St. Mark's Basilica San Marco Venice

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Captured this while at St.Mark’s Basilica in Venice was a beautiful church


History
In 828, Venetian merchants stole the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from their original resting place in Alexandria, Egypt. It is said the Venetians hid the relics in a barrel under layers of pork to get them past Muslim guards. The adventure is depicted in the 13th-century mosaic above the door farthest left of the front entrance of the Basilica.

The relics were initially housed in a temporary chapel within the Doge’s Palace, but a more substantial church was built to shelter the valuable relics in 829-32. This burned in a rebellion against Doge Pietro Candiano IV in 976, but was restored by Doge Domenico Contarini (d. 1070). The present basilica, which incorporates the earlier buildings, was completed around 1071.

While the basic structure of the building has changed very little over the last millennium, its decoration was regularly modified after its completion. The succeeding centuries, especially the 14th, all contributed to its adornment, and Venetian vessels from the Orient brought a virtually continous supply of columns, capitals, or friezes from ancient buildings to adorn the basilica.

The exterior brickwork was gradually covered with various marbles and carvings, some much older than the building itself. A new frontage was constructed and the domes were covered with higher wooden domes in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge’s Palace.

The Basilica di San Marco was the chapel of the Doges for most of its history, but in 1807, it became the cathedral of Venice.

What to See
St. Mark’s Basilica is modeled after Constantine the Great’s Church of the Holy Apostles (no longer standing) and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It has a floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross, with a dome over the crossing and another dome on each of the four arms. Each arm has a central aisle and two side aisles. A narthex wrapped around the west end disguises the cross shape but creates a wide, flat surface for the grand facade.

Exterior
Decorated with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art, the west facade is composed of two orders of five recessed arches, supported by clusters of columns whose capitals were carved in the 12th and 13th centuries. The delicate pinnacles and other decorations at the top of the facade are Gothic additions of the 14th and 15th centuries.

There are many fascinating details to enjoy on the exterior, thanks to its incorporation of a wide variety of artworks from antiquity to the Middle Ages. A particular highlight among these include the oldest exterior mosaic (1260-70), located over the northernmost (left) door on the west facade. Its subject is The Translation of the Body of St. Mark and it includes the oldest known depiction of San Marco Basilica.

Also not to be missed is the south side (closest to the Doge’s Palace), where one can admire two free-standing columns finely carved in the Byzantine style. They are probably from 5th- or 6th-century Syria. Nearby, on the exterior corner of the Treasury, are Egyptian porphyry sculptures known as the “Tetrarchs.” Dating from the 4th century, the embracing royal figures are believed to represent Diocletian and his three co-rulers.

Artwork Comments

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