What to see in St. Mark's Basilica highlights? Artworks, Marbles & Mosaics

What to see in St. Mark's Basilica?

St. Mark’s Basilica is arguably the most famous attraction in Venice today due to its intricate structure that takes you back to the Renaissance period. The Byzantine architecture and the stellar collection of mosaics and artwork from renowned European artists make St. Mark’s Basilica a must-visit attraction in Venice. 

St. Mark’s Basilica collection

St. Mark’s Basilica

Must-see St.Mark’s Basilica highlights

St.Mark’s Basilica has a treasure trove of some of the best mosaic artwork, depicting events from the Byzantine Empire, the journey of Jesus Christ, as well as figures of Christian saints, the Old Testament, and many such historic events from the past. 

Read on to know more about the crowned jewels and the must-see artworks and highlights at St.Mark’s Basilica.

St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica

The Treasury

Artist: Not applicable
Year: Not applicable
Location: The dazzling and twinkling treasures can be found in the side wing of St. Mark’s Basilica. 

The treasure was amassed mainly from The Fourth Crusade or the attack on Constantinople by the Vatican. Today, only 283 items are on display and the collection is divided into four main sections including ancient, medieval, Byzantine, and western. 

St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Tomb

Artist: The St.Mark’s tomb was constructed by multiple Venetian craftsmen
Year: 9th century
Location: St. Mark’s tomb is located under the main altar of the cathedral. 

St. Mark's tomb, the burial site of Saint Mark, one of Christianity's four Evangelists, is one of the protagonist St. Mark's Basilica. Beautifully decorated with bronze and marble statues, it symbolizes Venice's pride and history, rooted in the dramatic story of how St. Mark's body was brought from Alexandria, Egypt.

St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica

Marble Inlays at St. Mark’s Basilica

Commissioned by: Doge Dominico Contarini
Year: Built between the 11th and 15th century
Location: The marble inlays can be found throughout the interior of the church

Another top highlight of St.Mark's Basilica are the intricately carved marble, often considered the best examples of Byzantine architecture. A testament to the creativity, artistry, and craftsmanship of artisans from the Byzantine era, they tell stories of the age they were created in.

St. Mark's Basilica Mosaics

St. Mark’s Basilica

Facade Mosaics

Discover the fascinating story depicted in the mosaics on the façade of St. Mark's Basilica. These intricate artworks narrate the journey of St. Mark's relics from Alexandria to Venice.

St. Mark’s Basilica

Second Mosaic

The second mosaic portrays the relics' arrival in Venice. Two Venetian merchants, Bono and Rustico, hide St. Mark's body in a basket of fruits and pork to smuggle it past Egyptian customs officers. Their cunning trick allows them to embark on the long journey to Venice.

St. Mark’s Basilica

Third Mosaic

Doge Giustiniano Partecipazio and the Venetian government are depicted decorating the relics upon their arrival. Covered in a blue sheet, St. Mark's body commands reverence as the Doge, adorned in golden robes, welcomes the important relics into Venice.

St. Mark’s Basilica

Fourth Mosaic

The oldest mosaic on the facade, dating to the 13th century, captures the moment when Saint Mark's body is carried into the Basilica. The Byzantine style, characterized by radiant golden hues and solemn figures, elevates the scene's grandeur.

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Frequently asked questions about St. Mark’s Basilica highlights

What is St Mark's Basilica famous for?

St. Mark's Basilica is famous for its stunning architecture, intricate mosaics, and rich history. It is renowned for housing the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, making it an important pilgrimage site in Christianity. The basilica's Byzantine architecture, adorned with golden mosaics depicting biblical stories and saints, is also a symbol of Venice's cultural and religious heritage. Additionally, St. Mark's Basilica is known for its role as a center of worship, art, and history in Venice, attracting millions of visitors from around the world each year.

What is the significance of the mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica?

The mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica hold immense significance as they depict biblical stories, allegorical figures, and events from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saint Mark, and other saints. With their warm colors, especially gold, they look different depending on the light, making the basilica feel special. These mosaics tell us a lot about Venice's history and art, showing how the city has changed over time.

Are there any specific areas or artworks that are must-see attractions within the basilica?

