The Basilica di San Marco is a striking, ornate Byzantine-style cathedral in Venice. Consecrated from 1084-1117, it lies on the Piazza San Marco and is connected to the Palazzo Ducale, as it used to serve as the Doge’s Chapel. It has been the city’s only cathedral since 1807. It is also known as the Chiesa d’Oro, or Church of Gold because of its elaborate gilding.
The early St. Marks was a small building next to the Doge’s Palace, ordered by the Doge in the year 828. The church was to hold the precious relics of St. Mark the Evangelist, though the relics were stolen by Venetian merchants. The church was finished by 832, however a rebellion in the year 976 led to the burning of the church
The present basilica was constructed from the year 1073 and was consecrated from 1084-1117, 1093 being the date most taken.
In 1094, the supposed body of St. Mark was discovered and preserved within the new church. The Pala d’Oro, brought from Constantinople, was installed on the high altar in 1105. The following year, the church and many of the mosaics were damaged in a fire.
The Basilica San Marco is a mix of Italian and Byzantine traditions. In the 13th century, the narthex and the new facade were constructed, along with most of the mosaics. The domes were also covered and redesigned to blend in with the Gothic structure of the Palazzo Ducale.
Over the centuries, the exterior has changed greatly though the dazzling gold interior has stayed much the same. Much of the ornamentation can be attributed to the fourth crusade of 1204, when the Venetians brought back spolia such as friezes, columns, capitals and sculpture, such as the “Four Tetrarchs.”
Important works of painting, sculpture, architecture
On the exterior:
-The Upper-level mosaics and lunettes in the arches that detail the life of Christ
–The Last Judgement scene over the main portal
-“The Four Bronze Horses” (1284)
-Statue of St. mark flanked by angels and the winged lion of Venice
-“The Four Tetrarchs” (1204)
In the narthex:
-The Old Testament stories depicted in the mosaics on the ceiling (13th century)
-Mosaics of the four Evangelists and saints
In the interior:
-The “Christ Pantocrator” in the main apse
-The “Miracles of Christ” scenes in the transcept
-The East Dome
In the Presbtery:
-Crucifix and statues by Pier Paolo and Jacobello dalle Masegne
-Sansovino’s bronze statues of the Evangelists
-The Pala d’Oro
In the Treasury:
-Byzantine gold icons
–Sedia di San Marco
Official website of the Basilica San Marco: http://www.basilicasanmarco.it
Huse, Norbert. The Art of Renaissance Venice, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.