Following the horses

Cattedrale San Marco


These days, getting into St. Mark’s Venice is rather like getting into the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela at the height of the pilgrimage season. You queue for an indeterminate period; once inside, if you were on a little platform with wheels you would be moved along by the shuffling crowd. Fortunately, there is a large side chapel in the north apse where mass is celebrated throughout the day. Its peacefulness and relative isolation revived my long quiescent devotion, at least long enough to get away from the crowds.


When I first saw St. Mark's on a fortuitous day trip from Trento in 1984, there was no waiting and no herding. We were free to climb the stairs at the western entrance that led up to the balconies at two levels along both sides of the basilica. (They now lead to a pay-for-entry museum.) You can see the balconies from ground level in this video:


Once I had access to the balconies, I could see that  there was a network of spaces behind the arches along each side, and above the arches was a larger expense of open floor. It took me no more than a glance to imagine what must have gone through Gabrielli’s mind when he saw them: “Mirabile auditu! I can arrange musicians along both sides so that from the floor below the music will sound as heavenly choirs!” And thus the Canzon in echo doppia was born. (Click to listen)





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