St Mark’s Basilica Venice – Mass times, Opening hours and Tickets

Saint Mark's Basilica, Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, Benetke, Italija

Website of the Sanctuary

+39 041 2708311

Every day: from 9.45 am to 5.00 pm

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Getting around

Insurance: Travel Insurance for Italy
Flights: Flights to Venice, Marco Polo airport
Things to do: Sightseeing in Venice
Forum: FAQ about Venice: 41.000+ topics
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Unesco: The whole city of Venice is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece

St Mark’s Basilica Venice

St Mark’s Basilica is a monument made unique by both its wealth of history and the magnificence of its façade and interior. In essence, it is a splendid workshop, where, through the centuries, worked great Italian and European artists.

Its distinguishing Byzantine character appears particularly on the great mosaics illustrating St. Marco’s tales, as well as the scenes of the Old and New Testament.

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St Mark's Basilica Venice

Venice’s greatness has always been reflected in the St Mark’s Basilica Venice enrichment: during the centuries the Venetians embellished it with precious objects and works of art brought in from the most distant places, thus creating a grand, compact monument.

The mellow light falling from above seems to divide the earthly world from the supernatural, which glitters on the vaults in the golden mosaics.

The Patron Saint

On 25th April, the date of St. Mark’s martyrdom, the patron saint’s festival is held in Venice.

Replacement of the Greek Theodore by St. Mark was a long process. A fundamental landmark was the arrival of Mark’s body in Venice in 828 and its placing in the church dedicated to him.

Possession of the saint’s relics had a powerful impact on the citizens, who felt safe and protected and in time began to worship the patron, but it involved equally important advantages of a diplomatic and political nature that benefited the Republic and its image on the international scene.

See our Top 15 catholic shrines around the world.

See more Italian Catholic shrines and Basilicas

See more European Catholic Shrines and pilgrimages

St Mark’s basilica opening hours and tickets

The visit inside the Saint Mark’s Basilica lasts about 10 minutes.
Visitors are recommended to respect the sacred place, in particular:

  • Clothes be appropriate for a place of worship;
  • You cannot enter the basilica with luggage. Luggage must be deposited in Ateneo San Basso (Piazzetta dei Leoncini – in front of the Gate of Flowers, north façade);
  • Photos and filming are forbidden;
  • Loud explanations are not allowed, the use of earphones is permitted.

November – March/April (Easter):

  • Basilica: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. (entrance free)
  • St. Mark’s Museum: 9.45 a.m. – 4.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 5 € , reduced 2,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Pala d’oro: 9.45 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 2 € , reduced 1 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Treasury: 9.45 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.(entrance: ticket 3 € , reduced 1,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

March/April (Easter) – November:

  • Basilica: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. (entrance free)
  • St. Mark’s Museum: 9.45 a.m. – 4.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 5 € , reduced 2,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Pala d’oro: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 2 € , reduced 1 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Treasury: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.(entrance: ticket 3 € , reduced 1,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

Bell Tower:

  • October: 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4€ only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • November – March/April (Easter): 9.30 a.m. – 3.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • March/April (Easter) – June: 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • July – September: 9.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

St Mark’s basilica Mass times  

The entrance is from the Porta dei Fiori in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini.

Weekdays:

  • 07:00 a.m.
  • 08:00 a.m.
  • 09:00 a.m.(Sung Mass of the Charter of the Canons preceded by the celebration of the praises)
  • 10:00 a.m. (in baptistery)
  • 11:00 a.m.
  • 12:00 (suspended in the months of July and August);
  • 06:45 p.m. (preceded by the celebration of Vespers and the rosary).

The 06:45 p.m. Mass is the first of the Sunday/holiday Masses on Saturdays and days preceding holidays

Sundays and holidays:

  • 07:00 a.m.
  • 08:00 a.m.
  • 09:00 a.m.
  • 10:30 a.m. (Sung Mass with brief remarks in various languages, St. Mark’s Chapel)
  • 12:00
  • 05:30 p.m. (Celebration of Vespers and Madonna Nicopeia procession with the chant of the litanies)
  • 06:45 p.m..

The 6:45 p.m. evening Mass is often animated by foreign choirs passing through Venice. Contact the Sacristy of St. Mark’s Basilica for information (Phone – Fax: +39 041 5225697).

St Mark's Basilica Venice

St Mark’s Basilica Venice – political and religious function

In the course of its history the St Mark’s Basilica Venice played two highly important roles: palatine church, the chapel of the Ducal Palace, and from 1807 city cathedral.

