Time travel to the city of music

Piazza San Marco, Venice, c. 1730–1735 (Canaletto, Wikipedia)
Piazza San Marco, Venice, c. 1730–1735 (Canaletto, Wikipedia)


“Late-seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century Venice was a city of music. No other European city could compete with the wealth of vocal and instrumental music performed in the city’s churches, in its opera houses and palazzi, and in the open air.”

(Heller & Marinelli, 1997, p.26)


The awe-inspiring basilica of San Marco was home for world-class composers and musicians. Welcoming Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, and Antonio Vivaldi, the Dodge’s private chapel turned Venice into a paradise for musicians and artists.


Project objectives and deliverables

Fascinated by history of music and culture, we desire to re-create those colorful ceremonial performances at San Marco. Therefore, the primary objectives of our project include:

  • Complete research portfolio, covering piffari musicians, instrumental ensembles as well as the placement of the performance inside the basilica and the architecture of San Marco nowadays and in the seventeenth-century.
  • Construct a 3D simulation with music of ceremonial performances, which will allow the user to sense the enchanting atmosphere of the place.
  • 3D model of the basilica of San Marco will mainly be based on how the cathedral looks nowadays.
  • Re-create as many parts as possible from the seventeenth-century, relying on paintings, and reproduce the settlement of the performances, picking out description from books and papers.

Moreover, if we succeed to complete our primary objectives earlier than the expected time, we would also like to include some historical facts in our 3D simulation. We want to give an opportunity for the user, by clicking on a specific object from the ceremonial performance (e.g. musician, musical instrument, etc.), to see a short description and details about that object.




Current 3D models of the basilica of San Marco are mainly focusing on the outside façade of the building. As the primary objective of our project is to re-create ceremonial performances at San Marco from the seventeenth-century, we will concentrate on the inside view of the church. For this purpose, we will achieve a number of milestones throughout the project, which will allow us to measure our progress along the way.

To start out, we will continuously write details about our work as well as present already accomplished tasks. For this purpose, we will use the website “The Venice Atlas”, which will give us an opportunity to present our project online.

In the direction of constructing a 3D model of the basilica of San Marco, we will gather data across present-day photos as well as paintings and images of the church from the seventeenth-century. We will use the photos to first build a modern 3D model of the basilica, which will serve as a base for the further development of the 3D ceremonial performance simulations. The best-known techniques for building such a 3D model are polygons, technique of vertices and technique by edges.

Moreover, we will analyze the paintings and images in order to superimpose them onto the 3D model of the basilica. In this way, we will allow the user to have the full inside view of the church despite the lack of historical pictures. We will mainly focus on the most significant places, e.g. around the altar, where we know the ceremonies were usually performed.

To move towards our main objective, we will use this 3D model of the basilica to generate ceremonial scenes and to create objects, characters and scenarios. For this purpose, we will gather data across composers, instruments, orchestra, and placement of performances in the church, by extracting information from paintings, books and papers. We will use this data to place objects and characters into our 3D model, which will represent the musicians, the instrumental ensemble and the audience. Besides, we will also consider their exact position in the church, which could turn out to be different depending on the ceremony. Therefore, we will follow the following steps in a 3D visual simulation: create objects, create scenario, apply texture to objects and add light. (Oliviera, Sabbadini, Chamovitz, Souza, 2013)

To make the feeling over the user more vivid, we will also embed music into our 3D model. In this way, the visitor will be able not only to see how the ceremonial act was situated in the basilica, but also to hear the oeuvres of the musician, who is performing.

3D modeling is an area of computer graphics, which also allows generating pictures with interactivity. Therefore, as additional idea we would like to give an opportunity to the user to also get some historical facts from our 3D simulation. He/she will able to select an object or a character from the ceremonial performance and to get a short description or interesting facts and details about it. In this fashion, the visitor will be able to become acquainted with the instruments and the musicians as well as to better experience the ceremonial atmosphere.

Finally, to elaborate the technical part of the project, advanced computational tools are used and targeted for this type of described tasks, as 3D computer graphics software. This software will allow us first to make our 3D mesh, presenting the main structure of the church and the musicians. Then, using the data gathered from paintings and images, we will be able to switch to the final 3D rendering. Moreover, we will visualize the basilica through different angles. In this way, the user will be able to take a tour of San Marco as well as to zoom in and out the ceremonial performance.

For this purpose, there are many qualified professionals in the area. Currently the most widely used programs are: Open-source: Art of Illusion, AutoQ3D Community, Blender, K-3D, KPovModeler, MeshLab, OpenFX Seamless3d, Wings 3D, Point Cloud Library. Proprietary: AC3D, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya, Cinema 4D, LightWave 3D, 3D SketchUp, Strata 3D, Brush, among others. (3D computer graphics software, Wikipedia) Consider that 3D modeling has a huge range of generic tools, allowing also for easier communication between two different programs, we did not yet decide on specific 3D software. Therefore, in the process of work will compare different programs and we will work with the ones most suitable to our main objective.

Gathering data from the seventeenth-century and using 3D modeling, we want to digitalize the history of music in Venice. Our project aims at re-creating the magnificence of the basilica of San Marco and enlivening paintings and books. We will jump back to the past and make the user feel like he was part of a beautiful history!


Project milestones

  • By February, 28th – Complete research portfolio, including the architecture of the basilica of San Marco nowadays and in the seventeenth-century.
  • By March, 14th – 3D modeling of the basilica interactable.
  • By March, 28th – Complete research portfolio, including musicians, orchestra and ceremonial performances at San Marco.
  • By April, 25th – 3D modeling of the simulation of the ceremonial performances.
  • By May, 09th – Embed music into the 3D simulations and polish details.



[1] Canaletto (December 2013). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaletto

[2] Karl Heller, David Marinelli (1997), Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice, Amadeus Press

[3] Oliviera, Sabbadini, Chamovitz, Souza (May 2013), “Uma plataforma de simulação visual em 3D”. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – COPPE/PEP – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. Retrieved from http://www.aedb.br/seget/artigos06/22_PLA_SEGET.pdf

[4] 3D computer graphics software (December 2013). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_computer_graphics_software