There is a lot to be said about Venice’s main square, and what follows is a brief summary. The square developed as a process of adaptation out of a need to adjoin numerous public functions in neighboring buildings. The actual site has been in existence since the beginning of Venice with the buildings from the first church dedicated to S. Teodoro, the saint of the city until the end of the 9th century. The architecture of St. Mark’s square is an expansive system of elements connecting the neighboring public administrative buildings with the plaza, and two primary paths to other important locations in the city. The belltower acts as a hinge connecting the small plaza which also adjoins the yard of the Doge’s palace. It continues to flow in the direction of the large pedestrian pathway near the port and the Bridge of Straw (“Paglia”) towards the end of the gardens. The columns you see there have been in place since 1172. St. Mark’s square also connects another primary pedestrian street in the direction of Rialto. The Basilica was developed in relation to Doge’s Palace. Initially, it was meant to be the Doge’s private chapel, and then it was established as the episcopal headquarters which had been in the suburban location of San Pietro in the Castello district since 1807. The entire design and development of St. Mark’s square is an expression of Venetian civil power and was meant to establish the Republic as a true Christian democracy. During a span of 250 years, three transformations have taken place. The first occured in the middle of the ninth century to accommodate the the stolen body of St. Mark from Alexandra. St. Mark has resided over Venice as it’s patron saint since 829. (a testimony to the independence of the Republic). The second change occured at the end of the following century when Doge Pietro Oriolo intervened on the present structure because of a fire that hit the Ducal Palace in 976. The third and definitive transformation happened in 1060 during the 12th century. Doge Sebastiano Ziani moved Channel Batario and the Church of San Geminiano to their present positions creating what you see today.
In observing St. Mark’s square, it is sometimes astonishing to notice the tower is isolated in respect to the whole context. There are various explanations. The belltower was transformed from it’s original function as an lighthouse, dating back to the 9th century. A document entitled, “ Dal Riassetto Edilizio Conseguente All’Edificazione dell Liberira Sansoviniana”, shows the demolition of all the surrounding buildings, suggesting that it did not always stand alone. After a lightening strike in 1489, Giorgio Spavento commenced a restoration project under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon. They added a taller tower cell (steeple) and the inside of the steeple or cyclinder was decorated by an embossed symbol featuring justice with two lions. On the cyclinder inside the steeple, they allocated the pyramid-shaped spireand a weathervane in the form of the Archangel Gabriel (1513). There was another lightening strike in 1902, and the tower completely collapsed. The next reconstruction occurred between 1903-1912 and was the work of Luca Feltrami and Gaetano Moretti. Visitors can purchase tickets to reach the top of the tower and ascend either by elevator or walking up 36 flights of a spiral staircase. The view from the belltower is magnificent and has a tendency to be suggestively romantic. From one side, there is a view of the minor islands in the lagoons of Venice, the Lido of Venice, and the open sea. In the opposte direction, are the Italian foothills and Alps as well as a soft profile of the hills of “Colli Euganei.”
The St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), which was called "the drawing room of the world" by Musset, has been the centre of the religious and social life in the Venetian republic for almost one millennium. Here you will find the St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco), the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the Bell tower (Campanile), the most famous sights of Venice. The architectural design of St. Mark's Square to a great extent was determined by the St. Mark's Basilica, which adjoins the Doge's Palace at the west side of the place.
The magnificent St. Mark's Basilica is probably the most well known building in the heart of Venice. The original church was built in 829-836 as a timber construction and consecrated to the Evangelist Mark. In 976 however it became a victim of flames. From 1043 to 1071, in the same place, the present Basilica with the ground plan of a Greek cross was erected. The Byzantine building with its 5 domes was consecrated in 1094. However, it took many centuries for the marvellous decoration of its facade and interior, with precious mural paintings and mosaics on golden ground, to be completed. The splendid facade likewise was destined to serve as an altar, in order to give the people the opportunity to participate in religious ceremonies from the St. Mark's Square in a dignified setting.