The Golden Basilica of Venice

The Golden Basilica of Venice



The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Saint Mark's Basilica) is one of the most beautiful and recognized buildings in Venice, also known as the “Golden Church”. The cathedral is situated at the city’s central square, serving as the best-known example of Italo-Byzantine architecture.

The basilica played an important role in the life of the state: coronation ceremonies and important negotiations took place there. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge’s Palace, but since 1807, the status of the city’s cathedral was obtained. The basilica still acts as a religious body.

In the photo: since 1987, Saint Mark's Basilica has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Construction works began in 829, but the building was heavily damaged by fire in 976. A few years later, reconstruction works commenced, changing the cathedral’s exterior to a more refined one. The basilica was sanctified in 1094.

In the photo: until the XIII century, the church was a rather ascetic place, remaining consistent with the strict aesthetic canons of Romanesque style.


Architectural features

The interior of the cathedral is based on the Greek cross form, common to all Christian buildings of the medieval period. For several centuries, the cathedral underwent expansion and was rebuilt more than once. The basilica, as we know it today, was completed by the middle of the XV century.

The central facade of the building is visually divided into three registers: upper, lower and domes. There are five-arched portals in the lower register of the facade. The ceiling is decorated with golden Byzantine mosaics depicting the scenes from the Life of Christ. Beautiful bronze doors are enfolded by numerous marble columns.

Several statues of saints are on the upper tier, placed inside the small towers.

In the photo: Saint Mark's Basilica has five large domes. The height of the outer dome is 43 meters.

The premises of the cathedral have excellent acoustics. Choir practices and concerts are often held in the basilica.


The interior

The interior of Saint Mark’s Cathedral is decorated with exquisite golden mosaics made of glass and stone. Byzantine craftsmen introduced Venetians to mosaic-making art, revealing secrets of the unique technique, taught them how to combine gold with paint, enhance the reflectance of elements. Local craftsmen laid out small pieces of multicolored glass on a gold foil, so even when the lights were deemed, the cathedral almost glowed.

Magnificent mosaics can be seen under the domes of the basilica, on the arches and the upper parts of the walls. Mosaics depict biblical scenes, images of the patrons of Venice and local saints.

The very first mosaic was the image of St. Mark, dated 9th century, in whose honor the cathedral was built.

In the photo: the area of mosaic canvases covering the inner space is 4000 square meters.

A unique golden altarpiece (Pala d'Oro), created in 1105, occupies the front zone.

It is the brightest and most valuable element of the cathedral’s interior, decorated with 250 miniatures of enamel paint and inserted into the precious frame.

In the photo: the golden altar, studded with diamonds, rubies and pearls, is considered the most luxurious in the world.

The marble floor of the basilica is covered with intricate mosaics, geometric patterns and images of animals, producing a shimmering effect due to gold specks.


Museum of valuable objects

There is a treasury inside the cathedral, containing valuable art objects brought by crusaders from Constantinople trips.

Ancient Flemish tapestries, Egyptian relics made of rock crystal, Byzantine marble armchairs along with precious gifts from the Bishop of Rome are exhibited in the museum.

Saint Mark's Cathedral is a masterpiece of architecture, the national treasure of Venice that symbolizes the city. Every year, millions of tourists from all over the world come to Venice to see the magnificent building, the amazing Golden Basilica.

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