Without my readers (not YOU GUYS–my specs), the blurry name above suggests bad-a$$ longhorns, the mascot of my alma mater. But using my prescription readers, I can sound it out as it should be. Bal-das-SA-reh. Say it with your fingers pinched together like an Italian (but say “eye-talian” because it’s more fun). Today, we learn about the funny-named Venetian architect, Baldassare Longhena.
Bald bottoms aside, Baldassare is actually Italian for Balthazar. And Longhena certainly wasn’t the first famous Balthazar. Despite the fact that the Gospel of Matthew nowhere names the Magi (or even says there were three), tradition suggests that “we three kings of Orient are” answered to Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The latter is referred to as the King of Arabia and the one who offered the ever-questionable myrrh, a resin which most of us have lived our lives without. Here he is depicted mid-offer.
But wait! Balthazar isn’t just a magi; it’s also a crazy large wine bottle, equivalent to that of 16 ordinary wine bottles.
Thass alotta wine!
But let’s get down to brass tacks. Baldassare Longhena was an Italian architect born at the turn of the 17th century. Now I know what you’re thinking: Mike Brady is the only architect worth posting about. Look at him getting his blueprint on.
And maybe you’re thinking, “What could compare to the beauty and complexity of his Shop N Go?”
I don’t know. Maybe the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute?
Impressive, no? The Longhena-designed basilica began construction in 1631 as a way of saying thank you to the Virgin Mary (the one whose son received myrrh from the other Balthazar) for delivering Venice from the clutches of the plague (aka the Black Death). Beginning in the summer of 1630, the plague made its way through the city, wiping out nearly a third of the population within a year. The Republic of Venice decided to erect and dedicate the elegant domed church as a votive offering for deliverance and to gain protection from the Virgin.
As a master of Baroque architecture, Longhena combined the extravagant and the ornate. And he did not stop with just one church. Nay, he designed the Chiesa dell’Ospedaletto and Santa Maria di Nazareth, as well as the Chioggia Cathedral. Between 1641 and 1680, he designed a new library, the grand staircase, the monastery facade, the novitiate (where the novices lived), the infirmary, and the guest quarters of the San Giorgio Maggiore monastery, shown below.
If you’d like to visit, you can book a room there. Upon the advice of http://www.theguardian.com,
“As you leave Santa Lucia station, take vaporetto number 2 down the Grand Canal to San Giorgio. On arrival, you ring a buzzer, marked Monaci Benedittine (Benedictine monks), on the heavy door to the right of the white church. There’s no checking in; you will simply be led up some worn stone steps to your quiet room.” Plus, they serve croissants at breakfast!
Though Longhena passed in 1682, his legacy remains in the arches and domes of the beautiful Venice skyline. Long live Longhena!