In the earlier phase the Doge was elected in the Ducal Palace and then presented to the citizens from the right hand pulpit in St. Mark’s which was exclusively his. He then went into the piazza and met the people in accordance with special rites and ceremonies.

The Doge himself was the main celebrant in St Mark’s Basilica Venice, though in the liturgies this role was filled by the “primicerius”, the first of the basilica’s canons, an ecclesiastic with episcopal prerogatives, nominated by the doge whom he represented.

Being the state church, other official ceremonies took place in St Mark’s Basilica Venice such as the blessing of soldiers on their way to war or the presentation of banners taken from the enemy.

In memory of the “Peace of Venice”, the historic event that took place in St. Mark’s in 1177, the names of the protagonists, the most powerful men in Europe, were engraved on the marble floor of the atrium: pope Alexander III and emperor Federico Barbarossa, the peace being organised by the doge of Venice Sebastiano Ziani.

In 1201 the old doge Enrico Dandolo assembled in St. Mark’s Crusaders from all over Europe, about to depart for the Holy Land, in order that they might have protection and divine aid.

In 1377, at a moment of serious danger when the allied Genoese of Chioggia threatened the Republic from close by, the people insisted on Vettor Pisani as commander of the army and took him to St. Mark’s so that the doge could grant him leadership for defence of the city.

St Mark's Basilica Venice

Architecture

To build Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice brought the spiritual and material heritage of Byzantium to the West.

The Greek cross plan stands on a structure which in the longitudinal nave has basilica architectural motifs: the vertical arm of the cross is greater than those of the transepts and the altar is in the apse area. Above the cross are five cupolas, according to the eastern model, as a symbol of God’s presence.

Organisation of the space is rich in evocations that are not found in other Byzantine churches. The interior has a unitary sequence subdivided into individual spatial orchestrations to which gold background mosaics ensure continuity and the church’s special way of being.

Saint Mark's Basilica

The Architectural Plan

Saint Mark’s Basilica, begun in 1063, was built on the foundations and with the walls of an earlier church also dedicated to the saint. The model for this new church, much larger than the former one, was the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.

The new structure was Greek cross with the longitudinal nave slightly longer than the transept limited by pre-existing buildings (the ancient castle to the south and the Church of St. Theodore to the north).

The five great cupolas were erected at the intersection and over the arms of the cross.

The architectonic layout is highly articulated and repeats a single module clearly identifiable in the central cupola which rests, by means of the spandrels and great vaults, on four pillars. Both arms of the cross are divided into nave and two aisles.

The atrium with its cupolas was built a century after completion of the church. The baptistery was built onto the southern end of the church in the first half of the 14th century.

Beneath the presbytery and the side chapels is the crypt (nave and two aisles with apse) housing the ancient chapel which for centuries has been the repository of St. Mark’s body.

Saint Mark's Basilica

The Building Phases

The present day St. Mark’s was begun in 1063 when the Doge Domenico Contarini commissioned an architect, probably Greek, to build a church on ancient foundations, using the ancient walls of previous buildings.

The church was consecrated on 8th October 1094 when the body of St. Mark was definitively deposited in a marble tomb beneath the high altar.

Thereafter the church was continually modified, enlarged, covered with marbles and mosaics and decorated with columns and statues.

Mosaic decoration began in 1071. In the course of the 12th century the essential nucleus of the iconographic plan for the interior was carried out.

Other important cycles were created in subsequent centuries.

In the early decades of the 13th century the church’s image underwent substantial modifications: the facades were faced in polychrome marble and the cupolas were covered with higher lead cupolas so that they might be seen from a greater distance.

The church was a kind of living organism in continuous mutation down through the ages of its history. Each period left important marks that contributed to creating a highly singular “summa” of precious artistic elements.

The Tessellated Floor

The marble floor is an original part of the church and covers its entire area like a great oriental carpet.

It features different types of work technique. The main one is opus sectile in which pieces of marble are set out to form the most varied geometrical figures.

There are also figures of animals (peacocks, eagles, doves, cocks, foxes) that refer to the symbolic meanings of mediaeval bestiaries. Both in the atrium and the interior the floor highlights the focal points of the architectonic structure.

Over the centuries this very precious work has been continually restored and redone, with a great many replacements due to the fragility of the material and to the wear it has always been subject to.

