Venice

Basilica di San Marco

  San Marco 328      +39 041 2708311     more than a year ago
While the magnificent Byzantine-style Basilica of San Marco is Venice's most recognisable sight, most people are likely unaware of the rather roguish history behind both the church's construction and the way in which St Mark came to be the city's patron saint. The short version of the story is that it was originally built in 828 to house the remains of Mark the Evangelist, which were stolen from their resting place in Alexandria by Venetian merchants and smuggled out of Egypt hidden beneath pork and cabbage (to dissuade Muslim customs agents from finding them). The reason for this holy heist? The Doge was convinced that the burgeoning Venetian Republic would greatly benefit from the supernatural protection bestowed upon it by possessing the relics of one of the original apostles. And given what transpired in the following nine centuries, it's hard to argue with the results.

Of course history aside, the basilica itself is truly a sight to behold both inside and out, with its trademark domes and golden mosaics dominating the eastern edge of its namesake square. Dating from the end of the 11th century, its current form follows the layout of a Greek cross and is based on the Church of the Holy Apostle in Istanbul. The ceilings are covered with an astonishing 8000 square metres of gold mosaics, while the most impressive single work is the high altarpiece (the so-called Pala d'Oro or Golden Cloth), which depicts the story of St Mark and is encrusted with nearly 2000 precious gems. All things considered, it's not hard to see why it's nickname is the Church of Gold.

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Open

Open 09:45-17:00, Sun and holidays 14:00-16:00, Bell Tower open 09:00-15:45 in winter, 09:00-19:00 in Oct and spring, 09:00-21:00 in summer.

Price/Additional Info

Admission to basilica free, museum €5, Pala d'Oro €2, Treasury €3, Bell Tower €8.

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