The awesome Basilica di San Marco is built on a Greek cross plan. Crowned with five huge domes, it is the third church to stand on this site. The first, built to enshrine the body of St Mark in the 9th century, was destroyed by fire. The second was pulled down in the 11th century in order to make way for a more spectacular church, designed by an unknown architect, reflecting the escalating power of the Republic.
St. Mark’s Basilica, conceived to be the Doge’s private Chapel for State ceremonies continued to be remodelled over the following centuries. In 1807, it succeeded San Pietro (in the sestiere of Castello) as the Cathedral of Venice.
Inside St. Mark’s Church
Dark and mysterious, enlightened by beautiful mosaics, polychrome marbles, jewels, paintings and carvings the Basilica is a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. It was created over a period of six centuries as a fitting location for the ceremonies of the Republic.
Following his election here, the new Doge was presented to the city. Heads of State, Popes, Princes and Ambassadors were also received here. Sea Captains came to pray at St. Mark’s for protection before embarking on epic voyages.
The Basilica’s Sacred Treasure, a selection of the most important relics and mystical jewels which Venetians acquired over the centuries, was the heart of the Venetian sense of Ben Comun (Common Wealth), just as the sense of Common Destiny was its soul.
Just beyond the Main Altar don’t forget to admire the astonishing “Pala d’Oro”, two square metres of gold studded with thousands of variegated gems.