Saint Mark's Basilica

Stone and Marble

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, Venice had access to a great quantity of precious marbles from the sacred and civic buildings of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. A great many marble articles were sent to St. Mark’s and used to decorate the facades and interior.

The most varied marbles were used with a symbolic function depending on their characteristics and colour. The most precious stone is red porphyry, symbol of imperial and divine power. Among other things this marble was used for the Tetrarchs group (south facade) and the doge’s tribune (interior).

The 4th Crusade

The crusading ideal reigned between the end of the 11th century and the early 12th century and very likely arose following serious acts of religious intolerance suffered by Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land.

Venice came to the Crusaders’ aid later than other sea powers; more precisely, only after it had realistically evaluated the political and economic effects. The events in the Holy Land troubled Venice also due to rivalry with other seafaring Republics, especially Genoa and Pisa, who supported the Crusaders’ action.

Moreover the theatre of operations included a reaction by European States against the increasingly threatening Arab expansion into Christian lands.

Over and above the Arabs, there was another Islamic power seeking to conquer the West: the Seljuk Turks who took control of Syria and Palestine at the end of the 11th century.

This period determined the Christian States’ position on the offensive of the Crusades and with time was the determining cause of Venice’s long lasting conflict with the Turks.

Venice achieved the peak of its glory with the 4th Crusade, of which the Doge Enrico Dandolo (1192 -1205) was both artificer and protagonist. At the end of the 12th century diplomatic and political relations between Constantinople and Venice were apparently cordial and Venice continued to benefit from its ancient trade concessions in the East.

Nevertheless Venice had not yet erased the memory of a blow inflicted at Constantinople in 1171 by the emperor Manuel when ten thousand Venetians had been arrested and massacred.

When the occasion presented itself Venice did not renounce revenge, taking advantage of usurpations in the East for succession to the empire on the death of emperor Manuel Comnenus.

It appears that even before the Crusade troops gathered in Venice in 1202, to be taken to the East in aid of the Christians against the Sultan of Egypt, there had been secret agreements between the Christian commander barons and the Doge Enrico Dandolo: instead of going to Egypt the expedition would head first to Constantinople and put the young and persecuted Alexis back on the usurped throne.

He had promised, should he become emperor once more, to supply considerable means for the Christian venture.

In spite of excommunications by Pope Innocent III, who saw failure of the expedition against the Unbelievers, the new plan was accepted.

In April 1203 the Crusaders’ army reached Constantinople, attacked the city and took it. The young emperor they restored to the throne was killed in an uprising.

The Crusaders conquered the city for the second time on their own account in 1204 and, proclaiming the fall of the ancient Eastern Empire, they established, on old Dandolo’s proposal, that the whole territory and its vast riches should be divided among the participants.

Its place would be taken by the new Latin Empire of Constantinople of which the Venetians would own one quarter and a half.

A great colonial empire was thus formed with an almost uninterrupted chain of ports and stop-off points from Dalmatia to Constantinople and beyond, into the Black Sea. Venice gained an immense booty of riches – gold, marble and artworks (including the four horses of St. Mark’s) – and its sea power was enormously increased

How to get to Venice

by plane

Marco Polo airport is located in Tessera, on the mainland. To reach Venice, which is about 12 kilometres away, you can choose among several means, according to the time you have available and your budget.:

Bus: there are two bus services to Piazzale Roma, the terminus for all four-wheel vehicles: the ATVO one, faster (it takes about 25 minutes) and leaving in connection with the arrival of many flights, and the ACTV line 5, taking about 35-40 minutes. If you arrive after midnight, you find traditional taxis reaching Piazzale Roma in 20 minutes.

Water-taxi: are moored outside the arrival hall, in 20 minutes they reach every corner of the city. This service ends after the last landing.

Alilaguna: it’s a public launch that reaches Saint Mark Square in 70 minutes, stopping at Murano and Lido.  Departures every hour from 4.45 a.m. to midnight.

by train

Surely the most convenient way to reach Venice. Travelling by train, either the whole way or simply the transfer Mestre-Venice, you have no problems, just check that the train goes on to Santa Lucia station.

From the central station you can reach every destination by the many water-buses stopping outside.

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Saint Mark’s Basilica: political and religious function

In the course of its history the Saint Mark’s Basilica played two highly important roles: palatine church, the chapel of the Ducal Palace, and from 1807 city cathedral.

In the earlier phase the Doge was elected in the Ducal Palace and then presented to the citizens from the right hand pulpit in St. Mark’s which was exclusively his. He then went into the piazza and met the people in accordance with special rites and ceremonies.

