There is no doubt that the sight most associated with Venice is that of the gondolas in the canals that cross the city. But when you think of a Venetian icon on land, the first place that comes to mind is Piazza San Marco.
San Marco is the central, most important, and most popular square in the city, the one that attracts both locals and tourists, which looks like a postcard sent from Italy, where some of the most important tourist sites in the city, in the country and possibly in Europe are located. This is St. Mark’s Square, which Napoleon himself called “the most beautiful lounge in Europe.”
The large square is made up of three squares: Piazza San Marco, which is the central square, Piazza San Marco, which is the small square on the southeast side, and Piazza di Leoni, which is the square of the lions on the northeast side.
With one glance from the square, you can see most of the important tourist sites of Venice. The Doge’s Palace, where the Duke of Venice lived during the time it was ruled by a duke, is right next to St. Mark’s Square (and is worth a visit in itself). Not far from it you can see the majestic court building – and between the two connects the Bridge of Sighs, so called because of the sounds made by the prisoners being led from the court to the prison (located in the Doge’s house).
You will also be able to spot the Procuracy in the square, unique buildings that are palaces that once housed the city’s senior officials and its important officials. Their unusual design has become associated with Venice and St. Mark’s Square in particular. At the end of the square is Libraria Vekia, a large library that shares a building with an archeology museum.
On the eastern side of the square is the magnificent Basilica San Marco, a cathedral built in the 19th century and built in the Byzantine style. Today it is even considered the most successful example of architecture from the period. In case you were wondering, this is the basilica that gave the square its name and the person responsible for the basilica’s name is Saint Mark, who, according to belief, was buried there (he was buried in Egypt at all, but according to legend, his body was stolen and brought to Venice).
The Basilica of San Marco was nicknamed the “Golden Basilica”, thanks to the many golden mosaics in it, which also show the financial investment in the design of the building and the wealth and strength of the city. Apart from that, it is possible to find many artistic treasures, such as the treasures of Constantinople – which were looted and brought to the basilica.
But not only Istanbul is represented there. As a port city, Venice was visited by ships from all over the world – and each of them had to make an offering to Saint Mark. So actually the basilica is not only one of the most beautiful churches in the world, but it is also home to an extraordinary and worldwide art collection.
The visit to the basilica is divided into two parts: first of all, an external impression of the building. Take some time to review the extraordinary design. We examined the sculptures, the decorations, the arches, and the reliefs. Pay attention to the horse statues standing on the balcony – which are of course the horses of Saint Mark. On the domes of the building, which were designed in a special way to illuminate the church, stands San Marco with his angels next to him.
The building itself is a real museum. The domes look impressive from the outside – inside they are decorated with gold mosaics. Each tells a different story from Christian mythology. The floor, which is made of marble, is also decorated with geometric mosaics in the shape of animals.
Later on the tour you will come across the priest’s room, built with majesty and luxury with marble columns, bronze statues, and an altar. Then you will discover the treasures hidden in the basilica. Some of them are in the treasury – where Byzantine, Islamic and Italian art is displayed. In the museum, located on the lower floor, you can admire the horses of San Marco (the original ones. The ones in the front are a replica) and another huge collection of art objects, jewelry, sculptures, and other works.
Don’t miss out on a visit to the basilica’s bell tower, which you’ve probably already seen from the outside and wondered about its original form. You can climb up (or take an elevator, the stairs are steep), take a look at the mechanics of the bells, hear a little about the history of the building (as a lighthouse and a favorite location of Galileo Galilei) and finish with a spectacular view of Venice.
An important tip for visitors to the square: you are invited to take a picture with the pigeons in the square, it is almost mandatory. But under no circumstances sit on the stairs. It is forbidden by law (and you get a pretty fine for it).