St. Mark’s Square in Venice

St. Mark’s Square (San Marco, Piazza San Marco) is the main square of Venice. This is the only place in the city that the Venetians themselves call “piazza” – square.

Locals call the remaining squares “campo” or “campiello” – a field or a small field. In the 9th century, it was a small platform near the Cathedral of St. Mark (Basilica di San Marco). In 1777, the square acquired its current dimensions. Today, St. Mark’s Square has the shape of a trapezoid. The length is 175m, the width – 82 m in the widest part, and 56m in the narrowest one.

On the northern side of the square is the building of the Old Procurations. On the opposite side is the New Procurations building. A clock tower with a bell is attached to the Old Procurations, on which bronze statues strike every hour. The dial is decorated with zodiac signs. These buildings in the western part connect the arcades of the Fabrique Nuove, making the square look like a huge renaissance courtyard. The bell tower of San Marco is in the southeast corner. The height of the bell tower is 99 m.

View of Piazza San Marco In Venice

St. Mark’s Basilica

However, the main attraction of the square is St. Mark’s Basilica – the Cathedral of Venice, which gave the square its name. Until 1807, the cathedral used to be a court chapel at the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale).

Tip: you can get into the cathedral without a queue including access to the observation deck. Just buy a ticket online in advance for 25 EUR.


According to legend, in 828, two Venetian merchants, Rustico and Buono, stole the body of St. Mark and took it out of Alexandria after hiding it in pig carcasses. As a result, a basilica stored St. Mark’s relics, which was consecrated in 832. In 976, a fire almost destroyed the basilica, but by the end of the 10th century, it was restored.

The new construction of the cathedral according to the Byzantine model (Constantinople Church of the Twelve Apostles) started in 1063. In 1094 the cathedral was consecrated. Over the following centuries, they decorated and expanded the cathedral. Each foreign ship that came to the port had to present a precious gift to the cathedral. Many relics ended up in the church after the sacking of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204.

The St. Mark’s Basilica becomes the religious and political center of the Republic of Venice. Grandiose official ceremonies were held in the cathedral: the coronation and presentation of a new doge to the townspeople, the blessing of the troops before the war (in particular, before the 4th crusade). Here Captain Marco Polo received his blessing before sailing.

St. Mark's Square and Basilica in Venice, 18th century

It took more than 4 centuries to build and complete its construction at St. Mark’s Square. This affected the architectural style. As a result, the cathedral is a harmonious mixture of eras and styles.

The prevailing style is Byzantine, but this is true of the general appearance and the domes. The addition of antique columns and bas-reliefs, Gothic towers and arrows, facing with oriental marble – all this gives reason to conclude that the St. Mark’s Basilica is a unique architectural monument, made in its own Venetian style.


The cathedral is in the form of a Greek cross with dimensions of 76.5 m by 62.5 m. The height of the central dome is 43 m. It is full of variety of iconostasis, statues of the apostles, and numerous mosaics.
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice in the morning

Nowadays, the St. Mark’s Basilica is an active temple where worship services are held. And such relics as of St. Mark, the martyr Isidore, and the image of the Virgin “Nicopeia” make it a center of Christian pilgrimage.

Guide, traveler, marathon runner, journalist, creator of the site ITALY FOR ME. I conduct author's excursions at dawn so that everyone, like me ten years ago, fell in love with the Eternal City at first sight. I organize tours with wonderful people, and professional guides in Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Verona, Bologna, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Turin, and Genoa. On the topic of the article, please ask questions in the comments. I try to reply to everyone at least once a day.

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