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St Mark's Basilica

Listed under Churches & Abbeys in Venice, Italy.

  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
  • Photo of St Mark's Basilica
Photo of St Mark's Basilica
Photo by Sherry Ott
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One of the finest churches in Europe, and one of the oldest, the present building dates from the latter part of the 11th century. Built in the Byzantine style, the interior is dark, incense-laden and heavily decorated in exquisite and ancient mosaics. The church was built to house the relics of St Mark, who had no connection with Venice, but no self respecting city in medieval Europe could survive long without relics - which attracted pilgrims, the forerunners of todays tourists. His bones were looted from North Africa by some enterprising Venetian merchants, and have remained here ever since, the patron saint of Venice.

Commerce is still alive and well. If you can beat your way through the trinket sellers you are faced, during most of the year, with an endless queue. This church can only really be appreciated properly during Mass. Outside of that, it makes for a great picture.

Written by  James Dunford Wood.

Other expert and press reviews

“Breaking Commandents at St. Mark’s Basilica”

“Thou shall not steal” is known as the eighth commandment – Christianity is built on the Ten Commandments. Yet somehow the most holiest of places in Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica, exists thanks to people breaking the 8th commandment… Read more...

Written by  Sherry Ott. Read more on Sherry's blog

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

St. Mark’s Campanile

The Campanile bell tower of St. Mark’s stood for a thousand years before it collapsed… Unexpectedly. One minute workmen re-pointing the tower noticed a crack and the next day the tower was a pile of rubble. The residents weren’t that keen on replacing it but in the end foreign donations meant a new tower was erected – to be as identical as possible to its fallen forefather. Square sides rise just under a hundred metres to a pyramid point, topped with a gold weathervane which the angel Gabriel is perched on, though you may have troube seeing that.

There are five bells in the tower, which they still ring for the tourists but the real attraction of the tower is the view, and the sound of the bells is only going to reduce your enjoyment if they go off while you’re up there. If you’re not up to the stairs never fear – there’s an elevator – not part of the original design…

Basilica di San Marco

On a sunny morning, when the pastel-coloured marble columns, bronze doors and gilded mosaics of St. Mark's Basilica are hazy in the morning light, the place might as well have been carved from icing sugar on the whim of a rich princess – and indeed, this incredibly beautiful building stands not only as a monument to the architectural capabilities of the Venetians, but to the extreme wealth and power that was theirs when it found its current form around the 11th century and became known as the Church of Gold.

In the 13th century a new facade was added and the domes were altered to match the Gothic style of the Doge's palace, since it was conceived as a personal chapel for him and his family, but it is now a cathedral, and is regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.

The basilica contains a wealth of relics and art works; some of the most famous include the four bronze, Greek horses, believed to have come from the top of the Arch of Trajan (by way of Constantinople, looted when the city was scandalously sacked by the Crusaders), the Tetrarchs, (same provenance), and the golden ceiling mosaics depicting stories from Genesis.

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