24. Booty from Byzantium: Part 1
They didn't know what they had just missed, and what great value they would have received for some loose change. Apart from the fact that you can look down into the whole of the magnificent interior of the cathedral from just the other side of the turnstiles, and that the museum is full of wonderful mosaics and other artworks, going through the museum is the only way you can get out onto the balcony over the front door of the Basilica.
From this open portico roof area, you can see the whole of Piazza San Marco, and the whole of the Piazetta, and the Campanile, and the Doge's palace, and the lagoon beyond. It is the best view in Venice and should not be missed by any visitor.
After Doge Dandolo led his expedition in 1204 to Constantinople, laid siege and broke into the capital and heart of the Byzantine Empire, he sent back to Venice some major prizes. One of the most spectacular things he stole was a set of four sculpted horses, harnessed for a pairs or quads chariot race. These were installed up here, where everyone in Venice could see them, and here they stood for nearly 800 years (apart from a brief holiday in France when Napoleon took them from here in 1797, only for the French Government to return them in 1915, after Napoleon had been defeated).
They would still be up there today, if they hadn't been replaced late in the 20th century with fiberglass replicas because of the increasing acidity of the atmosphere. Yes, these actual horses are not the real ones at all. These are plastic.
Fortunately, the real ones are still here inside the San Marco museum, out of the acid rain, about 20 meters behind these replicas.