St. Mark's Basilica Venice Overview

As one of Italy's most impressive cathedrals, St. Mark's Basilica Venice is a popular destination for visitors to Venice. The Saint Mark's Basilica is a perfect example of Venetian style and is worth visiting only to get a feel for it. This Golden Church as it is commonly referred to, is a stunning architectural masterpiece that is especially well-known for its abundance of golden mosaics. The Basilica of St. Mark has come to symbolize Venice and the Venetian people for centuries. Although it was built originally as a private chapel for the Doge, over the years the church came to play a pivotal part in the city's religious and political life.

Why Should You Visit St. Mark's Basilica?

St. Mark's Basilica
  • St Mark's Basilica Venice is one of the most significant churches in Venice as it serves as a focal point for the city's civic and religious life.

  • Learn more about the history of Venice and her dukes by paying a visit to the basilica where they were crowned.

  • The basilica is a product of a variety of architectural styles, the result of years of renovation that managed to preserve the building's eastern features while incorporating new ideas.

  • Visit the church and take in the shimmering Byzantine mosaics that cover the main entrance.

  • It is evidence of the commercial and military might of the Serene Republic of Venice and her citizens in the Mediterranean.

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St. Mark's Basilica Highlights

Pala d'oro in St Mark's Basilica
Pala d'Oro

When it comes to St Mark's Basilica Venice’s priceless treasures, the Pala d'Oro is unrivaled. This Byzantine altarpiece is a gold panel 3.45 meters in length and 1.4 meters in height that is encrusted with hundreds of gems, including 1,300 pearls, 300 emeralds, 300 sapphires, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts, rubies, and topazes. After Napoleon dishonestly stole several in 1797, security measures were strengthened and the gems are now kept under glass. This altar was designed and built by master goldsmiths from Venice and Constantinople. It features a Romanesque arch at the top and a Gothic arch at the bottom.

Treasury Inside St. Mark’s Basilica

The St Mark's Basilica Venice’s treasury, which can be reached from the corner of the south transept, is located to the right of the main altar and houses priceless artifacts that have been acquired throughout the years. Items in the treasury can be found in four distinct groups: Items from antiquity and the early middle centuries, such as a pair of crystal lamps shaped like fish and a pair of amphorae fashioned from a single piece of agate. Goldwork from the Byzantine Empire, such as two little icons of St. Michael the Archangel and a pair of cloisonné enameled chalices. Islamic artifacts, such as the turquoise glass bowl decorated with semiprecious stones and depicting stylized animals in relief, and featuring the famed perfume-brazier, are objects of Western provenance.

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Marble Inlays in St. Mark's Basilica
Marble Inlays

Following the conclusion of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venice saw an influx of valuable marbles from Constantinople. These marbles were carefully selected for their symbolic importance, unique qualities, and captivating colors during the construction of the st mark basilica. For instance, the crimson porphyry, known as the world's rarest gem and believed to hold divine favor, was highly revered. Consequently, it was specifically chosen for prominent features like the doge's tribune and the porphyry group of the Tetrarchs on the south front. The columns in the apse were equally treasured and were meticulously crafted from pavonazzetto marble, which boasts striking violet or reddish patterns, making it another prized and rare type of marble.

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Tomb of St. Mark Basilica
Tomb of St. Mark

In 1063, when the construction of the present basilica was initiated, the remains of the old church were utilized to create a crypt. This crypt now serves as the final resting place of St. Mark, and after extensive renovations to the basilica, it was reopened to the public in 1889. Recently, a British historian put forth a thought-provoking claim suggesting that the tomb beneath the presbytery, believed to belong to the renowned preacher, might actually contain the remains of Alexander the Great. However, it is essential to substantiate this claim with more substantial evidence before drawing any definitive conclusions.

Architecture Of St. Mark's Basilica

North and South Facade of St. Mark's Basilica
North and South Facade

St Mark's Basilica Venice is a large church with three symmetrical facades that radiate out from its lower body in the directions of north, south, and west. The well-known Porta dei Fiori, also known as the Door of Flowers, is a Nativity relief from the 13th century that is located on the north facade overlooking Piazzetta dei Leoncini. Two ornate pillars, known as the Pilastri Acritani, stand in front of the building's southern front, which faces the Grand Canal. The Porphyry Group of the Tetrarchy and the Pietra del Bando, a Porphyry Column with its Base Cut Off, are located in the corner of this facade.

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Interior of St. Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Basilica architecture is very fascinating and inside Basilica is home to more than 8,000 square meters of mosaics, most of which are made of gold, and were constructed over the course of 800 years. The gold background, lit exclusively from behind, not only provides an image that arrests the observer's senses but also adorns the scene with a wealth of Christian art symbolism. Each arm of the Greek cross-shaped basilica is separated into three naves. Even though the cathedral's interior is a mishmash of architectural styles, ranging from classical to 19th-century, the shape and mosaics give it a Byzantine air.

