Basilica di San Marco, Venice

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Piazza San Marco - SAN MARCO 39-041-5225205

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    Horses of St Mark

    by GentleSpirit Written Nov 12, 2012

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    The bronze horses that adorn St Marks Basilica are replicas of the originals that were brought to Venice from Constantinople in 1258.

    Far from being a gift from the grateful citizens of Constantinople, these horses were part of the loot ordered back by the Venetian Doge. Why? This was during the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). Pope Innocent had been trying to find a way to dissipate the power of Frederick the German Emperor in what amounted to the Papacy's first real interference in political affairs. This of course became a long term pattern over the years.

    The Crusaders approached the Venetians and Genoans about transporting Crusaders to the Holy Land. The Venetians agreed, at first glance making it seem like a purely commercial venture. When the Crusaders showed up with far fewer men than expected the Venetians demanded payment in full, which was not available. The long and short of it, the Venetians, having been expelled from Constantinople in 1182, would reap great commercial gain from taking ownership of the center of the Byzantine empire. Costantinople was shamefully sacked and plundered. A Latin Empire was eventually established, controlled by Venice.

    So, the horses were really part of this loot . What you see today are replicas of the originals which are inside the Basilica Museum.

    Horses of St Mark
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    Basilica San Marco

    by zadunajska8 Written Feb 9, 2012

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    St Mark's Basilica is one of the best known sights in Venice and this is probably at least partly deserved. The outside of the basilica is however more impressive than the inside. It's difficult to remain unimpressed by what may be one of the world's most impressive and beautiful medieval buildings.

    Construction of the basilica began in 832 to house the body of St Mark which had been pinched from Alexandria by the Venetians, although the current basilica is actually teh 3rd one on the site and was started in 1094. For nearly the next 1000 years it served as the private chapel of the Doge as head of state of the Venetian Republic. It only became the seat of the patriarch and Venice's cathedral when Napolean seized control in the early 19th century.

    The beautiful mosaics and romanesque carvings should be admired for some time before taking the plunge and going inside. Also before you go inside you have to leave any bags in a cloakroom which is in a street just of the square. Look for the signs to find it. You can leave your bag here for 1 hour free of charge.

    When you go inside you see that the basilica has some very attarctive mosaics, but in my opinion not as good as those outside. There is something that makes the place look much more like an Orthodox church than a normal catholic one, and when you see the treasury and realise that almost everything (including the marble of the beautiful outside) was stolen from Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul.

    The treasury and pala d'Oro had a very minimal entry charge of (I think) €3 but entry to the rest of the Basilica is free and this is fairly unique amongst Venice's expensive attractions.

    Photography is not allowed inside, but you can get some excellent pictures of the exterior.

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    Walk around and admire the architecture

    by BLewJay Written Jan 31, 2012

    While we waited for our room to be prepared, we decided to start exploring the city. So we hopped on the vaparetto and head over to Saint Mark's Cathedral (Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco). Yes you have seen this site in many movies and it's one of the things that comes to mind when you think of Italy, but being there is a totally different and wonderful experience. Yes, there were many people walking around, lots of vendors selling things and it was hot for sure, but well worth all of that.

    St Mark's Campanile (Bell Tower) Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco Bell Tower, Cattedrale & Doge's Palace
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  • suvanki's Profile Photo

    St Marks Basillica

    by suvanki Updated Nov 12, 2011

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    VAPORETTA SAN MARCO VALLARESSO OR SAN ZACCARIA
    Saint Marks Basilica sits proudly at the head of the Piazza, watching over the thousands of bodies milling through the square, both human and pigeons!

    Originally a wooden chapel, put together in a hurry in 828, as a place to protect St Marks relics, which had been stolen from Alexandria. It later burned down during the insurrection of 976. Quickly, it was rebuilt, but again was demolished in 1063 on the orders of Doge Domenico Contarini, who considered that a restyle was needed to befit its superior position. He challenged the building of the most beautiful chapel ever seen. Merchants were ordered to return with some embellishment from their travels, and each doge was responsible for donating large sums of money.

    So, the monument seen today is mainly the result of the reconstruction carried out between 1063-1094.

    The opulent marble clad Basilica understandably draws crowds from around the world to queue for the chance to have visited one of the worlds 'Must See's' and tick it off their list.

    My first visit to Venice as a day trip from Lake Como included a hurried visit - I have a vague memory of the gold altar and nothing more.

