From the city’s humble beginnings in 421, Venice served as a link between the East and West, and through mercantile relations with the Islamic and Byzantine Empires, she rose to power in the Mediterranean and Levantine regions.  However, after Venice’s successful sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204, the city became the dominant political power in these regions.  To display this new identity, the Venetians decorated the exterior of the church of San Marco with spolia from Constantinople and emulations of Islamic architecture.

This exhibit will examine the political and economic history between Venice, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East from 421 to1260 in order to better understand Venice’s rise to power, and then examine the symbolic meanings of the additions of Byzantine and Islamic architectural elements to the exterior of San Marco to prove that the church functioned as a visual representation of Venice’s post-Crusade identity.