Venice – San Marco – St. Mark's Basilica

Venice – San Marco – St. Mark's Basilica

St.. Mark's Cathedral is the most exotic cathedral in Europe, to which no stranger can remain indifferent. To Herbert Spencer it found it repulsive as “an outstanding example of barbaric architecture”, but John Ruskin considered it "an island of treasures."… delightful with its heterogeneity”. Whatever the impression, it has on those who come in, the basilica is undoubtedly all the more heterogeneous, the more details you notice. A certain knowledge of the history of the building helps to introduce some order into this apparent chaos.


According to the legend of the Annunciation of St.. Brand, when the boat of the Evangelist bound for Rome was anchored in the lagoon, an angel appeared to him and told him, that his body would be buried here (words of angelic greeting, Peace to you, Marce emngelista mine, are engraved on the book, always held by the lion of St.. Brand). One of the first inhabitants of Venice, having believed in the holy destiny of his city, obediently fulfilled the prophecy of the angel and in the year 828 the body of St.. Mark was brought to the city.

Modeled on the church of St.. Apostles in Constantinople, the Sanctuary of St.. The brand was consecrated in the year 832, but already in a year 976 consumed them, together with the Palazzo Ducale, a fire started during the uprising against the Doge. The current basilica was originally completed in the year 1094, but in the course of the following centuries it was beautified many times. And it is this combination of the original design and subsequent decorations that is primarily responsible for the impression, the basilica exerts on the visitors. Obecność zrabowanych gdzie indziej elementów dekoracyjnych, which are often older than the building itself and sometimes have nothing to do with the church, further complicating the situation. All trophies placed in the church by consecutive doges (and you have to remember, that this church was not a Venetian cathedral then, but a private doge chapel) they were to testify to the earthly power of Venice, and therefore about the spiritual driving force of St.. Brand. For the authority of an evangelist was used to sanctify political actions and state customs: the power of the Doge was officially vested in him in the church, and military commanders also took up their functions at the altar.

CAUTION: Even so, the Basilica of San Marco has often been open since 6.30, visits are allowed only during the following hours: pn.-sh. 9.30-17.30. nd. and i. 14.00-17.30. Regardless of the season, some parts of the basilica are always closed for renovation. Recently, the Baptistery and Capeila Zen are being renovated.


Among the external elements clearly visible from the square, the Romanesque decorations on the central door deserve the greatest attention, especially the figures of the Months and Seasons on the central arch and the series of Venetian Craftsmen on the outer arch. Work on the door decoration began approx. year 1225, and finished at the beginning. XIV century. It is also worth taking a look at the mosaic above the door on the left, która przedstawia Przybycie ciała św. Mark to Venice. It is the only original mosaic, which is preserved on the facade (comes from c. 1260) and contains the oldest known image of the basilica.

The square leads to the vestibule decorated with the oldest mosaics in San Marco (the so-called. narthex). The Old Testament scenes under the domes and arches, as well as the walkways in front of the main door in the niches, come from the 1860s.

A steep staircase leads from the main door of the church to the Museo Marciano and Loggia dei Cavalli (2000L). Besides the view of the whole square, from which it's hard to take your eye off, from the Loggia you can admire the gothic decorations on the top of the façade up close. The horses outside are replicas, whose originals were placed in a room inside the museum, officially to protect them from the damaging effects of dirty air, and according to cynics, for advertising purposes sponsoring the entire project by Olivetti. The 4th and 3rd century BC Greek sculptures stolen from the Hippodrome of Constantinople. (the only such group of sculptures, which has survived to our times) They are gilded and made of almost bronze 100% copper content.


The interior design of San Marco is unmatched among cathedrals around the world. The undulating floor is made of marble adorned with geometric shapes (XII century), the lower parts of the walls are decorated with stone plates brought from the east, and every scrap of the wall and ceiling is filled with mosaics (in total 4000 m2). There is such wealth here, that one visit to the cathedral is not enough, to embrace the whole. Because the light shifting through the day reveals some parts of the decoration and covers others, it's best to come to the cathedral for a few days for half an hour in the morning and afternoon.

