History of St. Mark’s Basilica
First established in 828 to hold the stolen remains of St. Mark, the Basilica of San Marco stands, in the Piazza of San Marco, Venice, today as one of the the prime examples of early Byzantine architecture. After a fire destroyed most of the church’s structure in 976, the quaint church that stood at the site was restored quickly over a two year period, but was then later commissioned by Doge Domenico Contarini to be re-reconstructed in 1063, by a Greek architect whose name is unknown. This third restoration would be elongated over a period of thirty years. During the restoration, the Venetians were inspired by the Greek-cross architectural plan that was found in the church of the Holy Apostles. Although the church of the Holy Apostles does not stand today, scholars can only assume the building did in fact have the Greek-cross plan based off excavation. The Greek-cross plan is shown below and is characterized by four 'arms' of equal length. St. Mark's Basilica, however, is not a perfect Greek-cross because of two previous standing buildings (an ancient castle to the south and the Church of St. Theodore to the north). Therefore, the longitudinal nave (vertical piece) of the cross is slightly larger than the transepts (horizontal piece). Another similarity of San Marco to the church of the Holy Apostles is the use of five domes. These domes, or cupolas, are said to signify God’s presence in the basilica. Comparable to the cathedral of St. Sophia at Kiev, the cupolas rest on four large vaults each supported by compound piers. This third restoration turns into what is now known as the Basilica of San Marco. Such reconstruction is incomplete and is said to be never-ending. The structure standing today was consecrated on October 8th, 1094 by Doge Vitale Falier. For the next one-thousand years, the Basilica of St. Mark became Venice’s chief city monument for both civic and religious purposes. Also, during this time, was purposed as a Ducal Chapel and State Church. This continued until 1807 when the basilica became Venice’s city cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Venice.
Utilizing large domes, open spaces, intricate mosaics, and Christian iconography, the Basilica of St. Mark contains some of the best examples of Byzantine style. The interior of the building is made up of underlying brick with marble overtones added around 1156-72 along with mosaics covering the upper levels.
The Basilica of San Marco is home to over 500 columns most of which are made from materials plundered from war. The bases of the columns, however, were original to the building itself, and the column layout is based on symmetry.
In the center of the presbytery, the most sacred part of the church since it holds the high alter with the marble sarcophagus containing St. Mark’s body, stands the ciborium columns. These four columns are made out of oriental alabaster which old up the green marble ciborium. The columns...