A little history of the Basilica of St. Mark
Originally this building was to be an extension of the Doge’s Palace, however the construction of the Basilica of St. Mark, which began in 828 and ended in 832, was made to house the body of St. Mark the Apostle brought from Alexandria to who they named protector of the city. This was a fundamental fact for Venice to be constituted as an independent episcopal seat.
The works of the present basilica began in 1063 in Byzantine style to represent the power of the prosperous Venetian Republic. This basilica was built respecting the model of two basilicas of the ancient imperial city of Byzantium with a central plant in the shape of a Greek cross, with five large domes and a particular mixture of ancient and oriental art.
Over time, the Basilica underwent several modifications, especially as regards of decoration, pointed Gothic arches, Sant'Alipio arch, 17th and 18th century sculptures and mosaics of the main façade, bas-reliefs that represent the professions and zodiac signs of the central gate, the marbles that come from the East, the porphyry figures of the Tetrarchs and the horses of St. Mark. The result is a stunning and beautiful blend of styles.
The basilica as we know it today, even though it was modify, has a Greek cross base with five domes. It became the cathedral of the city in 1807 and has more than 4,000 square meters of mosaics, many of them belonging to the 13th century, also has 500 columns of the 3rd century.
Mark the Evangelist was an early traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas, and was in all likelihood an acquaintance of Peter as well. After years of working with Paul to spread the Gospel, Mark settled in Alexandria where he became the city’s first bishop. At some later point in his life, Mark penned a sixteen chapter book on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a work which was ultimately included in the Bible as one of the pivotal four Gospels around which the New Testament was eventually formed. Sometime around 68 AD Mark was martyred by a mob led by pagan priests. His body was recovered by his fellow Christians and interred in a church in Alexandria. During the 7th century, Alexandria was overrun by the armies of Islam. While the Christians of Egypt were reasonably tolerated, they lived under constant threat of harassment and persecution. By the end of the 9th century, a showdown between the Christian west and the Islamic east was looming. Fearing for the security of their beloved relic, the body of Mark, or at least most of it, was exhumed and smuggled out of Egypt by Venetian merchants. Reportedly, the body was hidden inside a crate of pork in order to keep Muslim customs officials from investigating too carefully. It was brought back to Venice, well inside Christian territory, after which the city’s prestige as a religious center skyrocketed. A massive basilica was constructed to house the relic, and pilgrims poured into the city.
The Basilica of St. Mark is the most important religious temple in the city of Venice. It is located in the St. Mark square (Piazza San Marco), next to the Doge’s Palace, and has always been the center of the public and religious life in the city.The Basilica is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe and around the world. This basilica is the fruit of different styles, however over the years and its restructuring still preserves oriental aspects that can leave visitors astounded by their particularity and splendor. St. Mark Basilica is an intriguing combination of architectural and art styles. It is a testimony to the wealth and power of the Serene Republic of Venice as well as the reckless adventures of its inhabitants in the Mediterranean as merchants and conquerors.The Basilica of St. Mark located in the St. Mark Square (Piazza San Marco) where it is possible to visit other magnificent museums of Venice. To start, next to the basilica is the Doge’s Palace, this sumptuous building was the home of the rulers of Venice for centuries and still today is a monument to wealth and power. Here it is possible to choose between several routes but the one of the "Secret Itineraries of the Doge’s Palace" will surely surprise you. This is a tour through the political and civil history of Venice passing through the secret places of the Palace protagonist of the activities of the Serenissima. In this same square you can visit the Correr Museum, a building rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century in an elegant neoclassical style. Here is also the Marciana Library, which is open to anyone interested in reading, studying, consulting, searching or just walking through its rooms and visiting it.
St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most-visited sights in Venice, and a must-see on any traveler’s Italy itinerary! But with a history that stretches all the way back to the 9th century A.D., it’s also a church with a lot of interesting stories and legends behind it.St. Mark’s Basilica was built on this spot in the 9th century to house very sacred relics—relics that had been stolen! In 828, merchants from Venice stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the four Apostles, from Alexandria, Egypt. According to the legend, they snuck them past the (Muslim) guards by hiding them under layers of pork in barrels!While at sea, a storm almost drowned the graverobbers and their precious cargo, it’s said that St. Mark himself appeared to the captain and told him to lower the sails. The ship was saved, and the merchants said they owed their safety to the miracle.Venice was in the past a very wealthy city of merchants: what the Republic lacked in military strength or in land domination, they had in riches. The basilica’s mosaics are not just a way to please God and St. Mark or to communicate complex religious concepts, they were also a way to show the wealth of the city to the important guests, like kings or ambassadors from other coutries.The golden pieces are actually made of gold: each one has a thin gold leaf ‘sandwiched’ between two layers of clear glass. With such a display of precious material, the Venetians could show at the same time their grand devotion but also their political ‘weight’: an extremely important thing for such a small country.
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