Most of the mosaics were already in place in the middle of the. XIII century, some date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and others were made in the 16th century to replace the damaged earlier fragments. A comprehensive guide would fill thick volumes, but here it is enough to list the most effective of them: Christ, Mother of God and St.. Marek (XIII w.) on the west wall above the door, Pentecost (early. XII w.) under the west dome, Crucifixion and Resurrection (the latter is a copy from the 15th century.) on the arch between the west and central dome, Ascension under the central dome, Prophets preaching the teaching of Christ under the eastern dome, The four patron saints of Venice between the windows of the apse, Works by i. John the Evangelist under the dome of the northern part of the transept, Life of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus on the arch at the western dome of the northern transept (continuation on the top of the adjacent wall), Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the wall of the southern aisle, and The rediscovery of the body of St.. Brand. This last scene tells a story, as it is during the reconstruction of the basilica in the year 1063 body of St.. The brand has been hidden, and then, 30 years later, in year 1094, miraculously found, when it came out of the column by itself, in which they were previously secretly buried.

From the southern part of the transept you can enter the Sanctuary (1000L) behind the altar, where the most precious treasure of San Marco is located, Pala d’Oro. Made in a year 976 in Constantinople, the altar was enlarged and enriched by Byzantine goldsmiths in 1105, and then by the Venetians in the year 1209 (some of the valuable loot captured during the Fourth Crusade is located here) i 1345. The entire altar plate contains 83 enameled tiles, 73 enameled discs, 38 carved figurines, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, 400 grenades, 15 rubies, 1300 pearls and approx. two hundred other gemstones.

In the corner of the south transept there is a door to the vault (2000L). It is a stunning collection of goblets, reliquaries, candelabra and other items,; most of which come from sacked in the year 1204 Constantinople.

From the south aisle you enter the baptistery, which owes its present form to the 14th-century doge of Andrea Dandolo, whose grave, placed in front of the door, was recognized by Ruskin as the most beautiful tombstone monument in the city. Dandolo also commissioned mosaics depicting Scenes from the life of Christ and John the Baptist, in which the hieratic character of Byzantine art and the gothic richness of detail merge into one.

The adjoining Cappella Zen was built between 1504-1521. The tomb of Cardinal Giambattista Zen is located in the entrance to the Piazzetta, which is connected to the vestibule, whose estates were transferred to the city provided, that the cardinal would be buried in San Marco. On the vault there are mosaics with Scenes from life and in. Brand, which come from the end of the thirteenth century. The chapel is sometimes called the Shoe Madonna Chapel, which comes from the painting Madonna and Child by Antonio Lombardo placed on the main altar (1506).

There is still a lot to see in the lower parts of the main nave of the church. They are beautiful carved on the reading room in the year 1394 by the sculptors who dominated Venice at the time, Jacobello and Paolo Dalie Masegne's Floor, marble figures of the Madonna, st. Mark and the Apostles. The pulpit standing on both sides of the reading room were assembled at the beginning of the 20th century. 14th century from separate plates, several of which are from Constantinople (the new doge was presented to the people from the right pulpit). In the chapel in the eastern part of the northern transept is the 10th century icon of the Madonna of Nicopeia, most venerated among Venetian icons, still venerated in Constantinople.

In the neighboring Cappella della Madonna dei Mascoli, you can admire one of the first Renaissance works in Venice, a series of beautiful mosaics from the middle of the. XV century under the title Scenes from the life of the Virgin. On the north side of the nave, there is a canopy made of rare marble species, which was erected to commemorate the painting The Crucifix, currently placed on the altar. The painting was brought to Venice in a year 1205, a year 1290, when, after trying to destroy it, it began to drip blood, he is highly venerated by the faithful.

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