St Mark's Basilica

St.Mark’s Basilica is the most famous Venetian church and an exquisite example for Byzantine architecture. It is located on the emblematic square of Saint Mark, just next to the Doge’s Palace. The name of the basilica is associated with the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist which are kept inside it. Saint Mark is one of the four evangelists who died as a martyr in 68 in Alexandria. There is a legend about how his relics were brought to Venice. According to that legend his body was stolen by two Venetian merchants. They covered it with pork and the Muslim authorities decided not to search through the meat forbidden by their religion. The basilica was consecrated in 832. It has been demolished several times and then rebuilt. The last time this happened was in 1063 when the construction of the current basilica started. The new basilica was meant to symbolize the wealth and power of the Venetian Republic. For a long time it served as a personal chapel for the Venetian Doges. In 1807 it was finally declared a city basilica and was opened to everyone.


Description: St Mark’s Basilica /picture source:;

Outside the basilica is richly decorated. The historians note that every time a Venetian ship returned from the Orient it was bringing something for it – a freeze, a column or something else. The first level of the basilica consists of five arched portals, the central one of which is slightly larger than the others. On the façade there are numerous details which has been added though the years. The mosaic of the pediment represents the return of the relics of Saint Mark.  The one above the central portal depicts Jesus as a judge during the Last Judgment. The mosaics on the upper level of the basilica depict scenes from the life of the God’s Son. In 1254 the figures of four Greek horses are placed on the central balcony. They are brought from Constantinople by the doge Enrico Dandolo. During the 18th century Napoleon took them to Paris but later they are brought back to Venice. The statues we see today on the balcony are replica. The originals are inside the basilica, in its museum.



Description: the interior of St Mark’s Basilica /picture source: Shutterstock/;

Inside the basilica is even more impressive. Golden mosaics cover an area of 8 000 sq.m. Those of them which have been completed during the 12th century represent scenes of the New Testimony, while those completed later represent scenes from the Old Testimony. The iconostasis is decorated with marble and the relics of Saint Mark are kept in the main altar. Behind it you can find Pala d’Oro – made of gold and decorated with jewels. This composition of 80 icons was created during the 10th century by masters in Constantinople. Napoleon took some of the jewels but even today they are plenty of them that are left and the visitor can enjoy them. On the upper floor there are the original horse statues. For a long time they have been standing at the hippodrome of Constantinople. They have been taken from there during the Fourth Crusade and brought to Venice. Other works of art, looted by the crusaders are exhibited in the Treasury. Among them particularly important are two icons of Archangel Michael.

Address: Piazza San Marco;

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