Sunday Special – Basilica di San Marco, Venice

As I have mentioned previously, I am writing several Sunday Special posts about places that I have actually visited. Well, for today it is only a half truth. I have visited Venice, once, back in 1991. I have also seen the Basilica di San Marco, found at the end of the Piazza di San Marco, but the catch is that I have never been inside it. Not for wanting or even trying though. When I was in the City of Bridges all those years ago it was August and it was warm. I was wearing shorts and a tank top, which, as I found out, is not the attire one is allowed to wear inside the basilica. Alas, my travelling companion and I were denied entry. Though it is still on my list of sites to see when I one day return to Venice, dressed accordingly of course.

The Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco (or Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark in English) is the city’s most well known church, a space that houses the bones of St Mark under its high alter. It is said the bones of the saint were smuggled out of Egypt in 828 CE and transported to Venice. It was then that the idea to build a church to house the bones came to be, as an addition to the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). The church was soon built yet it was burned down in 976 during a rebellion. It was rebuilt and completed around 1071. Designed in the shape of a cross, it has five domes in the Byzantine style. It’s interior contains historic statues, intricate mosaics, and an abundance of gold leaf everywhere. Through the centuries it has undergone modifications and renovations that have resulted in many other styles being added to the the cathedral’s design. One could say it is almost a mish-mash of styles, one that lends it a unique and elaborate flare.

Free to enter (with attire that covers the knees and shoulders) you can take in the gilded interior and its many centuries old treasures. For more detailed history and treasures to take in you can visit some of the museums, for an extra fee. One of the cathedral’s prized statues are the four Horses of St Mark’s that can be viewed inside St Mark’s Museum Along with the Museum of St Mark’s you can visit the Treasury of St Mark’s and the Pala d’Oro. Guided tours are also available. Finally, you can complete your time at the Basilica by visiting it’s bell tower, The Campanile. The 98.6 m / 323 ft tower was rebuilt in 1912 after the original structure collapsed and is the highest building in Venice.

Gilded interior of St Mark’s Basilica – Photo credit: Gorup de BesanezVnz05227 06CC BY-SA 4.0
West Facade of St Mark’s Basilica – Photo credit: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)2017 06 Leone di San Marco alla Basilica di San Marco Venezia 2836CC BY-SA 4.0

Many travel restrictions are still in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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