and the skill of the monks
and freemasons; while, on the other hand, conditions of vaulting,
buttressing, and arch and tower building, were necessitated by the mere
size of the cathedral, of which it would be difficult to find examples
elsewhere. But there was nothing more in these features than the
adaptation of mechanical skill to vaster requirements; there was nothing
intended to be, or felt to be, especially ecclesiastical in any of the
forms so developed; and the inhabitants of every village and city, when
they furnished funds for the decoration of their church, desired merely
to adorn the house of God as they adorned their own, only a little more
richly, and with a somewhat graver temper in the subjects of the
carving. Even this last difference is not always clearly discernible:
all manner of ribaldry occurs in the details of the ecclesiastical
buildings of the North, and at the time when the best of them were
built, every man's house was a kind of temple; a figure of the Madonna,
or of Christ, almost always occupied a niche over the principal door,
and the Old Testament histories were curiously interpolated amidst the
grotesques of the brackets and the gables.

SECTION LV. And the reader will now perceive that the question
respecting fitness of church decoration rests in reality on totally
different grounds from those commonly made foundations of argument. So
long as our streets are walled with barren brick, and our eyes rest
continually, in our daily life, on objects utterly ugly, or of
inconsistent and meaningless design, it may be a doubtful question
whether the faculties of eye and mind which are capable of perceiving
beauty, having been left without food during the whole of our active
life, should be suddenly feasted upon entering a place of worship; and
color, and music, and sculpture should delight the senses, and stir the
curiosity of men unaccustomed to such appeal, at the moment when they
are required to compose themselves for acts of devotion;--this, I say,
may be a doubtful question: but it cannot be a question at all, that if
once familiarized with beautiful form and color, and accustomed to see
in whatever human hands have executed for us, even for the lowest
services, evidence of noble thought and admirable skill, we shall desire
to see this evidence also in whatever is built or labored for the house
of prayer; that the absence of the accustomed loveliness would disturb
instead of assisting devotion; and that we should feel it as vain to ask
whether, with our own house full of goodly craftsmanship, we should
worship God in a house destitute of it, as to ask whether a pilgrim
whose day's journey had led him through fair woods and by sweet waters,
must at evening turn aside into some barren place to pray.

SECTION LVI. Then the second question submitted to us, whether the
ornament of St. Mark's be truly ecclesiastical and Christian, is
evidently determined together with the first; for, if not only the
permission of ornament at all, but the beautiful execution of it, be
dependent on our being familiar with it in daily life, it will follow
that no style of noble architecture can be exclusively ecclesiastical.
It must be practised in the dwelling before it be perfected in the
church, and it is the test of a noble style that it shall be applicable
to both; for if essentially false and ignoble, it may be made to fit the
dwelling-house, but never can be made to fit the church: and just as
there are many principles which will bear the light of the world's
opinion, yet will not bear the light of God's word, while all principles
which will bear the test of Scripture will also bear that of practice,
so in architecture there are many forms which expediency and convenience
may apparently justify, or at least render endurable, in daily use,
which will yet be found offensive the moment they are used for church
service; but there are none good for church service, which cannot bear
daily use. Thus the Renaissance manner of building is a convenient style
for dwelling-houses, but the natural sense of all religious men causes
them to turn from it with pain when it has been used in churches; and
this has given rise to the popular idea that the Roman style is good for
houses and the Gothic for churches. This is not so; the Roman style is
essentially base, and we can bear with it only so long as it gives us
convenient windows and spacious rooms; the moment the question of
convenience is set aside, and the expression or beauty of the style it
tried by its being used in a church, we find it fails. But because the
Gothic and Byzantine styles are fit for churches they are not therefore
less fit for dwellings. They are in the highest sense fit and good for
both, nor were they ever brought to perfection except where they were
used for both.

