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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".



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