Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, also known as the Basilica di San Marco, is a stunning architectural masterpiece located in the heart of Venice, Italy.

Not only is it the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, but it is also one of the most famous and visited landmarks in the city.

The basilica is so beautiful and its building is adorned with intricate mosaics, marble flooring, and gold leaf detailing, making it a true feast for the eyes. It is home to a stunning array of art and treasures, including the famous Pala d'Oro, and the Mosaics, which cover the entire ceiling of the central nave.

Throughout its long and storied history, the basilica has been a symbol of the wealth and power of the city of Venice, and it continues to be a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

In this article, we will explore the history and beauty of St. Mark's Basilica, and we will provide information on how to visit it and what to see while you are there.

Why should you visit Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice?

saint mark's basilica in venice

There are several reasons why you should visit Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice (Basilica di San Marco in italian). Here are a few:

  1. It is a stunning architectural masterpiece: The basilica is a beautiful and impressive building that is a true masterpiece of art and design.
  2. It is a historic landmark: The basilica has a long and storied history that dates back to the 9th century. It has survived wars, fires, and natural disasters, and it remains one of the most visited and beloved landmarks in the city.
  3. The basilica is home to a beautiful collection of art and treasures, including the famous Pala d'Oro and the Golden Basilica Mosaic, which covers the entire ceiling of the central nave.
  4. It offers breathtaking views: The basilica has several terraces that provide stunning views of Venice and the surrounding area.
  5. It is a symbol of the wealth and power of Venice: Throughout its history, the basilica has been a symbol of the wealth and power of the city of Venice. It is a testament to the city's rich cultural and artistic heritage.

Now that we have introduced the reasons why you should come here, we can start our tour of this important religious temple.

The History of the Basilica di San Marco

basilica of saint mark in venice

The origins of the basilica can be traced back to the year 828, when Venetian merchants stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria and brought it back to Venice.

The very sacred relics of the saint were originally housed in a small chapel on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, but as the city of Venice grew in wealth and power, it was decided that a more grand and fitting tomb was needed for the patron saint of the city.

In the late 9th century, the Doge of Venice, Giovanni Partecipazio, commissioned the construction of a new basilica to house the remains of St. Mark. The original basilica, known as the Basilica Aurea, was completed in the year 832 and was located in the area now known as the Piazza San Marco. The Basilica Aurea was a grand and impressive building, with a central nave, four side chapels, and a large apse.

Over the centuries, the basilica has undergone several renovations and expansions. In the 11th century, the Basilica Aurea was destroyed by a fire, and the current basilica was built in its place. The new basilica, designed to be the grandest church in Venice, was completed in the year 1094 and was named the Basilica di San Marco.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the basilica was expanded and renovated to include the distinctive Byzantine-style domes that are now one of its most iconic features. The basilica was also adorned with additional artwork and treasures, including several chapels, altars, and the famous Pala d'Oro, a gold altarpiece encrusted with precious stones and enamels.

Today, it continues to be a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Venice.

The exteriors of the Basilica

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Located in the central district of the city, next to the Doge's Palace, the basilica stands in front of Saint Mark's square.

The main facade is adorned with columns and statues, and it is topped with five domes of varying sizes. The central dome is the largest and is adorned with a golden mosaic that depicts the ascension of Christ. The other four domes are smaller and are adorned with intricate mosaic patterns.

The main entrance to the basilica is located at the center of the main facade, and it is framed by two pairs of Corinthian columns. The doors of the entrance are adorned with bronze bas-reliefs that depict scenes from the life of St. Mark.

Above the doors, there is a large rose window that is decorated with intricate mosaic patterns.

The main doors of the Basilica

In addition to the main entrance, the Basilica of Saint Mark also has several other doors that are adorned with beautiful artwork and details.

The southern door, known as the Porta dei Fiori (Flower's Door), is adorned with a bronze bas-relief that depicts a scene from the life of Christ. The northern door, known as the Porta della Carta (Paper's Door), is adorned with a bronze bas-relief that depicts the coronation of the Virgin Mary.