    On subsequent visits I had no desire to join the long queues to gain entrance, and less so to view while being jostled by the crowds.
    I was quite happy, especially on crisp December days to view the mosaiced frescoes and other features from the Piazza.

    However, Christmas Eve 2008, I entered San Marco at around 2300hours, after queueing for a short while and managed to squeeze into a space at the back, to witness Midnight Mass. I'm not particularly religious, but wanted to experience San Marco as a place of worship and celebration, rather than as 'a museum'
    I had been quite shocked the previous year, to witness some queueing for midnight mass, sporting Father Christmas hats and reindeer antlers - I think I'd have been less offended if they were sporting hot pants and skimpy vest tops!
    This time the fancy dress wasn't in evidence, but people were photographing with flashes during the service. I'm afraid that I took a couple of shots (without flash).

    From my vantage point, I was transfixed by the Byzantine style golden domed cupolas above with their mosaics, and was stunned at just after midnight when the lights were switched on, showing the Basilica in its full glory. As the bells chimed out, it was 'quite a moment'.

    The following year, I found myself here again. This time I stayed for the full service. When it ended there was a chance to walk around and take photos. This time, it was the mosaic flooring that had me mesmorised, with the various intricate patterns.

    I only saw a tiny amount of its treasures, but one day, I'll hopefully return to look in depth -Just as long as I don't have to queue or share the experience with hoards of people!

    Opening Hours (Tourists)
    Monday - Saturday 09.30 - 17.30 Sunday 14.00 - 16.00 (Loggia dei Cavalli is open Sunday morning.

    San Marco Basilica interior - Gold cupolas San Marco Basilica interior - Gold cupolas San Marco Basilica interior - Gold Altar San Marco Basilica interior - mosaic flooring San Marco Basilica interior - mosaic flooring
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    St Mark's Basilica

    by spidermiss Updated Jul 23, 2011

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    The basilica was built in 1063 on an eariler church's foundations and walls and played a vital role in the Venetian Empire and the city itself over a number of centuries. The design was based on the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople and other churches with Greek and Byzantium designs of that era. The church has an ancient chapel where St. Mark the Evangelist is kept. When we visited Venice we didn't go inside to look around becuase the long queues were off putting.

    You can find out further information on their website.

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    Venice's beautiful Byzantine church

    by Jefie Updated Aug 27, 2010

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    St. Mark's Basilica, or Basilica di San Marco, is Venice's most famous church. It dates back to the 9th century, when a smaller chapel was built next to the Palazzo Ducale to house the holy relics of St. Mark; at that time, the basilica served as the doges' private place of worship, a tradition that would last until the beginning of the 19th century. The current church was built for the most part during the 11th century, although additions were made until well into the 13th century. The basilica is one of the world's nicest examples of Byzantine architecture, mostly thanks to the numerous golden mosaics that can be found both on its remarkable facade and inside the church.

    Entrance to St. Mark's Basilica is free, and there's a little trick if you don't want to wait in line: drop off your backpack (you can't bring it inside anyways), purse or coat at the Ateneo San Basso, which is located on a small street next to the Piazzetta dei Leoncini (on the north side of the basilica, you'll see the sign). They will hold it for you free of charge for one hour and give you a special pass that allows you to skip the entire line! I thought 1h was sufficient to visit the basilica, especially since it can get pretty crowded and you're sort of forced to move along. It's also possible to visit St. Mark's museum (4 Euros), the treasury (3 Euros), and the high altar with its "Pala d'Oro" (2 Euros). We chose to visit St. Mark's museum, mostly because it's located on the upper level of the basilica so you get a really nice view of the richly decorated nave. The museum includes an interesting collection of religious art pieces, including the original group of bronze sculptures known as "St. Mark's Horses" that probably date back to the 4th century BC. The museum also gives access to a small outside terrace where you can enjoy great views of Piazza San Marco. Of course, no visit to the basilica would be complete without taking the time to admire its exterior - among other things, don't miss the Tetrachs sculptures that were brought back from Constantinople at the time of the Fourth Cruisade.

    Detail of the facade of St. Mark's Basilica The main doors of Basilica di San Marco A view of the basilica's nave Torre dell'Orologio seen from the basilica A view of Piazza San Marco from the terrace
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    Cupolas of San Marco.

    by breughel Written Aug 6, 2010

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    As it was impossible to get inside because of the long lines in this month of July I had a good look at the cupolas as seen from the Palazzo Ducale. There are indeed good views especially from the second floor of the eastern wing as well as from the inner courtyard "Cortillo".

