San Marco Evangelista Basilica Rome

San Marco Evangelista Church Rome

The Basilica of Saint Mark (Basilica di San Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio) is incorporated in the Palazzo Venezia and is located in the Campitelli district. It is the church of the Venetians in Rome. It is one of the city’s oldest churches.

San Marco Evangelista Basilica Rome

Address, Opening Hours and Admission

The address of the Basilica di San Marco al Campidoglio is Piazza di San Marco, 48 – Rome. Opening hours: From Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 till 13.00 and from 16.00 till 18.00 (Sundays till 20.00); Mondays: From 16.00 till 19.00 hours. Admission: Free. (Scroll down for more practical information about the Basilica of Saint Mark in Rome, including directions and a map of the area.)

San Marco Basilica Rome

Memorial stone Vannozza Cattanei - San Marco Basilica Rome
Vannozza Cattanei Memorial Stone

The Church of San Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio was founded in the year 336 by Saint Mark, who was Pope at the time. The saint’s relics are buried beneath the altar of the church. It was constructed in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist.

Saint Mark‘s was restored for the first time in the 9th century by Pope Gregory IV.  The mosaics in the apse were created during this restoration.

A second restoration took place in 1455 and lasted 16 years. The then Pope, Paul II Barbo, dedicated the church and the Palazzo Venezia, nowadays the seat of the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia, to the Venetian community in Rome.

The portico and the Loggia della Benedizione characterizing the facade are thought to be the work of either Giuliano da Magliano or Leon Battista Alberti. Niccolò Sagredo, with the aid of a design by Fontana, was responsible for the present architecture of the basilica.

The architectural style of Saint Mark is late Roman Baroque.

When the nearby Complesso Vittoriano was constructed, the Palazzetto Venezia, originally to the left of the church, was moved to its right side.

Dance of the Poor

In past times, on May 1st, a celebration called the “Dance of the Poor” (ballo dei poveretti) used to take place in front of Saint Mark‘s. During this celebration hunchbacks as well as the old and crippled used to come and dance in front of the statue of Madame Lucrezia and amuse the Romans who came to watch the spectacle.

Works of art

The lion depicted on the coffered ceiling was the Pope’s emblem and also the symbol of Venice.

The very old, so-called cataro (a container where water to be used for purification rites that were in use until the year 1000 was kept) was moved from underneath the portico to the inside of the church by Sagredo. It had originally been placed in the portico by an unknown priest who had also insisted on an inscription in marble claiming that the water was a gift of God and that anybody charging money for it would have to be excommunicated.

The portico contains the funeral inscription of Vannozza Cattanei (Vanoza Cathana), who was the mistress of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the later Pope Alexander VI) and the mother of his children.

The 9th century Byzantine mosaics on the triumphal arch of the apse depict Jesus holding a book with the words “I am the Light, I am the Life, I am the Resurrection”. The figure in the top right corner of the arch is Saint Mark himself, depicted as the traditional lion.

Isaia da Pisa made the bas-relief depicting San Marco Evangelista above the main entrance.

The campanile was built between the 12th and 13th century. The Romanesque trifora’s are very beautiful and the tower is furthermore decorated with antique green plaques. (Another tower, above the sacristy, was later rebuilt to make a belvedere.)

The bones of Saint Mark himself are preserved underneath the main altar, but relics of other saints were also found in the church.

Frescoes and paintings

The apse contains two paintings by Il Borgognone, depicting the “Imprisonment and the martyrdom of Saint Mark the Evangelist”.

Pietro Da Cortona designed the Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento at the end of the right nave (1656). The two frescoes by Il Borgognone have unfortunately almost faded to the point of non-existence.

Antonio Canova made the funerary monument for Pietro Pesaro, the 16 year old son of the Ambassador of the Venetian Republic in 1796.

The central nave contains more frescoes by Il Borgognone (whose real name was Guglielmo Courtois): “The Coronation of Saint Mark as Pope” and “Abdon and Sennen Bury the Christian Martyrs”.

“Saint Atanazio Martyr” and “Saint Vincent the Levite” in the Cappella dell’Adorazione dei Magi were also painted by Il Borgognone.

The badly preserved frescoes in the first chapel on the left are the work of Carlo Maratta.

Piazza di San Marco, 48 – Rome

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