The Doge himself was the main celebrant in Saint Mark’s Basilica, though in the liturgies this role was filled by the “primicerius”, the first of the basilica’s canons, an ecclesiastic with episcopal prerogatives, nominated by the doge whom he represented.

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Being the state church, other official ceremonies took place in Saint Mark’s Basilica such as the blessing of soldiers on their way to war or the presentation of banners taken from the enemy.
In memory of the “Peace of Venice”, the historic event that took place in St. Mark’s in 1177, the names of the protagonists, the most powerful men in Europe, were engraved on the marble floor of the atrium: pope Alexander III and emperor Federico Barbarossa, the peace being organised by the doge of Venice Sebastiano Ziani. In 1201 the old doge Enrico Dandolo assembled in St. Mark’s Crusaders from all over Europe, about to depart for the Holy Land, in order that they might have protection and divine aid. In 1377, at a moment of serious danger when the allied Genoese of Chioggia threatened the Republic from close by, the people insisted on Vettor Pisani as commander of the army and took him to St. Mark’s so that the doge could grant him leadership for defence of the city.

St. Mark’s was a place of meeting and prayer for the Venetians also in moments of great pain such as in 1576 when the vote was given to build a temple to Christ the Redeemer and in 1630 a temple to the Virgin in order to be freed from terrible plagues, and lastly in 1797 when Venice saw the end of its independence.
St. Mark’s was also a point of reference for merchants and sailors who, journeying by land and sea, enriched it with precious gifts, marbles and art treasure, all with the wish to contribute to keeping this monument great and rich as testimony of the greatness of Venice.

On 12th May 1797 the Serenissima fell to Napoleon’s troops. A new phase began for St. Mark’s.

In 1807 St. Mark’s became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice. On the orders of Napoleon the cathedral was transferred from the ancient seat of San Pietro di Castello to St Mark’s which thus lost its function of Doge’s Chapel and became the city cathedral.

Opening times

The visit inside the Saint Mark’s Basilica lasts about 10 minutes.
Visitors are recommended to respect the sacred place, in particular:

  • Clothes be appropriate for a place of worship;
  • You cannot enter the basilica with luggage. Luggage must be deposited in Ateneo San Basso (Piazzetta dei Leoncini – in front of the Gate of Flowers, north façade);
  • Photos and filming are forbidden;
  • Loud explanations are not allowed, the use of earphones is permitted.

November – March/April (Easter):

  • Basilica: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. (entrance free)
  • St. Mark’s Museum: 9.45 a.m. – 4.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 5 € , reduced 2,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Pala d’oro: 9.45 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 2 € , reduced 1 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Treasury: 9.45 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.(entrance: ticket 3 € , reduced 1,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

March/April (Easter) – November:

  • Basilica: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. (entrance free)
  • St. Mark’s Museum: 9.45 a.m. – 4.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 5 € , reduced 2,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Pala d’oro: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 2 € , reduced 1 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • Treasury: 9.45 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. – Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.(entrance: ticket 3 € , reduced 1,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

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Bell Tower:

  • October: 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4€ only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • November – March/April (Easter): 9.30 a.m. – 3.45 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • March/April (Easter) – June: 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)
  • July – September: 9.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m. (entrance: ticket 8 € , reduced 4 € only for groups with more than 15 people)

Photo creditis:

“Veneza47” by Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys) – taken by Ricardo André Frantz
“San Marco cathedral in Venice” by Petar Milosevic
“Veneto Venezia2 tango7174” by Tango7174
“Veneza118” by Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys) – taken by Ricardo André Frantz.

“Venice SMarco Vault2” by Dennis Jarvis – Pentecost Mosaic.
“Jose leonardo-san marcos” by Jusepe Leonardo
“Emmanuel Tzanes – St. Mark the Evangelist – 1657” by Emmanuel Tzanes – scan from A Guide to the Benaki Museum, by Angelos Delivorrias.

By plane:

Marco Polo airport is located in Tessera, on the mainland. To reach Venice, which is about 12 kilometres away, you can choose among several means, according to the time you have available and your budget.:
Bus: there are two bus services to Piazzale Roma, the terminus for all four-wheel vehicles: the ATVO one, faster (it takes about 25 minutes) and leaving in connection with the arrival of many flights, and the ACTV line 5, taking about 35-40 minutes. If you arrive after midnight, you find traditional taxis reaching Piazzale Roma in 20 minutes.

