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Historic flooding imperils St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice


The archbishop said rising water is causing “irreparable damage” to ancient mosaics

The Italian city of Venice has been declared under a state of emergency as the second highest water levels in its history have left 85 percent of the “City of Canals” submerged.

Two people have been killed as a result of the flooding, and damage is estimated to run to hundreds of millions of euros. Saint Mark’s Basilica is among the historic buildings threatened.

“The Basilica is suffering structural damage because the water has risen and so it’s causing irreparable damage, especially when it dries out in the lower section of the mosaics and tiling,” Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia told a news conference, as reported by Reuters.

This marks the sixth time St. Mark’s Basilica has been flood in 1,200 years, but the fourth in the last twenty years, according to The Guardian.

The flooding comes after days of rainy weather which raised water levels to their highest level at just over six feet, second only to the historic flood of 1966.

The present-day building of St. Mark’s began in 1063, and the church was consecrated in 1094, after the body of St. Mark the Evangelist, which Venetian merchants stole from its tomb in Alexandria, Egypt, was placed under the high altar. Work on mosaics, which depict scenes from the Bible, began in 1071, and cover an area of 8,000 square meters.

Read more: Grave robbers in gondolas: How the remains of St. Mark came to be in Venice

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