SECTION LVII. But there is one character of Byzantine work which,
according to the time at which it was employed, may be considered as
either fitting or unfitting it for distinctly ecclesiastical purposes; I
mean the essentially pictorial character of its decoration. We have
already seen what large surfaces it leaves void of bold architectural
features, to be rendered interesting merely by surface ornament or
sculpture. In this respect Byzantine work differs essentially from pure
Gothic styles, which are capable of filling every vacant space by
features purely architectural, and may be rendered, if we please,
altogether independent of pictorial aid. A Gothic church may be rendered
impressive by mere successions of arches, accumulations of niches, and
entanglements of tracery. But a Byzantine church requires expression and
interesting decoration over vast plane surfaces,--decoration which
becomes noble only by becoming pictorial; that is to say, by
representing natural objects,--men, animals, or flowers. And, therefore,
the question whether the Byzantine style be fit for church service in
modern days, becomes involved in the inquiry, what effect upon religion
has been or may yet be produced by pictorial art, and especially by the
art of the mosaicist?

SECTION LVIII. The more I have examined the subject the more dangerous I
have found it to dogmatize respecting the character of the art which is
likely, at a given period, to be most useful to the cause of religion.
One great fact first meets me. I cannot answer for the experience of
others, but I never yet met with a Christian whose heart was thoroughly
set upon the world to come, and, so far as human judgment could
pronounce, perfect and right before God, who cared about art at all. I
have known several very noble Christian men who loved it intensely, but
in them there was always traceable some entanglement of the thoughts
with the matters of this world, causing them to fall into strange
distresses and doubts, and often leading them into what they themselves
would confess to be errors in understanding, or even failures in duty. I
do not say that these men may not, many of them, be in very deed nobler
than those whose conduct is more consistent; they may be more tender in
the tone of all their feelings, and farther-sighted in soul, and for
that very reason exposed to greater trials and fears, than those whose
hardier frame and naturally narrower vision enable them with less effort
to give their hands to God and walk with Him. But still, the general
fact is indeed so, that I have never known a man who seemed altogether
right and calm in faith, who seriously cared about art; and when
casually moved by it, it is quite impossible to say beforehand by what
class of art this impression will on such men be made. Very often it is
by a theatrical commonplace, more frequently still by false sentiment. I
believe that the four painters who have had, and still have, the most
influence, such as it is, on the ordinary Protestant Christian mind, are
Carlo Dolci, Guercino, Benjamin West, and John Martin. Raphael, much as
he is talked about, is, I believe in very fact, rarely looked at by
religious people; much less his master, or any of the truly great
religious men of old. But a smooth Magdalen of Carlo Dolci with a tear
on each cheek, or a Guercino Christ or St. John, or a Scripture
illustration of West's, or a black cloud with a flash of lightning in it
of Martin's, rarely rails of being verily, often deeply, felt for the

SECTION LIX. There are indeed many very evident reasons for this; the
chief one being that, as all truly great religious painters have been
hearty Romanists, there are none of their works which do not embody, in
some portions of them, definitely Romanist doctrines. The Protestant mind
is instantly struck by these, and offended by them, so as to be incapable
of entering, or at least rendered indisposed to enter, farther into the
heart of the work, or to the discovering those deeper characters of it,
which are not Romanist, but Christian, in the everlasting sense and power
of Christianity. Thus most Protestants, entering for the first time a
Paradise of Angelico, would be irrevocably offended by finding that the
first person the painter wished them to speak to was St. Dominic; and
would retire from such a heaven as speedily as possible,--not giving
themselves time to discover, that whether dressed in black, or white, or
gray, and by whatever name in the calendar they might be called, the
figures that filled that Angelico heaven were indeed more, saintly, and
pure, and full of love in every feature, than any that the human hand
ever traced before or since. And thus Protestantism, having foolishly
sought for the little help it requires at the hand of painting from the
men who embodied no Catholic doctrine, has been reduced to receive it
from those who believed neither Catholicism nor Protestantism, but who
read the Bible in search of the picturesque. We thus refuse to regard the
painters who passed their lives in prayer, but are perfectly ready to be
taught by those who spent them in debauchery. There is perhaps no more
popular Protestant picture than Salvator's "Witch of Endor," of which the
subject was chosen by the painter simply because, under the names of Saul
and the Sorceress, he could paint a captain of banditti, and a Neapolitan

