04 August, 2006

71. Santa Maria della Salute: Part 3

Longhena won the competition to design this church partly because he proposed that the whole building should resemble a crown, a fitting symbol for the Virgin Mother. The interior reflects that vision and it's dominated by this central octagonal space under the main cupola, with chapels radiating out from the centre.

I don't find the interior of this church all that interesting. It doesn't have the warmth of San Marco, or the intricate charm of some of the smaller churches in Venice, to me it's just a collection of neo-classical bits in a pleasant enough arrangement.

With this exception. The floor, like so many other floors in Venice, is superb.

The wonderful floor in this church (incidentally, also designed by Longhena) spreads out in concentric circles from the central rosette, with spiraling decorative strips of diamonds and triangles and squares and circles in all kinds of rich coloured marble – red Verona, yellow Torri, black Iseo, and white Carrara.

This city, more than any other, is a city of detail. The terrazzieri, the flooring artists of Venice, so often gave free reign to their imaginations and created inlaid incrustations of exotic stone and polychromatic marble and intricate mosaic – producing marvellous surfaces more like Persian carpets than what we normally think of as functional flooring.

Even when the floors of the foyers of our towering CBD mega office blocks – those modern day cathedrals – are finished in the most expensive and durable materials available today, the chances are they will be laid out in polished squares of uniform charcoal grey.

That's not a floor. But go visit the Salute. Now THAT's a Floor.

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