Inside the Doge's Palace, we saw an enormous portrait on a ceiling of Venice personified as a queen. Relaxing in a throne, Roman gods worshipped at her feet. On a nearby wall, a large clock that has run for 700 years still kept perfect time. Another clock, outside in the marble facade, operated more as a calendar, but the single arm was moved by the center mechanism--the earth. All around it, stars, planets, and the sun revolved around the earth--built in the 15th century, the earth was the center of the universe.
And, in many ways, Venice presents very much like the center of that earth in the center of the universe. My gosh, two Ventians travelled to steal...eh, retrieve...the bones of St. Mark from Constantinople. St. Mark as in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...that Mark.
He is symbolized by the winged lion--which is seen everywhere throughout Venice, yet never feels overdone or out of place.
The center of the universe plays by different rules than the rest of us.
Today was relatively clear, and we could see the snow-capped Italian Alps towering in the horizon. On the other side of that natural boundary are Germany and Austria. We learned an unspoken agreement saved Venice from the bombs of WWII--even though many bombs lashed across Italy in the 40s, daVinci's "The Last Supper" missed obliteration by a whisker--yet, Venice was spared.
Among the hundreds of bridges here, one is it's most famous: the Bridge of Sighs. And, according to the Italians, it isn't even a bridge--just a corridor connecting the Doge's Palace to the prisons. The passageway has four small windows (we looked through them) and, from this perspective, prisoners were offered their last glimpse if Venice...and they would sigh. These men were headed to torture and beheadings...and the legend embraces their sighs.
It sounds like a bridge one might celebrate romance, but it isn't. Even the brutal punishments for crime carry a charm and a smile. People can't take enough photographs of The Bridge of Sighs...or the ghosts of dead men walking.
From the water, the architecture, the narrow walkways and dark, stony passages to the pastel stucco, the marble facades, and the aged brick crumbling into the lagoon, one can't take two steps without breathing her history. If you rush, you miss decades of little touches--there are stories everywhere.
For the center of the universe, this old girl did not disappoint. We will miss this place. And I fully expect to catch my wife sighing tomorrow as we leave.