Undoubtedly, this most beautiful cathedral is a compositional center of Venice. It is here that all tourists aim at when going along narrow streets from the railway station or running in a vaporetto on the Grand Canal. Near the Cathedral of St. Mark (San Marco) the other tourist attractions of Venice are located: the Doge`s Palace, the St. Mark`s Square, the Campanile, and the Bridge of Sighs.
Apostle Mark is a celestial patron of Venice, as he preached Christianity in these lands. One day, when he took shelter from the storm on one of the islands of the Venetian Lagoon, he saw the angel who told him that he would find there his rest. And this prediction was fated to come true, when two merchants could steal his body from Alexandria covering it with a layer of pork in 829. Since that time his relics are housed at the Cathedral of St. Mark.
The first Cathedral of St. Mark was built in 829, almost at the same time as the relics of the saint were brought to Venice. At first it was small, and was almost completely burnt down a century later, in 927. A new cathedral, that we can see today, monumental and very beautiful, was commissioned by the doge Domenico Contarini during 1043-1071.
St. Mark`s Cathedral is a cross-domed church modeled after the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, which didn’t survive until nowadays. Icons are one more element differing it from the other Catholic churches. They are mosaic panels made by the Byzantine technology. Actually, all walls of St. Mark`s Cathedral are covered by mosaic panels. In this aspect the church is similar to the other masterpiece of mosaic painting – the Cathedral of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, where the mosaics are smaller in area but more complex compositionally.
Facades of St. Mark`s Cathedral are decorated by ancient relics taken by the Venetians from different countries, and its treasury contains many temple sacred things, also brought there from various military campaigns. The Venetians could enlarge the church treasury to the largest extent in 1204 during the fourth crusade, when on advice of the Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo the Christians from Western Europe decided not to go to Jerusalem to liberate the Lord`s Tomb from the Muslims, but to plunder the Christian Constantinople instead.
Apart from looking around the interiors of the church you should climb on its terrace. From there you can enjoy a wonderful view of the St. Mark`s Square and the Doge`s Palace, as well as see the quadriga of Lisipp. Today you can see only a copy of the quadriga over the main entrance of the church, and its original is housed at the Museum of St. Mark`s Cathedral. This quadriga was made by an ancient Greek sculptor, supposedly by the great Lisipp, in 3 B.C. and decorated the hippodrome of the Chios Island for several centuries, and then it was moved to Constantinople, from where it was stolen during a crusade and set up on the terrace of St. Mark`s Cathedral.