SECTION LX. The fact seems to be that strength of religious feeling is
capable of supplying for itself whatever is wanting in the rudest
suggestions of art, and will either, on the one hand, purify what is
coarse into inoffensiveness, or, on the other, raise what is feeble into
impressiveness. Probably all art, as such, is unsatisfactory to it; and
the effort which it makes to supply the void will be induced rather by
association and accident than by the real merit of the work submitted to
it. The likeness to a beloved friend, the correspondence with a habitual
conception, the freedom from any strange or offensive particularity,
and, above all, an interesting choice of incident, will win admiration
for a picture when the noblest efforts of religious imagination would
otherwise fail of power. How much more, when to the quick capacity of
emotion is joined a childish trust that the picture does indeed
represent a fact! It matters little whether the fact be well or ill
told; the moment we believe the picture to be true, we complain little
of its being ill-painted. Let it be considered for a moment, whether the
child, with its colored print, inquiring eagerly and gravely which is
Joseph, and which is Benjamin, is not more capable of receiving a
strong, even a sublime, impression from the rude symbol which it invests
with reality by its own effort, than the connoisseur who admires the
grouping of the three figures in Raphael's "Telling of the Dreams;" and
whether also, when the human mind is in right religious tone, it has not
always this childish power--I speak advisedly, this power--a noble one,
and possessed more in youth than at any period of after life, but
always, I think, restored in a measure by religion--of raising into
sublimity and reality the rudest symbol which is given to it of
accredited truth.

SECTION LXI. Ever since the period of the Renaissance, however, the
truth has not been accredited; the painter of religious subject is no
longer regarded as the narrator of a fact, but as the inventor of an
idea. [Footnote: I do not mean that modern Christians believe less in
the _facts_ than ancient Christians, but they do not believe in the
representation of the facts as true. We look upon the picture as this or
that painter's conception; the elder Christians looked upon it as this
or that, painter's description of what had actually taken place. And in
the Greek Church all painting is, to this day, strictly a branch of
tradition. See M. Dideron's admirably written introduction to his
Iconographie Chrétienne, p. 7:--"Un de mes compagnons s'étonnait de re
trouver à la Panagia de St. Luc, le saint Jean Chrysostome qu'il avait
dessiné dans le baptistère de St. Marc, à Venise. Le costume des
personnages est partout et en tout temps le même, non-seulement pour la
forme, mais pour la couleur, mais pour le dessin, mais jusque pour le
nombre et l'épaisseur des plis."] We do not severely criticise the
manner in which a true history is told, but we become harsh
investigators of the faults of an invention; so that in the modern
religious mind, the capacity of emotion, which renders judgment
uncertain, is joined with an incredulity which renders it severe; and
this ignorant emotion, joined with ignorant observance of faults, is the
worst possible temper in which any art can be regarded, but more
especially sacred art. For as religious faith renders emotion facile, so
also it generally renders expression simple; that is to say a truly
religious painter will very often be ruder, quainter, simpler, and more
faulty in his manner of working, than a great irreligious one. And it
was in this artless utterance, and simple acceptance, on the part of
both the workman and the beholder, that all noble schools of art have
been cradled; it is in them that they _must_ be cradled to the end
of time. It is impossible to calculate the enormous loss of power in
modern days, owing to the imperative requirement that art shall be
methodical and learned: for as long as the constitution of this world
remains unaltered, there will be more intellect in it than there can be
education; there will be many men capable of just sensation and vivid
invention, who never will have time to cultivate or polish their natural
powers. And all unpolished power is in the present state of society
lost; in other things as well as in the arts, but in the arts
especially: nay, in nine cases out of ten, people mistake the polish for
the power. Until a man has passed through a course of academy
studentship, and can draw in an approved manner with French chalk, and
knows foreshortening, and perspective, and something of anatomy, we do
not think he can possibly be an artist; what is worse, we are very apt
to think that we can _make_ him an artist by teaching him anatomy,
and how to draw with French chalk; whereas the real gift in him is
utterly independent of all such accomplishments: and I believe there are
many peasants on every estate, and laborers in every town of Europe, who
have imaginative powers of a high order, which nevertheless cannot be
used for our good, because we do not choose to look at anything but what
is expressed in a legal and scientific way. I believe there is many a
village mason who, set to carve a series of Scripture or any other
histories, would find many a strange and noble fancy in his head, and
set it down, roughly enough indeed, but in a way well worth our having.
But we are too grand to let him do this, or to set up his clumsy work
when it is done; and accordingly the poor stone-mason is kept hewing
stones smooth at the corners, and we build our church of the smooth
square stones, and consider ourselves wise.