    The Greek cross plan of the Basilica is topped by five cupolas which are a symbol of God's presence. Each cupola rests on four great vaults whose weight is borne by four pillars. The central cupola is that of the Ascension, the others are the Pentecost over the nave, the Prophets over the presbytery (under restoration), the St. John over the north arm (not visible on my photo) and the St. Leonard over the south arm.

    Beneath the cupolas, on the north side of the courtyard of the Doge's Palace, stands that most remarkable arch called "Androne Foscari" commissioned by this Doge. I it is a triumphal archway linked to the Porta della Carta by which visitors presently leave the Palace. The small marble facade with clock is beautiful. It is difficult to distinguish what belongs to the Basilica and what belongs to the Palazzo Ducale.
    It's certainly one of my favoured spots at San Marco.

    Cupolas of San Marco - View from the Cortillo. Cupolas of San Marco - detail.
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    Trying to visit the Basilica San Marco.

    by breughel Updated Jul 19, 2010

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    If you expect to visit the Basilica inside be patient, the queues are very long.
    My photo shows the line at 10 h in July. Temperature was 33°C "a l'umbra" and more than 40°C in the sun. We came back around 16 h - the Basilica closes at 17 h - and the line was still long.

    Fortunately we have visited the Basilica twenty years ago so that we took the vaporetto to the other side of the Grand Canal and visited in all quietness the most beautiful Santa Maria della Salute.

    The line at Basilica San Marco
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    Lining up to visit the Basilica San Marco.

    by breughel Updated Jul 19, 2010

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    If you expect to visit the Basilica inside be patient, the queues are very long.
    My photo shows the line at 10 h in July. Temperature was 33°C "a l'umbra" and more than 40°C in the sun. We came back around 16 h - the Basilica closes at 17 h - and the line was still long.

    Lining up to visit the Basilica S. Marco.
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  • aukahkay's Profile Photo

    Basilica San Marco

    by aukahkay Updated Nov 20, 2009

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    It is hard to imagine another building in Western Europe more beautifully or richly embellished with the architectural and artistic legacy of the centuries than the basilica San marco. A magnificent hybrid of a church, it served for almost a thousand years as the tomb of St Mark, the private chapel of the doges and the spiritual heart and ultimate symbol of the power, authority, and continuity of the Venetian state.

    The exterior has 3 facades, richly embellished with mosaic works of art in Byzantine style. On the main facade are copies of the famous bronze horses of St Mark.

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    Basilica di San Marco

    by MM212 Updated Nov 13, 2009

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    Venice's most magnificent edifice, la Basilica di San Marco is a fairy-tale like monument. Its unique architectural style, exhibiting undeniable Eastern influences, is a testament to the strong relationship between Venice and both the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Near East alike. The cathedral church of Venice traces its roots to the 9th century when an earlier small chapel was built to house the relics of San Marco (Saint Mark). According to legend, Venetian merchants had "rescued" (i.e., stole) his relics from Saint Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt in 828 AD, and wrapped them in pork to evade Moslem guards (the smuggling is recorded in a mosaic on the façade - see the travelogue for a photo). When his relics arrived in Venice, Saint Mark replaced Saint Theodore as the patron saint of the city and the Basilica was born. Construction of the existing structure commenced in the 11th century, but it took centuries of enrichments and expansions, tapping into the wealth of the Republic, to bring it to its current flamboyant form. Through trade, Crusader invasions and other contacts with the eastern Mediterranean, Venetian ships brought back both architectural ideas and ancient materials and treasures to embellish the Basilica. The treasures, often older than Venice itself were incorporated into the edifice. The result was this fantastic Basilica, with onion domes and mosaic decorations, reminiscent of Eastern/Byzantine churches, mixed with Venetian Gothic details, an architectural jewel unlike any cathedral in the Christian world. For more photos, please check out the travelogue Basilica di San Marco.

    Basilica di San Marco (Nov 05) The Basilica by Night (Nov 05) San Marco Facade Domes & Crosses of San Marco (Nov 05) San Marco in April 2009
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    Horses of San Marco (I&V)

    by Zvrlj Updated Sep 10, 2009

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    Horses of San Marco, odd decoration of the portal of Basilica di San Marco, are probably the oldest part of the basilica itself. Those Roman or Greek bronze statues, originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga, date from 4th or 3rd century BC and they have been attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippos.

