In June 1094 while the third basilica, begun in 1063, was still under construction
the saint's body was nowhere to be found. The city cried and prayed and,
after days of fasting, on 25th June the saint himself revealed the location
of his remains to the doge Vitale Falier, to bishop Domenico Contarini,
to the nobles and to the people gathered in the basilica, by extending
an arm from a pillar which ancient tradition says was on the right hand
side. The church was filled with a very delicate perfume.
Once the saint's body had been found, thanks to this marvel, as soon as
it was displayed in the centre of the new basilica the celebrations of
worship began. Pilgrims arrived from Venice and from all over Europe.
On 8th October 1094 the saint's body was placed by doge Falier in a sarcophagus
in the crypt which had been enlarged for the purpose.
It may seem incomprehensible today to believe that a human being can emerge
from a column, from a block of stone. We are accustomed to considering
stone and walls as inorganic, dead substances. But it wasn't that way
in the pre-"rationalistic" ages. In the writings of Andrea Palladio (I
quattro libri dell'architettura, 1570) we again find the concept of stone
as being literally living, with characteristics we would now call organic.
We may imagine a sort of identification between St. Mark and the structure
of his burial place. The central point in the "legend" of the miracle
of the column consists not only in linking the saint with the basilica
which, since it contained his tomb, became a sepulchral basilica, but
also in creating a direct bond between the material structure of the building
and an event concerning the saint in person. An important effect of the
miracle must have been intensified concrete contact with the patron saint
and his relics, which is to say his body. The miracle occurred during
a period of reinforced popular sensitivity about holy matters and it is
legitimate to suppose that precisely this collective desire lay at the
heart of the "legend".