Water-taxi: are moored outside the arrival hall, in 20 minutes they reach every corner of the city. This service ends after the last landing.

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Alilaguna: it’s a public launch that reaches Saint Mark Square in 70 minutes, stopping at Murano and Lido.  Departures every hour from 4.45 a.m. to midnight.

By train:

Surely the most convenient way to reach Venice. Travelling by train, either the whole way or simply the transfer Mestre-Venice, you have no problems, just check that the train goes on to Santa Lucia station.

From the central station you can reach every destination by the many water-buses stopping outside.

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By car:

Arriving by car, you must park it at Piazzale Roma, where you find three parking areas open all day long: the Autorimessa Comunale, the Garage San Marco and the Sant’Andrea; moreover you have the Tronchetto, a wide car park on an island very close to Piazzale Roma.

Another valid solution can be leaving your car on the mainland, in Mestre or Marghera, and go on to Venice by bus or train across the Ponte della Libertà.

By ship:

It’s possible to reach Venice by ship.

The present landing points are:
S. Basilio (at the end of Zattere)
Stazione Marittima
Riva dei Sette Martiri (in the Castello district)

How to reach the Basilica

From Piazzale Roma:

By the water-bus lines :
1 (in about 40 minutes)
51 direct (in about 20 minutes)
2 direct (in about 30 minutes)
On foot it takes about 40 minutes to reach it.
From the Train Station (Santa Lucia):

By the water-bus lines :

1 (in about 35minutes)
51 direct (in about 25 minutes)
2 direct (in about 25 minutes)
On foot it takes about 30-45 minutes to reach it.

The entrance is from the Porta dei Fiori in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini.

Weekdays:

  • 07:00 a.m.
  • 08:00 a.m.
  • 09:00 a.m.(Sung Mass of the Charter of the Canons preceded by the celebration of the praises)
  • 10:00 a.m. (in baptistery)
  • 11:00 a.m.
  • 12:00 (suspended in the months of July and August);
  • 06:45 p.m. (preceded by the celebration of Vespers and the rosary).

The 06:45 p.m. Mass is the first of the Sunday/holiday Masses on Saturdays and days preceding holidays

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Sundays and holidays:

  • 07:00 a.m.
  • 08:00 a.m.
  • 09:00 a.m.
  • 10:30 a.m. (Sung Mass with brief remarks in various languages, St. Mark’s Chapel)
  • 12:00
  • 05:30 p.m. (Celebration of Vespers and Madonna Nicopeia procession with the chant of the litanies)
  • 06:45 p.m..

The 6:45 p.m. evening Mass is often animated by foreign choirs passing through Venice.

Contact the Sacristy of St. Mark’s Basilica for information (Phone – Fax: +39 041 5225697).

Priests are available for confessions. in the morning from 10:00 a.m. until noon and in the afternoon from 05:00 to 07:00 p.m.

Architecture

To build Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice brought the spiritual and material heritage of Byzantium to the West. The Greek cross plan stands on a structure which in the longitudinal nave has basilica architectural motifs: the vertical arm of the cross is greater than those of the transepts and the altar is in the apse area. Above the cross are five cupolas, according to the eastern model, as a symbol of God’s presence.

Organisation of the space is rich in evocations that are not found in other Byzantine churches. The interior has a unitary sequence subdivided into individual spatial orchestrations to which gold background mosaics ensure continuity and the church’s special way of being.

Saint Mark's BasilicaThe Architectural Plan

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Saint Mark’s Basilica, begun in 1063, was built on the foundations and with the walls of an earlier church also dedicated to the saint. The model for this new church, much larger than the former one, was the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.

The new structure was Greek cross with the longitudinal nave slightly longer than the transept limited by pre-existing buildings (the ancient castle to the south and the Church of St. Theodore to the north). The five great cupolas were erected at the intersection and over the arms of the cross.
The architectonic layout is highly articulated and repeats a single module clearly identifiable in the central cupola which rests, by means of the spandrels and great vaults, on four pillars. Both arms of the cross are divided into nave and two aisles.

The atrium with its cupolas was built a century after completion of the church. The baptistery was built onto the southern end of the church in the first half of the 14th century. Beneath the presbytery and the side chapels is the crypt (nave and two aisles with apse) housing the ancient chapel which for centuries has been the repository of St. Mark’s body.

