The impressive St Mark's Basilica or the 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 house the body of St Mark in the 9th century, was destroyed by fire. The second was demolished in the 11th century to make way for a more spectacular church, designed by an unknown architect, reflecting the growing power of the Republic.
St Mark's Basilica, conceived to be the Doge's private chapel for state ceremonies continued to be remodelled in later centuries. In 1807, it succeeded St. Peter's (in the Castello district) as the Cathedral of Venice.
Inside St Mark's Basilica
Dark and mysterious, illuminated by splendid mosaics, polychrome marble, jewellery, paintings and sculptures the Basilica is a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. It was created over a period of six centuries as a suitable place for the ceremonies of the Republic.
After his election here, the new doge was presented to the city. Heads of state, popes, princes and ambassadors also came here. Sea Capitani came to pray to St. Mark's for protection before embarking on epic journeys.
The Basilica's Sacred Treasure, a selection of the most important relics and mystical jewels that Venetians acquired over the centuries, was the heart of the Venetian sense of Ben Comun (Common Good), just as the sense of a common destiny was its soul.
Just beyond the main altar don't forget to admire the stunning 'Pala d'Oro', two square metres of gold studded with thousands of variegated gems.