    Most of the time of their existence horses were displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. In 1204 Doge Enrico Dandolo sent them to Venice as part of the loot sacked from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, and 50 years later, in 1254 they were installed on the terrace of the facade of the basilica. They were brought to Paris by Napoleon in 1797 where they were used in the design of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, but returned to Venice in 1815. Statues were hidden away for the duration of both world wars. Nevertheless they suffered damage from weathering over the centuries.

    After a long restoration, since the 1990s they have been displayed in San Marco Museum, inside the basilica. The horses now on the facade are bronze replicas.

    Horses of San Marco, replicas Horses of San Marco, replicas Horses of San Marco, replicas
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    Basilica di San Marco - Interior

    by MM212 Updated Sep 1, 2009

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    Neither words nor photos could prepare the first time visitor for the astonishing interior of la Basilica di San Marco. The golden mosaics that cover the walls, ceilings and domes of the Basilica in its entirety have earned it the nickname "la Chiesa d'Oro" (Church of Gold), and together with the floor mosaics, which imitate the patterns of an oriental rug, they echo strong Byzantine architectural influences. Furthermore, the interior follows a Greek cross plan with a large central dome surrounded by four domes, one for each arm of the cross. Many ancient treasures, some older than the Basilica, are on display within. First there is la Quadriga, known as the Horses of Saint Mark's, which once crowned the façade but were brought in for protection and replaced with replicas. The four bronze horses, which date from the 2nd century AD, were looted from Constantinople during its sacking by the Crusaders. Other important treasures include: la Pala d'Oro, the richly decorated 12th century golden altarpiece of Venetian and Byzantine workmanship; and il Tesoro, the Treasury, and the 10th century icon, la Madonna di Nicopeia, also looted from Constantinople. Some of these aforementioned objects are on display at the Museum of Saint Mark's (Museo Marciano), located on the upper floor of the Basilica. The museum also provides access to la Loggia dei Cavalli, a veranda on the façade that offers exceptional views over Piazza San Marco and la Piazzetta - a definite must for anyone visiting the Basilica.

    Mosaic covered ceilings (Apr 09) Mosaics on the walls (Nov 05) la Quadriga - Nov 05 The apse - Nov 05 Nov 05
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    Venice's Pretty Church

    by Donna_in_India Updated Jul 6, 2009

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    San Marco’s (St. Mark’s) church is a nice church and what was really interesting was that there weren’t any stained glass windows. The ceiling and the walls were not painted but rather decorated with pictures made of sparkly mosaics. It was really very pretty.

    After visiting the church, walk around the square, buy some bird food and feed the pigeons, stop for a cappuccino at one of the cafes and people watch.

    Women need to have shoulders covered and legs covered to the knees.

    San Marco's
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    Basilica di San Marco from the OUTside

    by grandmaR Updated May 30, 2009

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    When we got to the Piazza San Marco we headed for the Cathedral. But even early in the spring, there was a long line to get in. So we admired the Byzantine architecture (photos 2, 3, and 4), and then I decided I didn't want to see the inside THAT much, so we went up the Campanile instead.

    The name of St. Marks comes from when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from its original resting place in Alexandria, Egypt in 1828, and smuggled them past the Muslim guards under layers of pork. The basis of the current church was laid down in 1063, and finished in 1094 at which time the body of Saint Mark was supposedly rediscovered in a pillar by Vitale Falier, doge of Venice at the time. The basic structure is designed on a Greek cross floor plan but especially the fourteenth century, Venetian ships that returned from the Orient often brought capitals, or friezes, taken from some ancient building, to add. Gradually, the exterior brickwork was been covered with various marbles and carvings, some much older than the building itself. In order to blend in better, higher wooden domes were constructed and the outside was renovated when the Doge's Palace was redesigned.

    If we had stayed in line, the hours are

    Basilica, Tesoro, and Pala d'Oro: summer Mon-Sat 9:45am-5pm; Sun 2-5pm (winter hours may be shorter).
    Museo Marciano: summer daily 9:45am-5pm (winter hours may be shorter)

    Cost: Basilica, free admission; Museo Marciano (St. Mark's Museum, also called La Galleria, includes Loggia dei Cavalli), 1.50€; Tesoro (Treasury), 2€

    If you want to book your free visit at St. Mark's Basilica, please fill in the form in the site www.venetoinside.com .

    With InfracomTelebookings system you will be able to book your free access to the "Basilica of San Marco" for maximum 5 persons and up to 48 hours before your selected date.

    Basilica di San Marco from the Campanile Basilica di San Marco from the Piazza Basilica di San Marco Basilica di San Marco from the line Looking out from the bell tower
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