SECTION LXII. I shall pursue this subject farther in another place; but
I allude to it here in order to meet the objections of those persons who
suppose the mosaics of St. Mark's, and others of the period, to be
utterly barbarous as representations of religious history. Let it be
granted that they are so; we are not for that reason to suppose they
were ineffective in religious teaching. I have above spoken of the whole
church as a great Book of Common Prayer; the mosaics were its
illuminations, and the common people of the time were taught their
Scripture history by means of them, more impressively perhaps, though
far less fully, than ours are now by Scripture reading. They had no
other Bible, and--Protestants do not often enough consider this--_could_
have no other. We find it somewhat difficult to furnish our poor with
printed Bibles; consider what the difficulty must have been when they
could be given only in manuscript. The walls of the church necessarily
became the poor man's Bible, and a picture was more easily read upon the
walls than a chapter. Under this view, and considering them merely as the
Bible pictures of a great nation in its youth, I shall finally invite the
reader to examine the connection and subjects of these mosaics; but in
the meantime I have to deprecate the idea of their execution being in any
sense barbarous. I have conceded too much to modern prejudice, in
permitting them to be rated as mere childish efforts at colored
portraiture: they have characters in them of a very noble kind; nor are
they by any means devoid of the remains of the science of the later Roman
empire. The character of the features is almost always fine, the
expression stern and quiet, and very solemn, the attitudes and draperies
always majestic in the single figures, and in those of the groups which
are not in violent action; [Footnote: All the effects of Byzantine art to
represent violent action are inadequate, most of them ludicrously so,
even when the sculptural art is in other respects far advanced. The early
Gothic sculptors, on the other hand, fail in all points of refinement,
but hardly ever in expression of action. This distinction is of course
one of the necessary consequences of the difference in all respects
between the repose of the Eastern, and activity of the Western mind,
which we shall have to trace out completely in the inquiry into the
nature of Gothic.] while the bright coloring and disregard of chiaroscuro
cannot be regarded as imperfections, since they are the only means by
which the figures could be rendered clearly intelligible in the distance
and darkness of the vaulting. So far am I from considering them
barbarous, that I believe of all works of religious art whatsoever,
these, and such as these, have been the most effective. They stand
exactly midway between the debased manufacture of wooden and waxen images
which is the support of Romanist idolatry all over the world, and the
great art which leads the mind away from the religious subject to the art
itself. Respecting neither of these branches of human skill is there, nor
can there be, any question. The manufacture of puppets, however
influential on the Romanist mind of Europe, is certainly not deserving of
consideration as one of the fine arts. It matters literally nothing to a
Romanist what the image he worships is like. Take the vilest doll that is
screwed together in a cheap toy-shop, trust it to the keeping of a large
family of children, let it be beaten about the house by them till it is
reduced to a shapeless block, then dress it in a satin frock and declare
it to have fallen from heaven, and it will satisfactorily answer all
Romanist purposes. Idolatry, [Footnote: Appendix X, "Proper Sense of the
word Idolatry."] it cannot be too often repeated, is no encourager of the
fine arts. But, on the other hand, the highest branches of the fine arts
are no encouragers either of idolatry or of religion. No picture of
Leonardo's or Raphael's, no statue of Michael Angelo's, has ever been
worshipped, except by accident. Carelessly regarded, and by ignorant
persons, there is less to attract in them than in commoner works.
Carefully regarded, and by intelligent persons, they instantly divert the
mind from their subject to their art, so that admiration takes the place
of devotion. I do not say that the Madonna di S. Sisto, the Madonna del
Cardellino, and such others, have not had considerable religious
influence on certain minds, but I say that on the mass of the people of
Europe they have had none whatever, while by far the greater number of
the most celebrated statues and pictures are never regarded with any
other feelings than those of admiration of human beauty, or reverence for
human skill. Effective religious art, therefore, has always lain, and I
believe must always lie, between the two extremes--of barbarous
idol-fashioning on one side, and magnificent craftsmanship on the other.
It consists partly in missal-painting, and such book-illustrations as,
since the invention of printing, have taken its place; partly in
glass-painting; partly in rude sculpture on the outsides of buildings;
partly in mosaics; and partly in the frescoes and tempera pictures which,
in the fourteenth century, formed the link between this powerful, because
imperfect, religious art, and the impotent perfection which succeeded it.