Yes, several must-see attractions within St. Mark’s Basilica include:
- The Pala d'Oro: A stunning altarpiece adorned with over 1,900 pearls, hundreds of precious gems, and exquisite enamels.
- The Golden Mosaics: Adorning the vaults and cupolas, these intricate mosaics depict biblical stories, allegorical figures, and events from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Mark.
- The Treasury: Housing a collection of precious relics, liturgical objects, and artifacts, including the relics of Saint Mark.
- The Quadriga of St. Mark: Four bronze horses that once adorned the basilica's facade, now displayed inside the museum.
- The Loggia dei Cavalli: A balcony adorned with marble statues of four horses, replicas of the original Quadriga of St. Mark.
- The Tetrarchs: A group of four ancient sculptures representing the Roman emperors, located in the narthex.
- The Byzantine Altar Screen: A magnificent marble screen separating the presbytery from the nave, adorned with intricate carvings and mosaics.

What are some fun facts about St Mark's Basilica?

Here are some fun facts about St. Mark's Basilica:
1. St. Mark's Basilica is nicknamed the "Church of Gold" due to its opulent golden mosaics that adorn its interior, covering an area of over 8,000 square meters.
2. The basilica's iconic winged lion symbolizes the evangelist St. Mark and has become a symbol of Venice itself, often seen throughout the city.
3. St. Mark's Basilica has undergone several reconstructions and renovations over the centuries, reflecting a blend of architectural styles including Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance.
4. The basilica's exterior features intricate marble facades adorned with sculptures and decorative elements, showcasing the wealth and power of the Venetian Republic.
5. Inside the basilica, visitors can marvel at the Pala d'Oro, a stunning altarpiece adorned with over 1,900 precious gems, including emeralds, sapphires, and pearls.

What kind of architectural styles can one expect to see at St. Mark’s Basilica?

At St. Mark's Basilica, visitors can expect to see a fusion of architectural styles, reflecting its rich history and the influence of various cultures. The primary architectural style of the basilica is Byzantine, characterized by its domes, intricate mosaics, and use of marble and mosaic decorations. However, due to renovations and additions over the centuries, elements of Gothic and Renaissance styles can also be observed, particularly in the exterior facades and interior decorations. The basilica's architecture showcases a unique blend of influences, making it a remarkable example of cultural and artistic synthesis.

Are there any guided tours available that focus on showcasing the highlights of St. Mark’s Basilica?

Yes, there are guided tours available that specifically focus on showcasing the highlights of St. Mark’s Basilica. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provide insights into the history, architecture, and significance of the basilica's most renowned attractions.

Is St. Mark’s Basilica worth visiting?

Yes, St. Mark’s Basilica is worth visiting due to several factors including the unique and mesmerising Byzantine architecture and artwork. Besides, a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica is an absolute must if you are interested in history, architecture, and art.

What did St. Mark’s Basilica signify?

St. Mark’s Basilica was a symbol of the strength and power of Venice, particularly in the middle ages.

Is there a dress code to enter St.Mark’s Basilica?

Yes, there is a dress code visitors need to adhere to before they enter St. Mark’s Basilica. All visitors should modestly and cover their shoulders and knees.

How long should I spend at St. Mark’s Basilica?

You should spend at least an hour or two at St. Mark’s Basilica if you want to learn about its history, artwork, and architecture. Some more time if you're planning to climb the bell tower.

Who is buried in St Mark basilica?

St. Mark's Basilica is renowned for housing the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist. However, in terms of burials, the basilica does not contain any tombs or graves. Instead, it is primarily known as a site of religious veneration and pilgrimage due to the presence of Saint Mark's relics, which are housed within the basilica.

Are there any specific areas that are off-limits to visitors or require special access?

Certain parts of St. Mark’s Basilica are typically restricted to visitors, including the eerie Gothic crypt beneath the church, which serves as the final resting place for Venetian patriarchs. Access to this area is limited, but it can be explored during special tours, such as the St. Mark’s night tour. The crypt was constructed over the remains of a previous church, offering insights into the basilica's forgotten history. Also, terrace access is exclusive and requires special tours or tickets.

Can you recommend any particular order or route for visitors to follow when exploring the highlights of St. Mark’s Basilica?

It's recommended to start with the main nave, admiring the stunning mosaics and iconic artworks. Then proceed to the treasury and Pala d'Oro for a glimpse of exquisite treasures. Next, explore the crypt beneath the basilica for a deeper historical insight. Finally, ascend to the terrace for panoramic views of Venice. This route ensures a comprehensive and enjoyable experience of the basilica's highlights.