The exteriors of the basilica are also adorned with several statues and sculptures, including the four bronze horses that are located above the main entrance.

The horses were originally brought to Venice in the 12th century and were placed on the facade of the basilica in the 14th century. They are now one of the most iconic and beloved symbols of the basilica.

What to visit inside the Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice

what to visit inside the saint mark's basilica of venice italy
Details of the famous Pala d'Oro

Here are some of the highlights of what you can visit inside St. Mark's Basilica:

The Golden heart of the church

The Pala d'Oro is a golden altarpiece that is located behind the main altar of the basilica. It is encrusted with precious stones and enamels, and it is one of the most beautiful and impressive pieces of art in the basilica.

The Mosaics

The basilica is home to a stunning array of mosaic art, including the famous Golden Basilica Mosaic, which covers the entire ceiling of the central nave. The mosaics depict scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints, and they are made of millions of tiny pieces of glass and gold that are arranged in intricate patterns.

The Treasury

The Treasury is a small museum located within the basilica that is home to a collection of precious objects and artifacts, including gold and silver objects, vestments, and illuminated manuscripts.

The St. Mark's Museum

The St. Mark's Museum is located in the nearby monastery of the basilica and is home to a collection of art and artifacts from the basilica's history.

The Cloisters

The basilica is home to several cloisters, which are covered walkways that are surrounded by gardens and decorated with beautiful artwork and sculptures.

The Terraces

If you purchase a VIP ticket, you can access the basilica's terraces, which provide breathtaking views of Venice and the surrounding area.

Tickets to the Basilica

basilica of san marco venice italy tickets

To visit St. Mark's Basilica, you will need to purchase a ticket. The tickets are available online.

The tickets to simply access the Basilica (not including the Pala d'oro) costs 6 euros per person. If you want to include the visit to the Pala d'Oro (and you definitely should) the ticket costs 12 euros per person.

In case you wish to also access the museum and the terrace you have to purchase the ticket that costs 20 euros per person (it is the VIP TICKET).

You can book your ticket at the following website:

Opening hours of the Basilica

Visiting hours depend on the liturgical calendar or on adverse weather conditions.

Usually the Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice follows two different schedules, according to the season.

  • Winter period from November to March, from 09.30 AM to 07.15 PM (last access at 06.45 PM).
  • Summer period from March to November, from 09.30 AM to 09.15 PM (last access at 08.25 PM).

The basilica is also closed on certain holidays, so it is best to check the schedule before planning your visit.

To verify whether it is open or not, please refer to the following website:

Our tips

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Here are a few tips for visiting the Basilica of San Marco, also known as St. Mark's Basilica, in Venice:

  1. Buy tickets in advance: To avoid long lines at the ticket office, it is recommended to purchase your tickets in advance, either online or at a local ticket kiosk. This will allow you to go straight to the entrance and start your visit without any delays.
  2. Wear appropriate clothing: The basilica has a strict dress code, and visitors are required to dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered. No shorts or miniskirts are allowed, and it is recommended to remove hats and caps before entering the basilica.
  3. Visit at off-peak times: To avoid the crowds, try to visit the basilica during off-peak times, such as early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  4. Take a guided tour: If you want to learn more about the history and art of the basilica, consider taking a guided tour. The tours are available in several languages and provide a more in-depth look at the basilica's history and art.
  5. Respect the basilica's rules and regulations: It is important to remember that the basilica is a place of worship, and it is important to respect the rules and regulations of the basilica, including no photography, no smoking, and no eating or drinking.

Following these tips will help ensure that your visit to the Basilica of San Marco is a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Overall, visiting St. Mark's Basilica is a must-do for anyone visiting Venice. It is a beautiful and historic landmark that offers a glimpse into the city's rich cultural and artistic heritage.

Whether you are a history buff or simply appreciate stunning architecture and art, the basilica is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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