Photo of Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

Visit Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

Saint Mark's Cathedral is one of the key sights of Venice and sits on the eastern side of Saint Mark's Square. It is a magnificent building both the exterior and the interior.

Explore Saint Mark's Basilica

Italy This Way Review: Saint Mark's Basilica is breathtaking . Being located on the iconic Saint Mark's Square it would be impossible to miss seeing the exterior of the Basilica but be sure to visit inside too to marvel at the fabulous Byzantine mosaics.

Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice

Saint Mark's Basilica is the cathedral church of Venice. Its design is based on the 6th century Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. The current church is the third on the site and was begun in the 11th century.

The original design was adapted and includes Byzantine, Romanesque, Islamic and Gothic elements.

It was Doge Domenico Contarini who commisioned the current church in 1063 and it was consecrated in 1094 when the body of Saint Mark was laid in a tomb under the high altar.

Saint Mark is the patron of Venice and his body was smuggled out of Alexandria in 828 when the Arab governor threatened to destroy the sanctuary of Saint Mark in the city.

To get Saint Mark's body past customs officials the Venetians are reputed to have hidden it in a barrel of pig fat which was not opened by the Arab officials who do not touch pork.

The superb mosaics which decorate the inside of the Basilica and parts of the exterior were begun in 1071. Golden mosaics cover much of the interior and have been added to and restored over the years.

Some are examples of Byzantine Medieval Art and others have been added which copy works by Renaissance artists including Titian and Tintoretto. Bible scenes and scenes from the life of Jesus, Mary and the Saints are depicted in the mosaics.


The ceilings and cupolas represent the celestial part of the building following the tenets of Byzantine religious art in which there is an earthly zone and a celestial zone. The light of the coloured glass and gold leaf of the mosaics invokes the light of paradise.

There are more than 8000 square meters of mosaics in total decorating the Basilica.

The walls and floor form the earthly part and are decorated in marble evoking the solidity of the earth. The walls are decorated in a somber coloured marble.

The floor is a remarkable with slabs of marble laid in geometric patterns and large areas of tesselated floors where small pieces of glass and marble have been laid to form mosaics depicting flowers and animals.

Saint Mark's Cathedral also contains impressive sculptures and treasures. The high altar, the Pala d'Oro, is particularly noteworthy and is considered a masterpiece of Byzantium enamels on gilded silver.

Also noteworthy are the four magnificent gilded bronze horses on the main facade. These were brought from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and are the only team of horses remaining from classical Antiquity.

The originals are now displayed inside to protect them and those on the outside are copies.

Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice

Attractions nearby

Venice is a huge attraction in itself but other key sites include Saint Mark's Square, Saint Mark's Campanile which is the bell tower of the cathedral, the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal.

The Scala Cantarini del Bovolo is a beautiful 15th century staircase which is worth a visit if you have time after visiting the main attractions of Venice.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Venice guide and the Venice-Veneto guide.

See also: 

Photos of Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • interior1
  • interior2
  • interior3
  • interior4
  • interior5
  • interior6
  • saint-mark-basilica
  • saint-mark-basilica2
  • saint-mark-basilica3
  • saint-mark-basilica4
  • saint-mark-basilica5

Map of Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice and places to visit


Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice places to visit

The Doge's Palace, Venice

The Doge's Palace, Venice

The Doge's Palace on Saint Mark's Square in Venice is a beautiful Gothic and Renaissance building with lavishly painted rooms inside.

The Doge's Palace, Venice guide
Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice

Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice

Saint Mark's Campanile is one of the iconic buildings of Saint Mark's Square and a visit to the top offers great views over Venice.

Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice guide
The National Archaeological Museum, Venice

The National Archaeological Museum, Venice

The Venice National Archaeological Museum has an interesting collection of Roman and Greek statues and many items donated by rich Venetian families.

The National Archaeological Museum, Venice guide
Museo Correr, Venice

Museo Correr, Venice

The Museo Correr has a collection of sculptures and items related to Venice housed in the sumptuous rooms of the Napoleonic wing on Saint Mark's Square.

Museo Correr, Venice guide
Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a 15th century palace in the renaissance style and with a spiral staircase, in the San Marco district of Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice guide
The Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Rialto bridge is one of the iconic sights of Venice

The Rialto Bridge, Venice guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Venice-Veneto