Sunday, May 07, 2006

Day 21 - 3rd May 1483

"On the 3rd, which is the feast of the Invention of the Cross, we rowed to the church of St. Cross, and after hearing service there, we saw and kissed the body of St. Athanasius, which rests there; and we touched it with our jewels, as has been described in the account of the day before. This saint, a most mighty champion of the faith, wrote for the confusion of heretics the creed: ' Whosoever will be saved,' etc. After this we returned to our inn for dinner. After dinner we went by water to the greater convent of Minorites, and saw the buildings, which are very grand. In a chapel attached to the church stood a horse, built together with wondrous art. The Venetians, imitating the customs of the heathen nations, once determined to reward one of their captains who had fought bravely for the republic, and gained much new territory for it by his velour, by setting up an everlasting memorial of him, and placing a brazen statue of a horse and his rider in one of the streets or squares of the city. In order that this might be done as splendidly as possible, they sought out sculptors throughout their country, and ordered each of them to make a horse of any material he chose, and they would then choose one out of the three best horses, and have a horse cast in brass on the model of that one. Besides the price of his statue, they proposed to bestow especial honours upon the artist who made the best-shaped horse.

So three sculptors met together at Venice, and one of them made a horse of wood, covered with black leather, which is the horse which stands in the aforesaid chapel; and so life-like is this figure, that unless its unwonted size and want of motion betrayed that the horse was artificially made, a man would think that it was a real living horse. Another sculptor made a horse of clay, and baked it in a furnace; it is admirably formed, and of a red colour. The third moulded an exquisitely-shaped horse out of wax. The Venetians chose this latter, as being the most cunningly wrought, and rewarded the artist. But as for what will be done about casting it I have not heard; perhaps they will give the matter up. So, after we had seen this convent and the aforesaid things, we returned to our own place."

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