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Venice - History of St. Marks Basilica


St. Marks Basilica was originally built in 828 and, as is common in Italy, has an interesting and eventful history. The basilica is laid out in the form of a Roman Cross and shows influences from a number of differing styles that each represent specific periods in history.  The Byzantine styled basilica was constructed to enshrine the relics of St. Mark which the Venetians had purloined from Egypt in order to improve their religious influence and expand their power in the region.



The primary entrance of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

In 976 a fire nearly destroyed the St. Mark's Basilica resulting in a closure that lasted more than a century. Many of the priceless pictures and religious artifacts that were housed in the church were lost forever. Reopened in 1094, the church was re-styled in the eclectic gothic and arabesque style that was employed during the 11th century - the Byzantine influence on the architecture is unmistakable.  The Byzantine influence can be readily observed in the characteristics of the 5 domes over the roman cross, and in the styling of the columns and arches of the facade.

The basilica boasts more than 40,000 square feet of intricate mosaic tile work on the interior. Inside can be found the Capella Zen, the Capella della Madonna di Nicopeia, and the Capella della Madonna Mascoli.  These chapels, each located off the main nave, each with a unique history, hold spectacular visual feasts.

Through the colorful history of Venice St. Mark's Basilica served as the private chapel of the Doge (ruler of the City State) until 1807 when it became the official duomo (cathedral) of the city.

For more information about the history of St. Marks basilica, check out the sources below.

The arabesque style was popular in Italy in the 11th century when the facade of St. Mark's Basilica was completed. The byzantine style is unmistakable in this photo of the facade of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy.
Credit for the Information Above: 
Steves, R. & Openshaw, G. (2008). Rick Steves' Venice 2008. Avalon Travel Press.
Farcos, D. & Pauls, M. (2007). Rome, Venice, Florence. Globe Pequat Press. Guilford, CT.
Fodor's (2007). Italy 2008 Fodor's Travel Publications. New York, NY.

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