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St Mark's Basilica

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The St. Mark's Basilica (Italian: Basilica di San Marco) is certainly a highlight during a stay in Venice. The so-called Golden Basilica at St. Mark's Square has an interior majestically designed with 8000 m² (86,111ft²) Gold mosaiques. Further, the altar (especially its Pala d'Oro) of the cathedral, which was designed after Byzantine model, is also a remarkable masterpiece within the church. The Campanile (bell tower) is also worth visiting and offers an excellent view of the lagoon city.
Miriam DewamBy Miriam Dewam
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Guided Tours

With a guided tour by competent staff, no questions remain unanswered.
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Skip the Line: St. Mark's Basilica Guided Tour
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Venice: St Mark's Basilica Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
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St. Mark’s Basilica: Skip The Line Entry Ticket with Terrace + Guided Tour
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Venice: St. Mark's Basilica and Gondola Morning Tour
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More Tickets & Tours

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Venice Doge's Palace & St Mark's Basilica Skip-the-Line Tour
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Venice: Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica Tour
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Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace & Doge’s Palace
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Venice: Highlights Tour, St. Mark's Basilica & Doge's Palace
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6 tips for visiting the St Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Square from a bird's-eye view | Unsplash: Joshua Kettle - CC BY 2.0
1
Skip the queueThroughout the year, especially during the peak season, the queues in front of the basilica are particularly long. Although entry is free, Skip-the-line tickets can be purchased, which saves you the trouble of standing in line.
The entrance to the Basilica di San Marco | Unsplash: Jordan Ringo - CC BY 2.0
2
Avoid the rush of visitorsSince Venice is not only accessible by land, many ships dock early in the morning. To avoid the long queue, you should plan your visit for the late afternoon.
3
Book a tourThe gorgeously decorated cathedral is a magnet for visitors. With a booked tour, you not only learn valuable information about St. Mark's Cathedral, but your admission at the fixed tour time is without queuing guaranteed. Most tours take place between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. There are also special tours that take place after the official closure of the cathedral.
4
Dress appropriatelyAs in any church, you should also pay attention to the appropriate clothing when visiting St. Mark's Cathedral. It is best to wear tops that cover the shoulders, as well as knee-length trousers or skirts.
The richly decorated ceiling of St. Mark's Basilica | Flickr: Gary Campbell-Hall - CC BY 2.0
5
Attend a MassMasses in St. Mark's Basilica leave an unforgettable experience; these take place from Monday to Saturday at 8:30 AM, 10:00 AM, and at 6:45 PM, and on Sundays and on Christian holidays at 8:30 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and at 6:45 PM. The Sunday mass at 10:00 AM is a particular highlight as it is accompanied by the choir Cappella Marciana. Please note that visits during the mass should be quiet and respectful.
The freestanding Markusturm | Unsplash: Daniel Seßler - CC BY 2.0
6
Visit the St. Mark's CampanileBetween the Doge's Palace and the basilica is the freestanding bell tower (“Campanile”). From the top of the St. Mark's Campanile, you can see the domes of St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, and of course St. Mark's Square. The lagoon and other islands are also beautifully visible from here. Visiting the basilica and the bell tower can be easily combined in one afternoon.
The lavishly decorated arches of St. Mark's Cathedral | Photo: Unsplash, Marika Sartori - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The golden Basilica

With its rich decoration of gold mosaics that adorn and illuminate the cathedral's ceilings, St. Mark's Cathedral rightly earns the designation of the Golden Basilica. In the cathedral, Western motifs merge with elements of Oriental, Byzantine, and Arabian architecture.

The Construction

The first St. Mark's Basilica was built between 829 and 832 to house the remains of St. Mark. When a fire was set in the neighboring Doge's Palace during revolts in 976, the church and 200 other houses burned down. The basilica, as it can be seen in its current form, was built between 1063 and 1094 by Doge Domenico Contarini. In the 13th century, architectural changes followed that affected the dome, the porch, and the facade. From the 14th to the 17th century, gothic elements were added.

