Restored Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Basilica Will Greet Venice Biennale Visitors

Scaffolding had obscured Saint Mark's Basilica since 1994.

Saint Mark's Basilica. Courtesy of Saint Mark's Basilica.

When the art world touches down at the Venice Biennale in May, two of the city’s most famous historical landmarks will be in fine form. As reported by the Art Newspaper, restorations to the iconic Rialto Bridge were completed on schedule last month, and the scaffolding has come down, for the first time since 1994, on Saint Mark’s Basilica in San Marco Square.

As opposed to widely publicized botched restorations such as that of the Great Wall of China and Egypt’s Pyramid of Djoser, the work on the Rialto Bridge has been called “exemplary” by Italian paper La Nuova. While reusing 99 percent of the original materials, the project reinforced banisters with stainless steel brackets and carbon-fiber bandages, and adding layers of waterproof insulation to the arcades and roofs.

It was the first time a full restoration dealing with every structural element of the 16th-century bridge, the oldest on the Grand Canal, had taken place in 400 years. An official ceremony marking the project’s completion will be held during the upcoming 57th Venice Biennale.

The Rialto Bridge in 2005. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Rialto Bridge in 2005. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The work at Saint Mark’s, in contrast, is part of continuous maintenance at the 11th-century Byzantine-style church. The project’s head of conservation, Mario Piana, told TAN that skilled specialists are always hard at work on the site, and that new technologies such as lasers and protective resins can only do so much to augment old-fashioned techniques.

While views of the church’s front façade should remain unobstructed for at least a few months, there is still ongoing restoration taking place on the eastern side of the building.

Saint Mark's Basilica. Courtesy of Saint Mark's Basilica.

Saint Mark’s Basilica. Courtesy of Saint Mark’s Basilica.

As has become the norm in Italy, the Rialto Bridge renovation, begun in May 2015, was sponsored by a fashion brand, with Renzo Rosso, founder of Italian clothing giant Diesel, footing the €5 million bill. (Technically, the money came from a holding company, OTB, short for Only the Brave.)

In Rome, recent restorations projects on the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps, were funded, respectively, by Fendi, Tod’s, and Bulgari. The debt-ridden city is relying on such donors to keep its ancient monuments and cultural sites alive.

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