Everything you need to know about St. Mark’s Basilica

Everything you need to know about St. Mark’s Basilica

When you visit Venice, you can’t miss St. Mark’s Basilica. It dominates the city’s main square, and its unique beauty will literally stop you in your tracks.

Here’s everything you need to know about St Mark’s Basilica – from how it came to be, to advice on how to make the most of your visit.

There’s been a church on this site for hundreds of years.

The first Basilica stood on this spot in the 9th Century. The current structure dates from the 11th Century. Obviously, it’s the city’s most famous church, and it was once the chapel of the Doge, and as you would expect its design is very much a status symbol of Venice’s wealth and power at the time.

St Mark’s Basilica brings the beauty of the east to the west.

It is built in a Byzantine style, which is one of the reasons it’s so recognizable and so striking. Its design was influenced by eastern styles of the time, and that’s because Venice was a major trading port - dominating shipping routes to the east – bringing goods as well as artistic influences back.

Stunning Saint Mark’s Basilica dominates the square, and Venice. Venice is full of beauty but this is one of my favorite sights in the city.

Why it is called ‘Basilica’.

The term ‘Basilica’ denotes a church that houses remains of a saint. In this case of Saint Mark’s Basilica/ San Marco Basilica, the remains of Saint Mark are said to rest here. What’s fascinating is that they were stolen and smuggled out of Egypt in the 9th Century. Why? Saint Mark was the patron saint of Venice; so presumably, the thieves felt that this was his rightful resting place. However, we can also presume they thought having his remains in the city would also increase Venice’s importance on the world stage.

The role of thieves.

Not only did the thieves steal St. Mark’s remains, they also stole the columns that you can see at the front of the Basilica. They were brought back to Venice by sailors and warriors, and were later used in the construction of the new Basilica.

These are the columns that were stolen during the Crusades. During this period the decoration of the church changed as it became adorned with treasures - some of which were plundered from other lands.

The Mosaics.

There are more than 8,000 square meters of mosaics inside St. Mark’s Basilica. They were created over 800 years and they are simply stunning. You’ll also see one depicting the journey that brought St. Mark’s remains back to Venice – it wasn’t without drama!


The stunning interior of Saint Mark’s Basilica. This is the reason it’s also known as the Chiesa D’Oro – church of gold.

The treasures.

As well as the beautiful mosaics, the Basilica is home to a number of treasures - many of which were brought home from the Crusades, in particular, stolen from Constantinople / Istanbul. This includes the four bronze horses you can see, parts of the golden altar, chalices and crosses. So much for ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ commandment!

The Basilica is one of the most popular sights in Venice, so here’s a few additional top tips to help you make the most of your visit:

Book a tour and skip the line

The lines here are huge, day in, and day out. So, the best solution is to book a tour in advance. Make sure you purchase them as part of a tour of the Basilica from a reputable tour guide – you’ll get in quicker, and you will skip the line, but you’ll also see and hear much more of the story of the Basilica from a professional guide. There’s much to know!

Dress appropriately

As with all churches in Italy, you need to make sure your shoulders are covered as well as your legs – especially your knees and up.

Time your visit to see the mosaics lit up.

The lights inside will go on at various times of the day – sometimes it’s hard to predict exactly when, but if you have time on your side, try to see some of the mosaics under the lights as they will look even more exquisite when the light reflects off them.

No backpacks

Bags can be searched on the way in to the Basilica, and if you are carrying a large backpack or other bag, you’ll be asked to leave that with the security team before you go in.

Explore St Mark’s Basilica with Venice Events.

Venice Events is the Italian sightseeing expert – offering tours of many of Italy’s beautiful towns, cities and attractions – including Venice’s most famous church – Saint Mark’s Basilica. Visit our website at veniceevents.com for full details, our professional guides would love to show you around our city and most famous church.

Check out our Facebook, TripAdvisor and Instagram pages for more information and inspiration for your trip to Italy.

Happy travels, from the team at Venice Events.