Saint Mark's BasilicaThe Building Phases

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The present day St. Mark’s was begun in 1063 when the Doge Domenico Contarini commissioned an architect, probably Greek, to build a church on ancient foundations, using the ancient walls of previous buildings. The church was consecrated on 8th October 1094 when the body of St. Mark was definitively deposited in a marble tomb beneath the high altar.

Thereafter the church was continually modified, enlarged, covered with marbles and mosaics and decorated with columns and statues. Mosaic decoration began in 1071. In the course of the 12th century the essential nucleus of the iconographic plan for the interior was carried out. Other important cycles were created in subsequent centuries. In the early decades of the 13th century the church’s image underwent substantial modifications: the facades were faced in polychrome marble and the cupolas were covered with higher lead cupolas so that they might be seen from a greater distance. The church was a kind of living organism in continuous mutation down through the ages of its history. Each period left important marks that contributed to creating a highly singular “summa” of precious artistic elements.

The Tessellated Floor

The marble floor is an original part of the church and covers its entire area like a great oriental carpet. It features different types of work technique. The main one is opus sectile in which pieces of marble are set out to form the most varied geometrical figures. There are also figures of animals (peacocks, eagles, doves, cocks, foxes) that refer to the symbolic meanings of mediaeval bestiaries. Both in the atrium and the interior the floor highlights the focal points of the architectonic structure.

Over the centuries this very precious work has been continually restored and redone, with a great many replacements due to the fragility of the material and to the wear it has always been subject to.

Saint Mark's BasilicaStone and Marble

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, Venice had access to a great quantity of precious marbles from the sacred and civic buildings of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
A great many marble articles were sent to St. Mark’s and used to decorate the facades and interior.

The most varied marbles were used with a symbolic function depending on their characteristics and colour. The most precious stone is red porphyry, symbol of imperial and divine power. Among other things this marble was used for the Tetrarchs group (south facade) and the doge’s tribune (interior).

The 4th Crusade

The crusading ideal reigned between the end of the 11th century and the early 12th century and very likely arose following serious acts of religious intolerance suffered by Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. Venice came to the Crusaders’ aid later than other sea powers; more precisely, only after it had realistically evaluated the political and economic effects. The events in the Holy Land troubled Venice also due to rivalry with other seafaring Republics, especially Genoa and Pisa, who supported the Crusaders’ action. Moreover the theatre of operations included a reaction by European States against the increasingly threatening Arab expansion into Christian lands. Over and above the Arabs, there was another Islamic power seeking to conquer the West: the Seljuk Turks who took control of Syria and Palestine at the end of the 11th century. This period determined the Christian States’ position on the offensive of the Crusades and with time was the determining cause of Venice’s long lasting conflict with the Turks.

Venice achieved the peak of its glory with the 4th Crusade, of which the Doge Enrico Dandolo (1192 -1205) was both artificer and protagonist. At the end of the 12th century diplomatic and political relations between Constantinople and Venice were apparently cordial and Venice continued to benefit from its ancient trade concessions in the East. Nevertheless Venice had not yet erased the memory of a blow inflicted at Constantinople in 1171 by the emperor Manuel when ten thousand Venetians had been arrested and massacred. When the occasion presented itself Venice did not renounce revenge, taking advantage of usurpations in the East for succession to the empire on the death of emperor Manuel Comnenus. It appears that even before the Crusade troops gathered in Venice in 1202, to be taken to the East in aid of the Christians against the Sultan of Egypt, there had been secret agreements between the Christian commander barons and the Doge Enrico Dandolo: instead of going to Egypt the expedition would head first to Constantinople and put the young and persecuted Alexis back on the usurped throne. He had promised, should he become emperor once more, to supply considerable means for the Christian venture.
In spite of excommunications by Pope Innocent III, who saw failure of the expedition against the Unbelievers, the new plan was accepted. In April 1203 the Crusaders’ army reached Constantinople, attacked the city and took it. The young emperor they restored to the throne was killed in an uprising. The Crusaders conquered the city for the second time on their own account in 1204 and, proclaiming the fall of the ancient Eastern Empire, they established, on old Dandolo’s proposal, that the whole territory and its vast riches should be divided among the participants. Its place would be taken by the new Latin Empire of Constantinople of which the Venetians would own one quarter and a half.
A great colonial empire was thus formed with an almost uninterrupted chain of ports and stop-off points from Dalmatia to Constantinople and beyond, into the Black Sea. Venice gained an immense booty of riches – gold, marble and artworks (including the four horses of St. Mark’s) – and its sea power was enormously increased

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