SECTION LXIII. But of all these branches the most important are the
inlaying and mosaic of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, represented
in a central manner by these mosaics of St. Mark's. Missal-painting
could not, from its minuteness, produce the same sublime impressions,
and frequently merged itself in mere ornamentation of the page. Modern
book-illustration has been so little skillful as hardly to be worth
naming. Sculpture, though in some positions it becomes of great
importance, has always a tendency to lose itself in architectural
effect; and was probably seldom deciphered, in all its parts, by the
common people, still less the traditions annealed in the purple burning
of the painted window. Finally, tempera pictures and frescoes were often
of limited size or of feeble color. But the great mosaics of the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries covered the walls and roofs of the churches
with inevitable lustre; they could not be ignored or escaped from; their
size rendered them majestic, their distance mysterious, their color
attractive. They did not pass into confused or inferior decorations;
neither were they adorned with any evidences of skill or science, such
as might withdraw the attention from their subjects. They were before
the eyes of the devotee at every interval of his worship; vast
shadowings forth of scenes to whose realization he looked forward, or of
spirits whose presence he invoked. And the man must be little capable of
receiving a religious impression of any kind, who, to this day, does not
acknowledge some feeling of awe, as he looks up at the pale countenances
and ghastly forms which haunt the dark roofs of the Baptisteries of
Parma and Florence, or remains altogether untouched by the majesty of
the colossal images of apostles, and of Him who sent apostles, that look
down from the darkening gold of the domes of Venice and Pisa.

SECTION LXIV. I shall, in a future portion of this work, endeavor to
discover what probabilities there are of our being able to use this kind
of art in modern churches; but at present it remains for us to follow
out the connection of the subjects represented in St. Mark's so as to
fulfil our immediate object, and form an adequate conception of the
feelings of its builders, and of its uses to those for whom it was

Now, there is one circumstance to which I must, in the outset, direct
the reader's special attention, as forming a notable distinction between
ancient and modern days. Our eyes are now familiar and weaned with
writing; and if an inscription is put upon a building, unless it be
large and clear, it is ten to one whether we ever trouble ourselves to
decipher it. But the old architect was sure of readers. He knew that
every one would be glad to decipher all that he wrote; that they would
rejoice in possessing the vaulted leaves of his stone manuscript; and
that the more he gave them, the more grateful would the people be. We
must take some pains, therefore, when we enter St. Mark's, to read all
that is inscribed, or we shall not penetrate into the feeling either of
the builder or of his times.

SECTION LXV. A large atrium or portico is attached to two sides of the
church, a space which was especially reserved for unbaptized persons and
new converts. It was thought right that, before their baptism, these
persons should be led to contemplate the great facts of the Old
Testament history; the history of the Fall of Man, and of the lives of
Patriarchs up to the period of the Covenant by Moses: the order of the
subjects in this series being very nearly the same as in many Northern
churches, but significantly closing with the Fall of the Manna, in order
to mark to the catechumen the insufficiency of the Mosaic covenant for
salvation,--"Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are
dead,"--and to turn his thoughts to the true Bread of which the manna
was the type.

