St. Mark’s Basilica, built in the eleventh century, is the most famous and most recognizable of all the churches in Venice. Its design mixes eastern and western building styles in a unique way.
The original St. Mark’s Church was situated inside the complex of the Doge’s Palace and was constructed in 828. It was built to house the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist, which were supposedly stolen by.
The church burned down in 976 during an uprising. It was rebuilt twice, the last time in 1063. At that time the power of the Venetian Republic had risen dramatically, and the new basilica, consecrated in 1094, would come to symbolize the republic’s growing power and wealth. This basilica is the one we see today. It was the doge’s private chapel until 1807, when it became the city’s cathedral.
Considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, St. Mark’s Basilica is known for its opulent design and gilded interior mosaics, and nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro, “Church of Gold”.
The exterior of the basilica is quite ornate and has been added to over the centuries. Historians note that whenever Venetian vessels returned from the Orient, they brought something for the basilica, be it a frieze, column, or something else from an ancient building elsewhere in the world.
Technically, the exterior is divided into three registers – lower, upper, and domes. The lower consists of five arched portals – the center one slightly larger – surrounded by marble columns. Large bronze doors lead into the narthex. Above the lateral portals are mosaics depicting the stories of St. Mark’s relics; the one on the left is the oldest one and depicts the St. Mark’s Basilica as it looked like in the middle of the twelfth century. The mosaics in the upper level arches depict stories from the life of Jesus; the one above the main portal is the gilded mosaic known as “The Last Judgment”.
The basilica is laid out in a Greek cross design and each arm has a central nave with side aisle. Its interior is even more spectacular than the building’s exterior. The magnificent marble floors are arranged in a geometric pattern with interspersed animal designs.
Location: San Marco 328, 30124 Venice
Nearby hotels: CimaRosa, Hotel Moresco, Corte Di Gabriela
Nearby sights: Grand Canal, Doges’ Palace, St. Mark’s Square
Official website: http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/?lang=en
Tel.: 39-041- 5225205