Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica), Venice

Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica), Venice (must see)

By far, the main draw for tourists visiting Venice is Saint Mark's Basilica. Its construction dates back to 832 AD when it was built to house the remains of Saint Mark, the city's patron saint. Legend has it that the holy man's body was brought from Alexandria, Egypt, hidden in barrels of pork meat, which the Venetian merchants believed the Muslim guards would never touch. Upon arrival in the lagoon, Saint Mark was said to be greeted by an angel who proclaimed that his body would find rest in that place. This legend has inspired numerous works of art throughout the centuries.

Two hundred years later, a magnificent temple was erected on the foundations of an earlier church and consecrated when Saint Mark's body was laid to rest beneath the high altar. The new basilica was designed after the renowned Church of the Apostles in Constantinople. To enhance its splendor, the structure was adorned with marble and mosaics depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Mark himself.

Over time, many of the mosaics were retouched or replaced as artistic tastes evolved and damaged mosaics needed restoration. As a result, the current mosaics represent a span of 800 years of artistic styles. Some mosaics reflect traditional Byzantine representations and stand as masterpieces of medieval art, while others were based on preparatory drawings by renowned Renaissance artists from Venice and Florence, such as Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian, Paolo Uccello, and Andrea del Castagno.

Andrea del Castagno, active at San Marco in the mid-15th century, introduced a sense of perspective largely achieved with architectural settings. One of his notable contributions is the mosaic in the Mascoli Chapel, depicting the "Dormition of the Virgin". Tintoretto, on the other hand, created the mosaic in the central nave depicting the "Presentation of Jesus at the Temple" in the 16th century, while Titian designed and executed the mosaic decoration of the Sacristy vault between 1524 and 1530, depicting Old Testament prophets.

Inside the basilica, there are additional spots that can be visited for a separate fee, including the Golden Altar, the Museum, the Treasury, and the Crypt. It is highly recommended to pay for access to the first level, offering elevated views of the interior and the square outside. Alternatively, consider taking a night tour when the basilica is closed to the public, allowing you to have the entire place to yourself.

Entry to the basilica is free, but for a small fee, you can skip the line and book a time slot.

Why You Should Visit:
To witness the exceptional blend of Byzantine and Western art, showcased through the grandeur of the mosaics and the richness of the 'treasure room', offering insights into the immense power and wealth of Venice during its golden era.

Tip:
The best time to visit is around midday when the golden mosaics adorning the vaults, walls, and cupolas are illuminated and at their most spectacular. The lights are only turned on for a limited time (11:30am-12:30pm), so be sure to plan your visit accordingly to witness and appreciate the mosaics at their best.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Venice. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) on Map

Sight Name: Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica)
Sight Location: Venice, Italy (See walking tours in Venice)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Venice, Italy

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