St Mark's Basilica

Venice, Italy

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Basilica di San Marco is the most famous of the Venice's churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city's cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello.

For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold).

History

The first church was a building next to the Doge's Palace in 828-832, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria. The church was burned in a rebellion in 976, when the populace locked Pietro IV Candiano inside to kill him, and restored or rebuilt in 978. Nothing certain is known of the form of these early churches. The present basilica was constructed probably between 1063-1093. In 1106 the church, and especially its mosaics, were damaged by a serious fire in that part of the city. 

The basic structure of the building has not been much altered. Its decoration has changed greatly over time, though the overall impression of the interior with a dazzling display of gold ground mosaics on all ceilings and upper walls remains the same. The succeeding centuries, especially the period after the Venetian-led conquest of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and the 14th century, all contributed to its adornment, with many elements being spolia brought in from ancient or Byzantine buildings, such as mosaics, columns, capitals, or friezes. Gradually, the exterior brickwork became covered with marble cladding and carvings, some much older than the building itself, such as the statue of the Four Tetrarchs. The latest structural additions include the closing-off of the Baptistery and St Isidor's Chapel (1300s), the carvings on the upper facade and the Sacristy (1400s), and the closing-off of the Zen Chapel (1500s).

Exterior

The facade features five portals decorated in splendid marbles and mosaics, and with a terrace dividing it into two halves. On the terrace stand Four Horses of gilded copper (copies - the originals are now preserved inside) that were sent from Constantinople to Doge Enrico Dandolo in 1204.

Interior

Splendid mosaics in the atrium relate the stories of the Bible. The imposing interior in the form of a Greek cross contains a wealth of paintings and sculptures. Of particular interest are mosaics of Veneto-Byzantine origin, some of them reconstructed from drawings by Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.

The treasury contains a unique collection of Byzantine portable objects in metalwork, enamel and hardstone carving. Most of them were looted from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade (although there was a serious fire in the treasury in 1231), with probably a new influx after the 'Franks' were expelled in 1261. Thereafter most objects were made locally, though there are also important Islamic works, especially in rock crystal, and some from Northern Europe. Selections have toured internationally.

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Details

Founded: 1063-1093
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Johnny Fields (15 months ago)
This is my top 1 tourist place to go in Venice .Beautiful architecture it’s is absolutely flawless. I went on a tour and I loved the history of the Basilica. I recommend to buy tickets in advance to get in front of the line instead of waiting in the long line like I did. Very beautiful inside too. Tickets are 3€ and kids under 6 are free. Thank you for reading
P (2 years ago)
Arguably the most favourite building in Venice, it is always packed. So I joined a night tour and was glad that I did because it gave access to some off limited areas. It was also great that only 2 other groups were there at the same time. So I could really pay attention and learn about the history about the basilica. What a beautiful place. I still can't believe I was walking in it. (July 2022)
Orlando Guerra (2 years ago)
A truly stunning example of a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine architecture. Almost a 1000 years old and this structure will still leave you in awe of the mosaic craftsmanship, shimmering gold down from every angle possible. A true gem of Venice, of Italy, and of the human race as a whole. An absolute must visit for those lucky to visit this beautiful city.
Moniruzzaman Tuhin (2 years ago)
This is the largest square in Venice. It’s a very crowded tourist attraction but still I loved being here. The popular St. Mark’s Basilica and the very iconic bell tower stand in this place. The other dominant building here is the Doge’s Palace. All the buildings are very pretty. You need to stand in the middle of this square to really get the feel of the wonderful architecture around you. It’s a very lively and happy place (at least that’s the way I felt being here). Full of activity, iconic buildings and cheerful tourists. It’s a great place to spend a few hours. There are quite a lot of restaurants, cafes and shops here which are nice but expensive (as is the case near any main tourist attraction).
Szilvia Gabnai (2 years ago)
The place itself is gorgeous, but under renovation. To get in, its 3€ and most of the church is blocked off, including the seats and all of the side rooms. The entrance fee just lets you walk around the main room. If you want to go up to the tower its another 5€ and the museum is also an additional cost. I walked through it fairly quick as there was not much to see, and there was a big crowd the whole way
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