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

St Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Basilica, St Mark's Square, Venice

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This marvellous basilica is probably the symbol of Venice par excellence. It is located in the famous St Mark's Square, which is a beautiful place from which to admire the rich and complex structure of its facade and cupola.

History: The foundation of St. Mark’s Basilica is closely connected with the arrival of Saint Mark’s remains, in order to protect them. Since then, Saint Mark the Evangelist has been the patron Saint of Venice, instead of Teodoro from Costantinopol. According to a local legend, when the Evangelist came to Venice, an angel came to him saying: "Peace to you, Mark my Evangelist". It is said that it was God that wanted Saint Mark the Evangelist to become the patron Saint of the Lagoon.

The ancient church was first built in 828 under the commission of Giustiniano Partecipazio. It was replaced in 832, on its present site, by a new church. The building burnt down in 976 and was later rebuilt in 978. Today's building was finished in 1094. The Basilica is a combination of Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish artistic elements, which give an idea of the several changes that the church has undergone. For example the external structure of the church is composed of many different architectural styles, originating from the Orient.


  • The facade – is 52 meters long and has five rounded arch portals supported by columns. All the arches are decorated with Byzantine mosaics. Each mosaic represents a symbolic image: the mosaic to the left of the central arch represents the arrival of St. Mark’s body in Venice: on the left we can see when St. Mark’s remains were stolen in Alexandria. The main mosaic represents the last Judgment (by L. Querena).  Two Greek horses, which have replaced the original statues of horses, are located on the terrace directly above the main arch.
  • The atrium – the atrium of the basilica is decorated with beautiful arches. They are supported by marble columns. It is believed that some came from Jerusalem (Temple of Solomon). The atrium is covered with golden mosaics from the XIII° century, which represent the Old and New Testament.
  • The interior – of St. Mark’s has the shape of a Greek cross. The arms of the cross are joined by round arches upon marble columns. The floor is covered with a 400 metre mosaic, made between the XII° and XIV° centuries. The remains of St. Mark the Evangelist are contained in the main altar above which we can see the Golden Altar Screen, commissioned by Doge Pietro Orsolo in 978.  It was restructured more than once. Byzantine religious images, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and topazes make this piece truly exceptional.

Inside St. Mark’s Basilica

Pala D'oro

Pala D'oro St Mark Basilica, Venice

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The Pala D’oro, located behind the high altar of St. Mark’s Basilica, is a great example of fine Byzantine art. It was commissoned by the Doge Ordelaffo Faliero in 1102 and was finished 3 years later. The present appearance actually dates back to 1342, when the Doge Andrea Dondolo appointed the goldsmith Gian Paolo Boninsegna to renovate the basic structure of the Pala.

The name comes from the Latin word "Latin Palla", for a decorated cloth that was used to cover the high altar. The sumptuous masterpiece is divided into several different parts:

  • The first part illustrates the Story of St. Mark, the portrait of the Doge and the Pantacrator (a Greek word referring to the Divine);
  • The second part (in the middle of the highest part), contains the image of Archangel Michael. On the sides, there are the six festivals devoted to Jesus: Entry in Jerusalem, Resurrection, Crucifixion, Ascension, Pentecost and Domitio Viriginis.
  • The lower part illustrates the Blessed Virgin and the Emperor Giovanni Comneno whose representation was later modified to look like the Doge Ordelaffo Faliero.

The Four horses of St. Mark’s Square were once located over the main entrance of the Basilica. The statues are a monumental quartet of horses, made of bronze and covered with gold. The statues were a part of the war spoils after the 4th crusade in 1204 (the time of Doge Enrico Dandolo). The statues are thought to have been designed by the Romans around the II° – III° centuries. During the war between Austria and France the four horses were taken away by Napoleon, to Paris. After the collapse of Napoleon’s Empire the statues came back to Venice (1815). Nowadays the four horses are preserved inside the Basilica for protection against pollution and erosion.

Find more information about St. Mark’s square and its monuments and museums on our site.

General Information

Basilica of St. Mark

Address: Piazza San Marco
Phone: 0039 041 5225205
fax: 0039 041 5208289
Opening times:
1/10 – 31/03 9.45am – 4.45pm
1/04 – 30/10 9.45am – 5pm
Free Entrace

Marciano Museum

Opening times:
1/10 – 31/03 9.45am – 4.45pm (festivities: 1pm – 4.45pm)
1/04 – 30/10 9.45am – 5pm (festivities: 2pm – 5pm)
Ticket prices:
full price € 3; reduced € 1,5

Pala d’Oro

Opening times:
1/10 – 31/03 9.45am – 4.45pm (festivities: 1pm – 4.45pm)
1/04 – 30/10 9.45am – 5pm (festivities: 2pm – 5pm)
Ticket prices:
full price € 1,5; reduced € 1


Opening times:
1/10 – 31/03 9.45am – 4.45pm (festivities: 1pm – 4.45pm)
1/04 – 30/10 9.45am – 5pm (festivities: 2pm – 5pm)
ticket prices:
full price: € 2; reduced: € 1
How to get there: lines 1, 52, 82 (San Marco)

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