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Venice 2014

The Zen Chapel

Venice: St. Mark's Cathedral: Cappella Zen: Vault Mosaic: legend of Mark: det.

The Cappella di Zen, or Zen Chapel, was once a primary entrance into the basilica from the south entrance, until 1503, when it was walled up to become the burial place of Cardinal Battista Zen.  This space, now entered through the west portals, is notable for its decoration that emphasizes San Marco’s possession of sacred relics.  Here, the life, miracles, and martyrdom of Saint Mark are displayed. 

 One of the vault mosaic details illustrates Saint Mark asleep on a ship crossing the lagoon on its way to Italy.  An angel visits Mark in a vision and tells him he will one day be laid to rest in this very spot, in a church not yet built.  This is on of the earliest surviving pictoral representations of predestination.  

Predestination is the concept that God has preselected each individuals path, and ultimate destination in Hell or Paradise.  No matter how pious or sinful a person is in life, their end has already been predetermined.   This concept is very important to Venetians because Veince was founded on March 25th, which is the date of the Annunciation, when the Virgin Mary was informed by the archangel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of God.  This gives Venice a predetermined connection to the Virgin, whom is also a widley used icon in the maritime city.  

 The vaulted ceiling is cylindrical, called a barrel vault, which creates an organic flow to the episodes depicted.  Saint Mark is shown in simple narrative registers  that depict him writing the gospels, presenting them to Saint Peter, dreaming in the lagoon, curing a Demonaic (person possessed), his murder, and martyrdom.