Historic St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, will host Pope Francis this weekend

St. Mark's Basilica St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. | Credit: Canva

This weekend, on Sunday, April 28, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Mark’s Square during a one-day trip to Venice, Italy. Afterward, he will privately venerate the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist inside the basilica. This papal visit to the iconic basilica puts a spotlight on the famous church dedicated to St. Mark and on its significance to the famous “floating city.” 

St. Mark’s Basilica, also known as the “Church of Gold,” is a Byzantine cathedral in St. Mark’s Square. Founded in 828 A.D. after the remains of St. Mark were transported from Alexandria, Egypt, the basilica has undergone several transformations.

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva

After being built as a permanent church in 832, the basilica was burned down in a rebellion in 976. St. Mark’s was rebuilt in 978 but it was a construction project started in 1063 that formed the basis of the current form of the church.

On Oct. 8, 1094, St. Mark’s Basilica was consecrated and dedicated to the apostle and saint credited by many to be the writer of the Gospel of Mark. 

It wasn’t until 1807, on orders from Napoleon, that the city church became the residence of the patriarch of Venice and declared a city cathedral. 

The basilica’s architecture, which combines Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque styles, features a central dome, spandrels, and four pillars supporting the immense vaults. Inside, St. Mark’s is adorned with beautiful gold mosaics, marble flooring, and luxurious decor. The presbytery, which is reserved for clergy, houses the high altar, which holds the relics of St. Mark. 

The sacristy, which was crafted in 1486 by Giorgio Spavento, has impressive inlaid cabinets illustrating scenes from the life of St. Mark and a vault with mosaics depicting Old Testament prophets. 

There are also several side altars and chapels paying homage to various saints such as the Madonna del Mascoli and St. Isidore. The Chapel of St. Isidore also holds the saint’s relics, which were brought to Venice from the Island of Chios in 1125. 

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva

St. Mark’s Museum was built during the 19th century. It hosts a diverse collection of artifacts and artwork, mostly acquired from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. One of the most notable highlights are the Horses of St. Mark — four bronze horses that once were a part of the basilica’s facade — as well as Byzantine and Gothic manuscripts, artifacts, and liturgical objects. 

St. Mark’s Basilica welcomes more than 3 million visitors a year and is truly the center of public and religious life in Venice. 

The Holy See Press Office has released the Holy Father’s schedule for this trip to Venice, which includes meetings with inmates at the women’s prison, a tour of the Vatican art exhibit on display there, a meeting with the featured artists, and a speech to young people.

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