Saint Mark

According to legends, an angel predicted to St. Mark, while he was still alive, that he would be buried in Venice. When St. Mark was appointed the patron saint of Venice, Venetian merchants brought his bones from Cairo to Venice to bury him in the cathedral erected in his honor. Miraculously, the patron's remains were said to have been rediscovered on June 24, 1094, after the firebrand; this day thereafter was considered a holiday.
The magnificent mosaics at the entrance to the basilica | Photo: Flickr, Carlo Raso - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Valuable Materials

The unique mosaics of St. Mark's Basilica extend over an area of 8000 m² and depict stories from the Bible (Old and New Testament), allegorical figures, events from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Mark, and other saints. Only through the interplay of columns, reliefs, goldsmithing, and sculptures does an unimaginable masterpiece emerge. Besides gold, only valuable stone materials, such as the purplish-red Pavonazzetto marble and rocks with porphyritic structure (red porphyry) from Constantinople, were used for the construction of the basilica.
The replicas of the horses of San Marco | Photo: Flickr, Alejandro - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Loggia

Until 1977, from the loggia of the basilica you could see the bronze horses of San Marco, which were brought back from Constantinople in 1204 during a crusade. After restoration, they were replaced by copies, the originals are now located in the Museum of San Marco. From the loggia, you also get a good view of St. Mark's Square.
The golden altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro | Photo: Flickr, Gary Bembridge - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Pala d'Oro

The 3.45m (11.32 ft) and long and 1.4m (4.59ft) high gold altar is the most famous and valuable treasure of St. Mark's Cathedral, made by goldsmiths from Venice and Constantinople between 1102 and 1345. It is adorned with 1,300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts as well as topazes and rubies. The artwork also depicts the life of Christ and the story of the evangelist Mark aside. For security reasons, it is now placed behind a protective glass. You can visit the altar for a small additional charge.
An exhibit from the treasury of St. Mark's Basilica | Photo: Flickr, flufzilla22 - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Treasury

In the Treasury there are countless treasures from antiquity and the Middle Ages, as well as Byzantine works, Islamic artworks and objects from the Western world. The treasury is located next to the main altar.

The Museum

The Museo di San Marco, which opened in 1869, displays a variety of artworks. The most famous works include the original Quadriga (four-horse chariot) in bronze from St. Mark's Basilica. There are also intricately knotted carpets, Byzantine sculptures, illuminated manuscripts and mosaics. The museum is located on the upper floor of the basilica.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is St. Mark's Basilica accessible for people with disabilities?

The barrier-free entrance is located at the side entrance Porta dei Fiori, which is equipped with a ramp; this also provides access to the treasury. The museum is located on the upper floor and can be reached by elevator or stairlift. Read more.

May bags and backpacks be carried during the visit?

For security reasons, bags and backpacks are forbidden in St. Mark's Basilica. The luggage storage facility is located in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, which is just a few meters away from the basilica. Read more.

Are you allowed to take photos and videos of the cathedral?

For personal purposes, videos and photos without flash and tripod are allowed. Read more.

General information

opening hours

St. Mark's Cathedral is open all year round from 9:30 AM until 5:15 PM. On Sunday and Solemnities ‘of precept’ it opens from 2 PM. Please note that during Mass and services, restrictions may apply and last admission is at 4:45 PM.

address

St. Mark's Cathedral
Piazza San Marco, 328
30100 Venice
Italy

tickets

Admission tickets, which allow priority access, can be purchased onsite for a price of €3 per person. Admission to visit the Pala d’Oro altarpiece costs €5. Admission to the Museo di San Marco costs €7 and to the treasury €3.00 onsite. Children up to 6 years old have free access.

how to get there

St. Mark's Square is accessible by the Vaporetto lines 1, 5.1 and 2 from the Piazzale Roma or Santa Lucia stations. The nearest Vaporetto stops are S. Marco-Vallaresso (line 1 or 2), S. Marco-San Zaccaria (lines 1, 2 or 7) and S. Marco-Giardinetti (lines 5.1 or 4.1).
Miriam Dewam
Written byMiriam DewamMiriam is keen on traveling and has a passion for photography, which she can enhance through her cross-media studies. She uses her knowledge as well as first hand experience from diverse travels to help other travellers as a content creator at TicketLens.
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