St. Mark’s Cathedral is located in the Piazza San Marco in Venice and is an excellent example of Byzantine architecture. It is located next to the Palazzo Ducale and started its existence as a chapel of the Venetian rulers. Nowadays (since 1807) it is the seat of the Archbishop of Venice. St. Mark’s is nicknamed the Golden Church because of its opulent design, which also made it the symbol of Venetian power and wealth.
San Marco Cathedral Venice
Address, opening hours and admission
(Note that during the Covid-crisis times may differ from the ones indicated below.)
Address: Piazza San Marco – Venice (District: San Marco). Phone: +39 0412708311. Opening hours: November-Pasil: 09.45 to 17.00; Sundays and holidays: 14.00 to 16.00. Easter-October: 09.45 to 17.00; Sundays and holidays: 14.00 to 17.00. Closed: Never. Entrance fee: Free. Public transportation: Water-bus: 1, 2, 52.
Not all parts of the cathedral are free to enter and some have different opening hours.
- Museum of St. Mark’s: 9:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The entrance fee is 5 Euro.
- Pala d’Oro: The opening hours are the same as the basilica itself. A ticket costs 2 Euro.
- Treasury: Easter to November: 09:45 to 17:00; Sundays and holidays: 14:00 to 17:00. From November to Easter the Tesoro closes one hour earlier. The entrance fee is 3 Euro.
- Campanile: November to Easter: 09.30 to 15.45. The rest of the year the bell tower opens at 09:00 and closes at 19:00, except in the months of July, August and September when it closes at 21:00. The entrance fee is 8 Euro.
Mark the Evangelist was the founder of the Church of Alexandria (now known as the Coptic Orthodox Church). In 828, sailors stole his mortal remains and brought them (hidden underneath some pork, where Muslims would not look) to Venice. Relics of the Saint are still in the church and his symbol, the lion, adorns the façade. A mosaic depicting the event can be seen on the door at the far left of the entrance.
The church was built between 1063 and 1094 over the remains of Saint Mark. It was by then the third church to be erected on the site.
San Marco has only been a cathedral since 1807. Previously, it was the chapel of the Doge of Venice. “Doge,” by the way, is not a noble title. It was an office for which one was elected. The last Doge of Venice relinquished his office in 1797, when La Serenissima was conquered by Napoleon.
What to see
The narthex, the portal of the church, is adorned with an 11th and 12th century mosaic floor mostly depicting scenes from the Old Testament. The gilded mosaics on the wall depict, a.o., events from the book of Genesis. In front of the central door the four evangelists are depicted.
The baldachin rests on columns decorated with 11th century reliefs. A gilded panel decorated with precious stones forms the famous Pala d’Oro. Over the years, this showpiece, crafted in 976 by Byzantine goldsmiths, was further embellished. Despite the fact that Napoleon smuggled some of these stones under his shirt, there is still plenty left to enjoy.
The four life-size bronze Horses of Saint Mark were looted from the Constantinople racecourse during the 4th crusade, where they were part of a so-called quadriga. They were first placed (in 1204) in the Arsenal, to be brought to Saint Mark’s 50 years later. In 1797 Napoleon took them to France, but in 1815 they returned to Venice. Towards the end of the 20th century they were replaced by a replica, while the original can now be viewed inside the church (steps to the right of the entrance in the atrium).
In total, there are about 4,000 square meters of mosaics on display, worked on between the 12th and 14th centuries by some of the most important Venetian artists.