St Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica is the point around which public and religious life revolves. It is the place where the Doges of old held their coronations.
It is the symbol of Venice – old and new. The church was built in the 9th century to entomb the body of St Mark, patron of the city whose remains were stolen from Alexandria in Egypt in 828.
The Basilica reflects the different construction phases in which there are still identifiable Roman-Byzantine features as well as Gothic and 15th century influences. Even though it has been rebuilt on different occasions, its main characteristic is still Byzantine with the great central dome and then the lateral domes over which is the bulb like miniature domes or onion domes as they are often known.
The facades, within which can be found five doors, are decorated sumptuously with marble and mosaics.
They are divided into two parts by a terrace, on which sit the four copper and gold plated horses sent from Constantinople to the Doge Enrico Dandolo in 1204. (copies of the originals can be found inside the church)
In the atrium, before entering the Church, the marble mosaic floor can be dated to the 11th and 12th centuries as can the walls, decorated in marble, columns. Vaults and miniature domes in Venetian – Byzantine style and marble mosaics can be dated to the 12 and 13th centuries. Entryway to the church is guarded by three main doors in bronze dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The interior is regal and typically Byzantine with the Greek cross design, three naves divided by columns and massive arches, covered in mosaics which support the five domes. The mosaics that decorate the main domes are made with smelted gold and boast the church’s great wealth.
Works of art in the Byzantine and Venetian style from the 11th to the 14th centuries, were in part re done by Titian, Tintoretto,Veronese and others between the 16th and 17th centuries.
The main altar is raised above the crypt and enclosed by marbles gates upon which are a range of statues by Dalle Masegne (1396). The altar in itself is St Mark’s tomb and it is supported by four columns of alabaster with freizes from the 12th century.
Behind is the famous golden altar piece – the ‘pala d’oro’ – gold, jewels and enamels are worked in the Byzantine and Venetian style of the 10th to 14th centuries.
The bell tower, beside the basilica, was a light house once upon a time. At its bottom, in a left hand niche is the bronze door belonging to the sacristy and is the last work of Jacopo Sansovino (1546 - 69).
Opening times: from October to April, Monday to Saturday: 9.45-4.30
from May to September: 9.45 – 5.30. Sunday and public holidays: 2 - 4
Guided visits to the Basilica can be arranged calling two days in advance.
Entrance fee to the Pala d'Oro: € 2, reduced fees € 1. Entrance fee to the treasury: € 3, reduced fee € 1.
Address: Piazza S.Marco, 1 San Marco cap 30124 - Venezia
Boat line Actv: stop S. Zaccaria