The balcony, at the foot of the Campanile, is the architectural element that more than any other condenses the celebrative character of the new organisation of the centre of St. Mark’s implemented by the church’s Director of Works Jacopo Sansovino.
Built between 1537 and 1549 to Sansovino’s plan, in 1569 it was turned into a sentry post for dockyard workers during the sessions of the Upper Council.
The rich front elevation with three great arches and composite order columns of classical inspiration, overflowing with decorative beauty, makes the balcony Sansovino’s least architectonic work which, more than any other, transmits that feature of the splendid and the picturesque proper to the Venetian environment. In the four niches Sansovino placed the bronze statues of Minerva, Apollo, Mercury and Peace. The marble reliefs with allegorical depictions are the work of his pupils: Venice as Justice (centre), The Island of Cyprus (right) and The Island of Candia (left).
In 1663, the side arches having been transformed into portals, the broad external balustrade terrace was opened before the original faï¿½ade, later closed with the elegant bronze gate by Antonio Gai (1735 – 37) who also created the marble reliefs of the two Putti on the external wings of the elevation.
Sansovino’s fine terracotta group The Virgin with Putto and San Giovannino was situated in the existing internal niche, now it can be seen in St. Mark’s Museum.
In the reconstruction of the Balcony in 1912, together with the Campanile, the original architectonic and decorative material was used as much as possible, but giving the greater dignity of marble facing to the two side facades which, since Sansovino’s day, had remained in plain brick.