St Mark’s Cathedral (St Mark’s Basilica) Venice

St. Mark’s Cathedral is one of the most visited churches in Venice

This monumental structure is located in the very center of the city, near the Doge’s Palace, in St. Mark’s Square. The interest of tourists in this place is due not only to its superb Byzantine-style architecture, but also to the fact that the cathedral houses the relics of the Apostle Mark.

When building the cathedral, the architects used the most durable material of the time – larch wood. When interacting with water, larch acquires extraordinary strength. Thanks to this, the structure was able to carry its grandeur through the centuries, even withstanding a severe fire.


A Bit of History

The history of this amazing cathedral began in 828 AD. While in Alexandria, two merchants from Venice, Rustico and Buono, took a courageous step after learning that Muslims would demolish all churches to build mosques in their place. They decided to transport the remains of the evangelist, so that the relics of the holy Apostle Mark would not be desecrated by infidels.

Legend has it that the merchants hid the relic under pig carcasses. This helped them transfer the relics to the ship, as the Saracen customs officers, due to their religious beliefs, could not touch the “unclean animal”. After the relics of the saint were brought to Venice, he was declared the city’s patron saint, symbolized by a winged lion.

The basilica is built in the form of a Greek cross, its height reaches 43 m, and its total area is 4000 sq.m. In 976, the church suffered severely from a fire set by instigators of a popular uprising aimed at overthrowing the Doge of Venice, Pietro IV Candiano.

The cathedral, as we see it today, was restored over 30 years. Over the centuries, the church was constantly transformed and expanded. Interestingly, city authorities, fearing that as soon as Alexandrians learned about the disappearance of the relics, they would demand their return – declared a miraculous appearance of the relic within the cathedral walls. A decree was issued that all citizens should constantly pray and fast.

People were to believe that this would allow them to win the favor of the Almighty, who would help them find the remains of the apostle. And they were “heard”, this happened on June 25, 1904. During one of the services, a part of the marble slab of one of the columns fell – people saw the saint’s brush – every parishioner believed in the miracle.

Until 1807, the church was used as a palace chapel where coronation ceremonies for the Doges were held, and warriors departing for crusades were blessed. Because the place is indeed considered holy, many tourists try to book a hotel in Italy for a holiday with children near the cathedral.

The San Marco Cathedral was also chosen by Frederick I Barbarossa for signing the peace pact with Pope Alexander III. It was from here that Marco Polo embarked on his first journey. And it is here, in St. Mark’s Square, where the Venetian carnivals are held to this day, during which all seaside hotels in Italy are filled with foreign tourists.

St. Mark’s Cathedral – a true masterpiece of Byzantine architecture

This cathedral, in its significance and grandeur, is comparable to the Hagia Sophia Cathedral located in Istanbul. The cathedral was built in the image of the Church of the Holy Apostles, located in Constantinople. During its formation, the shrine was repeatedly supplemented and decorated. Therefore, today we can observe a wonderful combination of various architectural styles – Romanesque, Eastern, Byzantine, Gothic. Moreover, the cathedral has 5 portals – entrances, which are adorned with sculptures of saints, columns, and a wonderful mosaic.

Some elements of the decor, for example, marble columns with lacy capitals, were brought to the church from Constantinople. Above the main entrance is a mosaic, telling parishioners about the Second Coming of Christ, the other four reflect the history of the salvation of the relics of St. Mark. The portal, located in the central part, is decorated with a gilded ancient chariot – quadriga, received in 1204. At the moment, the chariot is an exact copy, the original is in the museum of the cathedral.

The inside of the cathedral looks as luxurious as the outside. Glass fragments are neatly arranged on thin sheet gold. The reliquary with the relics of Saint Mark is located under the throne of the main altar, above which is set a unique iconostasis, made in 1343. The frame is made in the Gothic style, it is decorated with 2000 semi-precious and precious stones. The cathedral literally abounds with gold and gilding. Therefore, when choosing a place to book a hotel in Italy, tourists often choose complexes located near the “golden basilica”.

One of the cathedral’s rooms houses a museum with a unique exhibition. Here you can see rare fragments of early mosaics. However, despite being publicly accessible to city visitors and residents, services are still held in the cathedral. This fact should be taken into account when choosing 3-star hotels in Lido di Jesolo. It is also worth remembering that churches must be visited in appropriate clothing, which complies with accepted church canons.