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St. Mark’s Basilica

Venice, Italy A Gems’ Paradise and a Paradise of Architectural Gems
Christianity

One of the grand monuments of Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica epitomizes the City’s rich heritage and prosperity. The middle ages’ marvel was built to secure St. Mark’s remains and bring prosperity to Venice. Overlooking the St. Mark's Square, Venice’s most sought after destination; the Cathedral has the Grand Canal and the Doge's Palace by its sides. A religious sight adorning a blend of Venetian, Roman and Byzantine architecture offers a mesmerizing artwork of gold embedded with gems and stones enacting ancient gothic jewelry designs. A pilgrimage destination of Christian community attracts millions of visitors annually to witness its architectural grandeur and historic significance.          

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Overview

History and Belief

Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Cathedral church of Venice finds its historical reference since 829 A.D. The religious site came into existence in 832 A.D. to honor and house the St. Mark’s remains that were brought from Alexandria. According to a popular belief during the middle ages, a saint’s remains were considered to bring prosperity to the City. After replacing the St. Theodore – who was martyred in the 4th century for burning the local mother goddess Cybele’s temple at Amasea - St. Mark was acknowledged as Venice‘s patron saint. Later, the winged lion attribute of St. Mark became the official symbol of Venice city. 

The original structure was set afire in 976 A.D. during a revolt breakout opposing the Doge Pietro Candiano IV. Later, his successor Doge Domenico Contarini restored the existing basilica in 1071. Since then, the basic architecture of the church didn’t change much; however, the decoration was regularly underway. In the following centuries, especially in the 14th century, the beautification of the basilica continued with the regular addition of capitals, columns, or friezes from other ancient structures. Over a period of time, the brickwork on the exterior was covered with the different type of marbles and ancient carvings. The domes were enclosed with wooden domes to match with Gothic architecture, along with newly designed frontage.

For a significant time in history, the Basilica was known as the chapel of the Doges (Venice’s rulers), until it was converted into the seat of Venice’s Archbishop in 1807. Later it became the Cathedral of Venice. Apart from being a religious site the Cathedral’s architectural opulence and explicit designs also attract visitors here.


Architecture

The splendid Church exhibits a Greek cross build plan with five domes supported by five giant arches. The little squares lean in diverse direction for catching and reflecting lights from different angles. The facade of the church reflects a gothic masterpiece comprising spires, columns, reliefs and arches depicting scenes, crafts and characters from daily life. The legendary four bronze horses’ replica in the west façade of St. Mark’s basilica is the symbol of freedom and strength for Venice and its people. The original sculpture is kept in the Church museum and considered as a part of the treasure.  

 

The richness of monument with a peculiar addition to each part including ceremonial stuff, mosaics, sculpture justifies its decoration and artwork that spanned over centuries. Mosaic work is a just amazing sight to the visitors. Interiors of basilica adorned with mosaics gold base and marble varieties with flooring of glass and inlaid marble. The arrangement allows mosaics to glow under restricted lights. The screen that divides the nave and the choir incorporates marble statues and exclusive Venetian Gothic sculpture by Pier Paolo dalle Masegne and Jacobello.

The Treasure of St. Mark’s is a broad collection of gold, glass and silver along with other expensive materials. Most of these precious objects narrate the glorious past of Venice. There are total 1927 precious stones incorporated in the iconic Cathedral building that are the sole representatives of large gothic jewelry designs of ancient Venice. 

The beautiful Church is located just at a walking distance from Largest Square of Venice - St. Mark’s Square – on the side of the Grand Canal, the famous waterway of the City. Situated in the prime location of Venice, the Basilica has all necessary facilities like food, transport, restaurants and accommodation around the premise. The city’s major landmarks and views from Grand Canal waterway make the sight more pleasant and exciting to the visitors.   

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6 interesting Facts & Myths about St. Mark’s Basilica

  • ·The Basilica boosts exclusive mosaic work, largely in gold, of over 85,000 square feet that took more than eight centuries.  

  • ·The monument has over 500 capitals and columns, which belong to 3rd, 6th and 11th centuries. Most of these are Byzantine.  

  • ·The Campanile stands 323 foot tall that belongs to 9thcentury. Later, it was reconstructed in 1903 after it collapsed in 1902.  

  • ·There are 400 garnets, 1300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 100 amethysts, 300 emeralds along with topazes and rubies in Pala d’Oro gold altar.  

  • ·Napoleon took the bronze horses sculpture from the Church façade to Paris during the war but later returned in the year 1815.  

  • ·The library contains precious ancient manuscripts such as the World map of Fra Mauro and the Breviario Grimani of 5thcentury apart from oldest editions, comprising some of Aldus Manutius.

