. Photograph © George P. Landow (taken October 2000) [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]
John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice which mentions "reading a building as we would read Milton or Dante" (10.206), explains that St. Mark's "is to be regarded less as a temple wherein to pray, than as itself a Book of Common Prayer, a vast illuminated missal, bound with alabaster instead of parchment, studded with porphyry pillars instead of jewels, and written within and without in letters of enamel and gold" (10.112). Ruskin later adds:
I have above spoken of the whole church as a great Book of Common Prayer; the mosaics were its illuminations, and the common people of the time were taught their Scripture history by means of them, more impressively perhaps, though far less fully, than ours are now by Scripture reading. They had no other Bible, and — Protestants do not often enough consider this — could have no other. We find it somewhat difficult to furnish our poor with printed Bibles; consider what the difficulty must have been when they could be given only in manuscript. The walls of the church necessarily became the poor man's Bible, and a picture was more easily read upon the walls than a chapter" (10.129-130). — from The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin, Ch 1, section 5.