The magnificent Basilica di San Marco, commonly known as St. Mark’s Basilica, is one of Venice’s most beautiful historical landmarks. It was my favorite of the cathedrals and churches that I had visited in the city, due its ornate interior and rich history. The cathedral is located on the eastern end of the famous Saint Mark’s Square and is attached to the Doge’s Palace, which are two of my other favorite locations in Venice. The complete picture of the three together, is one of the city’s more popular view points.
Before I continue, I just need to give a tip to those who visit the cathedral. When I had visited, I should have known better than to wear a sleeveless shirt because I know that many of the cathedrals in Europe still practice modesty. My guide tried pulling my sleeves down over the tops of my bare arms, which was impossible without ripping the material. It was a humorous scene, as she was pulling and telling me to hide my shoulders because they would charge me to rent a scarf. Although I was fine with paying the 1 euro to rent a bright orange paper shawl, she was animatedly against it.
I ended up just putting my euro down and wrapping a pumpkin orange “Hey, look at me” scarf around me. Just a heads up not to wear anything that shows your shoulders, cleavage or your upper legs. If you do, then bring that euro.
St. Mark’s Basilica has centuries of history, it was consecrated in 1094 and became the episcopal seat of the Patriarch of Venice in 1807. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of the city, and houses relics of the saint. The city of Venice during the 13th century was the center of wealth and power, and to convey that the original exterior and interior walls were embellished. Precious stones and rare marbles were used, and gold-ground mosaics covered the domes, vaults and upper walls.
Inside the cathedral, there are many features such as reliefs, columns and sculptures that were spoils stripped from Constantinople’s palaces, churches and public monuments during the Fourth Crusade, which Venice participated in. Four ancient bronze horses that were part of the plunders were prominently placed over the entry.
When visiting there are many must sees inside St. Mark’s Basilica, including:
- Pala d’ Oro – Byzantine gold altarpiece
- The Treasury
- Museo di San Marco
- Marble Inlays
- Tomb of St. Mark
- Gold mosaics depicting Biblical scenes, saints and prophets
- The five domes from inside
- The Transept Chapels
Today, St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most important and popular tourist attractions in Venice. I had booked a semi-private guide online, which became very helpful when understanding the history and features of the cathedral. The guide also gave me a humorous memory of tugging on my shirt and debating with me to pay a euro for that hideous orange shawl.
The basilica is also an active Catholic church, so there is mass service on Sunday mornings. All are welcome to mass, but there is no wandering around the cathedral during services.
For visitors information and mass schedule – Basilica di San Marco
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