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Programs

Daily programs

On weekdays, Sung Mass of the Charter of the Canons is organized early in the Morning followed by Vespers and the rosary celebrations. During Sundays and holidays, Sung Mass is organized with short note in other languages in morning hours, followed by Vesper celebration and procession of Madonna Nicopeia in evening. For more details on daily schedule, visitors may check the official website of basilica: http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/

Special programs

At Saint Mark’s Basilica Holy Masses, Vespers are organized around the year, with busiest months being the December (Christmas) and April (Ester).

Good Friday (Masses and Prayers) including previous day and following day
Holy Christmas (Solemn Mass and Solemn Vesper)
New Year (Mass and Solemn Vesper)

At Basilica, a Liturgical calendar is released in advance for all the special occasion and celebrations, which is available on the official website of the Church:

http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/

Travel

How to travel

Basilica San Marco or St. Mark’s Basilica has the best connectivity by water transport from all the bus, rail, air and cruise terminuses. Distance from Milano and Rome to Venice is 245 and 394 Km, respectively. Monsoon season is not a good time to visit Venice. One should plan for fall or spring season for the journey according to the weather suitability. Food (Largely non-veg) and drinks are available in restaurants and cafes across the Grand Canal and St. Mark's Square. All types of luxury and budget accommodations are available near the basilica.

The City of Venice is linked by Road, Rail, Air and Sea to the major part of Italy and the world. One can enter the city by any means of transport. Since no taxis are allowed in the city, one has to rely on train and water-buses to reach the St. Mark’s Basilica. Piazzale Roma is the main terminus for all four-wheelers. One can check the official website for detailed information on travel facillities in Venice.      

VISITING DAYS/HOURS

Daily 09:45 AM to 5:00 PM (Museo Marciano)

Mon-Sat 09:45 AM to 05:00 PM; Sun: 02:00 PM to 05:00 PM (Basilica, Tesoro, Pala d'Oro)

(*Timings may be shorter during winter)

Travel Tips

Visitors are allowed to enter the basilica in proper dress only i.e. short dresses are not permitted. In addition, luggage and camera are not allowed in the premise.

See St. Mark’s Basilica on map

Nearby Attraction

  • St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square is one of the biggest square and open spaces in the city and a deep contrast to the winding lanes and alleys of Venice, which is largely restricted by its structures.

  • The Doges Palace

The Venetian Empire was under the Doges rule until 1797. They ruled the province from Doges Palace and demonstrated their wealth and power from this building.

  • The Correr Museum

A proud memoir to the history and art of Venice, which is constructed in various parts offering a fascinating journey into City’s glorious past.

  • National Archaeological Museum of Venice

This museum houses exclusive compilation of historical sculptures, with some original Greek sculptures.

  • Biblioteca Marciana

A library constructed by Jacopo Sansovino to greet the Latin and Greek codices. In 1468, Cardinal Bessarion donated this library to the Republic of Venice.

Additional Information

By Air

The Cathedral is about 12 km from Marco Polo airport in Tessera mainland. From Airport to Piazzale Roma there are two bus services available: 

  • ATVO one that takes about 25 minutes
  • ACTV line 5 that takes about 35-40 minutes
  1. After midnight, taxi service also available to the Piazzale Roma terminus and normally takes 20 minutes.
  2. Water-taxi from the arrival terminus hall takes around 20 minutes to reach anywhere in the City.
  3. Alilaguna is another public launch, which takes about 70 minutes to reach Saint Mark Square via Lido and Murano. 

By Ship

The seaports in Venice are Stazione Marittima, S. Basilio and Riva dei Sette Martiri.

  • From Stazione Marittima one can take Water taxis and water buses to Piazzale Roma and St. Mark’s Square.
  • From San Basilio ACTV terminal Water bus line 2 service is available for Piazzale Roma.
  • From Sette Martiri, it is just 15 or 20 minutes walk to main landmarks of the city such as St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and the Piazza San Marco

By Train

One of the most suitable transports means to reach Venice. After de-boarding at Santa Lucia station, one can choose water-bus service to reach St. Mark’s Basilica.

By Car

There are several parking lots at Piazzale Roma including the Autorimessa Comunale, the Sant’Andrea, the Garage San Marco, and Tronchetto.

#Transport available from Piazzale Roma terminus and Santa Lucia train station:

  • Water-bus line 1 that takes around 40 minutes
  • Water-bus line 51 that takes around 20 minutes
  • Water-bus line 2 direct that takes around 30 minutes

*Walking from these two terminuses to St. Mark’s Basilica may take 40 minutes

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