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23 November 2020

Saint Mark’s Square

The one dedicated to Saint Mark is the only square in Venice, as all the other urban spaces with this function are called campi or campielli.

Other than admiring the immense beauty and architectural integrity of this world-wide famous place, there are things to know and not to be missed in Piazza San Marco.


The square was actually originally green, partly cultivated as a vegetable garden by the nuns of San Zaccaria. It was divided by a canal called Batario, on whose banks the two small churches of San Teodoro and San Geminiano were located.

At the beginning of the 9th century began the construction of the Saint Mark’s church. There are no certain evidence but it is said that the construction of the bell tower started between 888 and 911.

In 976 a furious fire destroyed the buildings of the entire area, including the basilica and the palace, but only two years later they were already both repaired.

The current Basilica dates back to the years 1050-1094, with the third foundation of the building.

In 1172, two enormous granite columns, transported from Constantinople, were raised on the Molo as a monumental gateway from the sea. The winged lion, symbol of San Marco, was placed on one column, while on the other column a statue depicting St. Theodore, the first patron saint of the city of Venice, was placed.

Saint Mark’s square was paved with bricks arranged in a herringbone pattern in 1267, while it was paved with the current masegni during the 18th century.

Between 1301 and 1442, with a continuous and massive series of works, Palazzo Ducale progressively lost its military aspect until it assumed its present conformation.

Between 1495 and 1517, instead, the Procuratie Vecchie and the Clock Tower were erected, while at the same time all the gardens and warehouses still present in the square area were cleared.

It was Jacopo Sansovino who completed the great renovation of the square with a audacious game of contamination of styles: the Gothic of the Doge’s Palace and the oriental-Venetian-Byzantine style of the Basilica were joined by splendid examples of Roman classicism in the Marciana Area.


  • Saint Mark’s Basilica’s real name is “Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale”.
  • Initially it was built to host the relics of the evangelist Saint Mark in 828.
  • According to the legend, two Venetian merchants stole the relics in Alessandria and brought them to Venice.
  • The first church was destroyed in 976 because of a revolt, and two years later it was replaced by a new one. In 1063 a new renovation began thanks to the Doge Domenico Contarini, which led to the current basilica.
  • Unlike the other great basilicas and cathedrals in the world, it does not stand out for its height but for its length, since Venice is built on sandy ground and the base could not support excessive weight.
  • The saint’s relics are kept inside the Pala d’Oro, an impressive work of Byzantine and Venetian goldsmith art that includes 255 enameled gold panels and 2,000 precious stones. The treasure derives from the conquest of Constantinople by the Venetians and from gifts of illustrious personalities, Popes and Doges, combined with the work of skilled local artists.

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