St. Mark’s Basilica is among the most-visited sights in Venice, and a must-see on any kind of traveler’s Italy itinerary! however with a history that stretches all the method back to the ninth century A.D., it’s also a church v a lot of amazing stories and also legends behind it.

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Here are six of the many fascinating facts around St. Mark’s Basilica!

01. The basilica began with a swashbuckling story of kidnapping

The an initial St. Mark’s Basilica was constructed on this spot in the 9th century come house an extremely sacred relics—relics that had actually been stolen! In 828, sellers from Venice stole the human body of St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the four Apostles, indigenous Alexandria, Egypt. According to the legend, lock snuck them past the (Muslim) guards by hiding them under layers of pork in barrels!


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St. Mark’s Basilica


While at sea, a storm almost drowned the graverobbers and their valuable cargo, it’s claimed that St. Mark himself appeared to the captain and also told that to reduced the sails. The ship was saved, and the vendors said they owed their security to the miracle.

The entire story is pictured top top the 13th-century mosaic above the left door as you get in the basilica.

02. There is sufficient mosaic come cover 1.5 American football fields!

There are much more than 85,000 square feet (or 8,000 square meters) of mosaic in St. Mark’s Basilica… or sufficient mosaic come cover over 1.5 American football fields! The mosaics were excellent over 8 centuries, greatly in gold, and also the an outcome is astonishing. Get in the basilica at various times of day to see just how the light provides the colors, and also scenes, watch different.


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Just one of the dozens that mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica…


03. Over there are more than 500 columns

Just another example that the slim size, and also amount of remarkable stuff, in St. Mark’s Basilica is the variety of columns. Over there are an ext than 500 columns and capitals in the basilica, and most room Byzantine, dating between the sixth and 11th centuries. Some classical, 3rd-century fundings are combined in, too!


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The exceptional exterior that St. Mark’s Basilica


04. A lot of the basilica’s prizes came indigenous the crusades & native Constantinople

The fourth Crusade, in particular, provided St. Mark’s Basilica a windfall. After all, this to be the Crusade that ended, in 1204, with the occupation of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).


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The bronze steeds of St. Mark’s Basilica, originally from Constantinople!


The result? A lot of treasure to be shipped to Venice, and installed in St. Mark’s Basilica — including the 4 bronze horses, icon of the Madonna Nicopeia, enamels that the gold Altar-piece, relics, crosses, chalices, and also patens!

05. The Pala d’Oro put the Crown Jewels come shame

Forget the glittering jewel at the Tower of London: The Royal family members has nothing on St. Mark’s Basilica! The Pala d’Oro, a byzantine altar display screen of gold, is studded with thousands of gems – literally. They include 1,300 pearls, 300 emeralds, 300 sapphires, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts, add to rubies and topazes.


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The Pala d’Oro, a byzantine altar screen of gold


06. The bell tower? It broke down once…

The 323-foot (98.6-meter) campanile of St. Mark’s dates earlier to the ninth century… yet it had to be rebuilt in 1903. The reason? that collapsed! It had been reworked in the 16th century, and also apparently no that well.

It broke down on July 14, 1902. (To be fair, it had actually survived number of earthquakes before that!). Back it buried the Basilica’s balcony in rubble, fortunately, the church itself to be saved. But the incident was embarrassing enough!

From 1903 to 1912, the bell tower to be rebuilt precisely as it had actually been… except with better, safer techniques.


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The belltower of St. Mark’s Basilica towers high over the square


Ok we stated six, but since we’re ~ above a roll, here are much more fascinating insights:

07. The gold piece of the mosaics within St. Mark’s Basilica room made with genuine gold!

Venice remained in the past a very wealthy city that merchants: what the Republic lacked in army strength or in land domination, they had in riches. The basilica’s mosaics room not just a means to please God and St. Note or come communicate facility religious concepts, lock were additionally a means to show the riches of the city to the vital guests, like majesties or ambassadors from other coutries.

The golden pieces are actually made of gold: each one has actually a thin gold leaf ‘sandwiched’ in between two layers of clear glass. V such a display of priceless material, the Venetians might show at the very same time their cool devotion but likewise their political ‘weight’: an extremely important thing for such a little country.

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08. The big outer domes above the basilica space actually fake!

In Venice it’s impossible to build huge structures: the terrain is frail, so you have to closely stick come small, light and flexible buildings. But the Venetians had to discover a way to astonish their guests: therefore they optimized some really clever tricks to cheat the eye and also give everyone the impression that the structures are huge and imposing.

In St. Mark’s Basilica over there is a great example of this: the five big domes that give the structure its distinctive shape are simply a superstructure make of timber cover v a thin layer of lead. They room actually fully empty: the brick developed domes through the mosaics that you see inside the church are much lower.

We can arguably say that the only duty of those huge emtpy domes is to make the structure look lot bigger 보다 it yes, really is: this method the ships approaching the city can recognize its form from afar, and be even much more astonished by the legend city increasing from the waters.

09. In 2019, a big “acqua alta” totally flooded the church!

In the Venetian Lagoon there are tides: sometimes these tides go higher than normal and as a result some parts of the city gain flooded. The St. Mark’s square is the lowest component of the city, so it’s pretty usual to watch its floor partly or completely submerged in water.

But in November 12, 2019, points went completely out that control: the tide climbed so high that it got to the 2nd highest level ever recorded in the history of the city. The custodians that the church were unprepared because that this event: the water not only flooded the antechamber that the basilica, i m sorry is in ~ the same level the the square, but likewise the church itself, i beg your pardon is lot higher.

The damages was considerable and the building is tho recovering: at the very least this tragic event gave a huge push come the completion of the MOSE project, a system of mobile obstacles meant to protect the Lagoon indigenous the most dangerous tides. The barriers were experiment a pair of time in 2020 and also apparently they operated fine: we all expect they will be able to protect the basilica in the future.

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10. St. Mark’s Basilica is not the earliest one, nor the greatest church in Venice!

The St. Mark’s basilica was built beginning from the IX century: yet the history of Venice starts way before that moment, in the V-VI century. For this reason there room churches approximately the city the predate the most necessary monument: follow to the historians, the oldest holy building of the city can be the church of san Giacometto, really close to the Rialto bridge. The Rialto area was, in fact, the an initial spot that was colonized when the islands started to be populated: the city of Venice was actually called “Rialto” because that the an initial centuries.

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Despite its huge size, at least in proportion with the other buildings of the city, St. Mark’s Basilica is also not the best church: this location goes to the church the Santi Giovanni e Paolo, residence to the very an effective Dominican monastic order. Their monastery to be so large that once Napoleon overcame Venice he determined that structure to become the an initial big public hospital of the city: and also the hospital is over there still today! You have the right to learn an ext about mountain Giacometto and Santi Giovanni e Paolo if you take the Welcome to Venice tour or the Venice in a job tour, i m sorry both feature these very important churches!

Special thanks goes to our to walk of Italy overview Mosè Viero because that sharing these extr interesting facts around St. Mark’s Basilica. 

If you want to learn more, check out our experiences in Venice of both St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace—or, for a really VIP visit, accessibility St. Mark’s Basilica after ~ hours, once it’s closed to the public!