"Saint Mark's Basilica" Italy Things to Do Tip by traveldave

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Saint Mark's Basilica has been the church of the Roman Catholic Archdioses of Venice since 1807, although it originally served as as the private church of the Doge and the Great Council.

The first church in Venice dedicated to Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice, was a chapel placed in the Palace of the Doges in 828 A.D. A new church was built on the site of the present basilica in 832 A.D. along with the Campanile, or bell tower. That church was burned during a rebellion, and was rebuilt in 978 A.D. It was eventually replaced by the present basicila between 1063 and 1073. Doge Vitale Falier consecrated Saint Mark's Basilica in 1904.

Saint Mark's Basilica as it exists today is an exotic hybrid of Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles. Over the centuries, the original building was renovated and redecorated many times. In the thirteenth century, a new fašade was constructed, and the domes were covered with higher lead-covered wooden domes in order to blend with the Gothic style of the nearby Palace of the Doges. Venetian vessels returning from the Middle East usually carried columns, capitals, freizes, or some other form of loot that were incorporated into the basilica. The outer brickwork was eventually covered with marble and carvings, many of which are older than the basilica itself. Most of the interior of the basilica is covered with gilded Byzantine mosaics, giving it an Eastern flair.

One of the most notable artifacts added to the exterior of the basilica are the Horses of Saint Mark. These equine sculptures date from antiquity, and may have adorned the Arch of Trajan in Rome. They were displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople for many years. The sculptures were brought to Venice after the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The horses were removed to Paris by Napolean in 1797, and were returned to Venice in 1815.

Directions: Saint Mark's Basilica is located on the Piazza San Marco, in the heart of Venice.

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  • Updated Nov 11, 2010
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