St Mark’s Basilica
As one of the most popular landmarks in the city, the Basilica of St Mark, Venice, Italy is a sight to behold. This Roman Catholic cathedral takes the crown as the most famous church in all of Venice. Known for its Byzantine architecture, Gothic ornamental roofline and gold mosaic flooring, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring this historic treasure. Discover its ancient legends and mysteries with a guided tour or make your own way around to explore the church at your own pace.
How to reach the Basilica
Located in St Mark’s Square, finding your way to the Basilica is a piece of cake. All the public transport systems will take you there so all you have to do is ask. If you’re taking a water bus from the train station, get on either line 1, line 51 or line 2. You can hop onto any of these water buses from Piazzale Roma too, but if you’re in the mood for a peaceful stroll, you can walk to the Basilica of St Mark in about 40 minutes from Piazzale Roma and 30 minutes from Santa Lucia. Entry to the Basilica is free. If you travel between mid-September and October, you can sign-up for a free guided tour of the entire cathedral.
A backstory about the Basilica
The original Basilica was built in 828 AD within the Doge’s Palace complex. However, a fire burned the church down in 976 AD in the middle of an uprising. After that, the church was rebuilt on two separate occasions with the most recent rebuild occurring in 1063. Its original purpose was to keep St. Mark the Evangelist’s relics safe from thieves. Its grand structure and beautiful Byzantine architecture have made the cathedral a symbol of Venice’s power and wealth.
Outside, you’ll see lots of large domes on the roof of the cathedral. Marble columns and massive bronze doors with religious mosaics on top offer some great photographic opportunities. When you’re visiting the cathedral, take some time to really look at the mosaics as each one tells a story. If you go for a guided tour of the Basilica of St Mark your guide will be able to recount the stories in great detail for you.
Exploring inside the Basilica
Walking into St Marks Basilica for the first time is an unforgettable experience. The interior itself boasts wealth and riches. The marble floors portray animal designs throughout while golden mosaics creep up the walls and cover the high ceilings. Like the mosaics on the outside of the cathedral, those within also tell stories of religious figures and their lives. If you were to take the mosaic and lay it out flat, there would be enough to cover 1.5 American football fields. Creating the mosaics took 8 centuries, which is no surprise when you see the sheer amount of detail that went into their creation.
The high altar is a panel of gold and home to the ‘Tesoro’, which stores important and cherished relics belonging to the church. You’re welcome to wander through the church for free, however, seeing certain rooms and elements will require a small fee. To enter the Cupola of the Prophets will cost you around €2 and it’s more than worth the price. Inside, you’ll discover the sarcophagus that contains the remains of St Mark’s body. As you can expect, this is one of the cathedrals main attractions, so there’s a good chance you may have to wait for your turn to enter. You can also get up close to the Pala d’Oro, the gold altarpiece that’s studded with precious gems and stones such as pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topazes, garnets and amethysts.
The museum and bell tower
It’s easy to visit the Basilica of St Mark in Venice and completely miss out on the Tesoro. Inside, you’ll find holy bones and other important religious relics. If you head upstairs, you can wander through the museum, where you’ll find lots of extra treasures, sculptures and artefacts. While you’re visiting, make sure to climb to the top of St Mark’s bell tower. The original bell tower collapsed and was rebuilt in 1903. Now, it’s much safer and you can head up to the top of it to catch mesmerising views of Venice. The tower stands at 323 ft high, making it one of the tallest monuments in the city. There are five bells inside it and each one has a different purpose and rings at different times.