SECTION LXVI. Then, when after his baptism he was permitted to enter the
church, over its main entrance he saw, on looking back, a mosaic of
Christ enthroned, with the Virgin on one side and St. Mark on the other,
in attitudes of adoration. Christ is represented as holding a book open
upon his knee, on which is written: "I AM THE DOOR; BY ME IF ANY MAN
ENTER IN, HE SHALL BE SAVED." On the red marble moulding which surrounds
the mosaic is written: "I AM THE GATE OF LIFE; LET THOSE WHO ARE MINE,
ENTER BY ME." Above, on the red marble fillet which forms the cornice of
the west end of the church, is written, with reference to the figure of

Now observe, this was not to be seen and read only by the catechumen
when he first entered the church; every one who at any time entered, was
supposed to look back and to read this writing; their daily entrance
into the church was thus made a daily memorial of their first entrance
into the spiritual Church; and we shall find that the rest of the book
which was opened for them upon its walls continually led them in the
same manner to regard the visible temple as in every part a type of the
invisible Church of God.

SECTION LXVII. Therefore the mosaic of the first dome, which is over the
head of the spectator as soon as he has entered by the great door (that
door being the type of baptism), represents the effusion of the Holy
Spirit, as the first consequence and seal of the entrance into the
Church of God. In the centre of the cupola is the Dove, enthroned in the
Greek manner, as the Lamb is enthroned, when the Divinity of the Second
and Third Persons is to be insisted upon together with their peculiar
offices. From the central symbol of the Holy Spirit twelve streams of
fire descend upon the heads of the twelve apostles, who are represented
standing around the dome; and below them, between the windows which are
pierced in its walls, are represented, by groups of two figures for each
separate people, the various nations who heard the apostles speak, at
Pentecost, every man in his own tongue. Finally, on the vaults, at the
four angles which support the cupola, are pictured four angels, each
bearing a tablet upon the end of a rod in his hand: on each of the
tablets of the three first angels is inscribed the word "Holy;" on that
of the fourth is written "Lord;" and the beginning of the hymn being
thus put into the mouths of the four angels, the words of it are
continued around the border of the dome, uniting praise to God for the
gift of the Spirit, with welcome to the redeemed soul received into His


And observe in this writing that the convert is required to regard the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit especially as a work of _sanctification_.
It is the _holiness_ of God manifested in the giving of His Spirit to
sanctify those who had become His children, which the four angels
celebrate in their ceaseless praise; and it is on account of this
holiness that the heaven and earth are said to be full of His glory.

SECTION LXVIII. After thus hearing praise rendered to God by the angels
for the salvation of the newly-entered soul, it was thought fittest that
the worshipper should be led to contemplate, in the most comprehensive
forms possible, the past evidence and the future hopes of Christianity,
as summed up in three facts without assurance of which all faith is
vain; namely that Christ died, that He rose again, and that He ascended
into heaven, there to prepare a place for His elect. On the vault
between the first and second cupolas are represented the crucifixion and
resurrection of Christ, with the usual series of intermediate
scenes,--the treason of Judas, the judgment of Pilate, the crowning with
thorns, the descent into Hades, the visit of the women to the sepulchre,
and the apparition to Mary Magdalene. The second cupola itself, which is
the central and principal one of the church, is entirely occupied by the
subject of the Ascension. At the highest point of it Christ is
represented as rising into the blue heaven, borne up by four angels, and
throned upon a rainbow, the type of reconciliation. Beneath him, the
twelve apostles are seen upon the Mount of Olives, with the Madonna,
and, in the midst of them, the two men in white apparel who appeared at
the moment of the Ascension, above whom, as uttered by them, are
inscribed the words, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into
heaven? This Christ, the Son of God, as He is taken from you, shall so
come, the arbiter of the earth, trusted to do judgment and justice."

SECTION LXIX. Beneath the circle of the apostles, between the windows of
the cupola, are represented the Christian virtues, as sequent upon the
crucifixion of the flesh, and the spiritual ascension together with
Christ. Beneath them, on the vaults which support the angles of the
cupola, are placed the four Evangelists, because on their evidence our
assurance of the fact of the ascension rests; and, finally, beneath
their feet, as symbols of the sweetness and fulness of the Gospel which
they declared, are represented the four rivers of Paradise, Pison,


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