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Exterior of St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica's west facade can be seen from the outside and is composed of three distinct sections: the lower section, the top section, and the domes. The narthex can be accessed through one of five arched entrances located on the lower register and framed by polychrome marble columns. Above the main gate is a gilded mosaic representing "The Last Judgment," which is one of a series of mosaics commemorating events from Christ's life. St. Mark's relics are described in the lunettes of the side gateways of north transept. The Winged Lion, the state emblem of the Republic of Venice, adorns the arch over the sizable picture window.

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Dome of St. Mark's Basilica

The basilica boasts five domes situated over the intersection and arms of the Greek cross. Each dome has a diameter of more than 13 meters and is adorned with 16 windows. Between 1160 and 1200 CE, captivating gold mosaics were meticulously installed inside these domes. The central dome specifically portrays the moment of Christ's ascension into heaven following his resurrection. Although certain Western influences can be observed in the dome's decoration, the overall style predominantly reflects the unmistakable Byzantine art, showcasing Venice's strong and profitable trade connections with the Eastern Roman Empire.

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Transept Chapels of St. Mark's Basilica
Transept Chapels

Transept Chapels typically honor a specific saint. Several different chapels honor the Virgin Mary and other saints in St. Mark's Basilica. They can be found in the relatively brief extensions along the main dome’s sides. Above the north transept in the Cappella di San Giovanni are mosaics from the 12th century showing scenes from the life of St. John. The Byzantine image of the Madonna Nicopeia is displayed on Cappella della Madonna Nicopeia’s altar, which is also located in the north transept of St Mark's Basilica Venice inside. The south transept houses Cappella di San Clemente, traditionally known as the Doge's chapel.

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History Of St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica

The original St Mark's Basilica history was constructed in 828 AD to house the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, which had been relocated there from Alexandria, where they had been stolen. It was a temporary structure at the time, part of Doge Giustiniano Particiaco's palace. Since its initial construction as a permanent church in 832, Saint Mark's Basilica has gone through a number of changes.

The original structure was destroyed in an uprising in 976. The current structure of Saint Mark's Basilica dates back to a building effort initiated in 1063 under the direction of Domenico Contarini, even though the church was restored in 978.

There have been many transformations to Saint Mark's Basilica since then, both physically and symbolically. St. Mark's Basilica has been expanded and improved upon by many people over the centuries, with contributions from all around the world. Before 1807, St. Mark's Basilica served as a state church, but with Napoleon's decrees, it also became the cathedral of the city of Venice and the seat of the Patriarch of Venice.

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Know Before You Go To St. Mark's Basilica

Essential Information
How To Reach
Rules & Regulations
Facilities & Accessibilities
Visitor’s Tips
st mark basilica

Must Check these essential information before you Plan Your Visit to St. Mark's Basilica

Location: San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy


  • Basilica tours begin at 2 p.m. on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.

  • On Sundays, between the hours of 9:30 AM and 2:00 PM, visitors can explore the Loggia dei Cavalli museum.

  • The Basilica is open to the public without charge for worship, mass, and other services. From Piazzetta dei Leoncini, head north to the entryway Porta dei Fiori. Prayers are held every day at 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Best Time To Visit: If you want to avoid waiting in a lengthy line, the best time to visit St Mark's Basilica is on a weekday morning right as it opens. Also, after the summer crowds have dispersed, September through November is the best time to visit St Mark's Basilica. Temperatures drop to roughly 15 degrees Celsius, crowds thin out, and accommodation rates drop. 

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Is there a dress code for St Mark's Basilica?

    Yes, there is a dress code for St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. As it is a place of religious significance and a functioning church, visitors are expected to dress modestly and respectfully. The dress code typically requires that shoulders and knees should be covered. Avoiding sleeveless tops, shorts, mini-skirts, and low-cut or revealing clothing is recommended. If visitors do not adhere to the dress code, they may be denied entry or asked to cover up with appropriate attire provided by the basilica.

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St. Mark's Basilica, located in Venice, Italy, is a remarkable architectural gem known for its Byzantine and Gothic design. Dating back to the 9th century, this basilica boasts intricate mosaics that cover its interior, depicting religious scenes and ornate details in shimmering gold. The exterior is adorned with sculptures, marble columns, and a quartet of angel-crowned domes. St. Mark's Basilica not only serves as a place of worship but also symbolizes Venice's rich history and cultural heritage. It stands as a testament to the city's opulence and artistic brilliance, drawing countless visitors to admire its timeless beauty.