Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 26, 2014

Inside Basilica di San Marco

Basilica di San Marco is one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture.  It is modelled after Constantine the Great’s Church of the Holy Apostles and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It has a floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross, with a dome on each of the four arms. Each arm has a central aisle and two side aisles.


We lined up early to be the first group in for the day. Photographs are not allowed inside, so I kept my camera in my handbag…until I saw dozens of people snapping away, and nobody was stopping them…so I joined in.

The interior is decorated with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art mostly in glorious gold. Gilded mosaics dating mostly from the 12th century cover an area of about 8,000 square metres on the vaults and cupolas, earning it the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (church of gold).



The altarpiece is the Pala d’Oro, a panel of gold emnedded with gems (now behind glass). It was commissioned from Byzantine goldsmiths in 976 and further embellished over the centuries. Naploeon pinched some of the precious stones in 1797.


The spectacular floor is a 12th century mixture of mosaic and marble in geometric and animal designs.

Not far from the Pala d’Oro is a special paving stone. It is marked by a heart and the ducal corno (ceremonial hat) and indicates the place where the heart of Francesco Erizzo (doge from 1631 – 1646) was buried. The rest of his body lies in the Church of San Martino in Castello, near his birthplace. The black shape under the corno dogale symbolises a hedgehog (riccio in Italian), the symbol of the  Erizzo family. Most people walk right over it, and we would have too, if not for the wonderful book, Secret Venice.


The Tesoro (Treasury) is on the far right of the main altar and for €3 you can enter and admire a collection of Crusaders’ plunder from Constantinople.






It pays to be early to enter this incredible church. We didn’t have to wait too long and it wasn’t all that crowded. Basilica di San Marco is not to be missed if you visit Venice.

The next person to follow Bagni di Lucca and Beyond will be the 4,000th…quite a milestone. Who would have thought when the blog started that so many people would come along for the ride?

Thank you to all those who have signed up, and thank you especially to those who take the time to leave a comment, it is always good to hear from you.


  1. Unfortunately the day we visited Venice the Basilica was completely closed for renovations….we were very disappointed that we missed seeing inside this beautiful cathedral. Thank you for the tour.

    • I’m so worried now about places in Italy being closed that I try to phone them up whether its St Marks or some humble monument. This is important if you’ve got friends you want to show around.

    • The front of the church is covered in scaffolding, but the inside was great.

  2. I can’t understand how people can enforce no photography rules today with our miniature and unobrusive electronic equipment.. Yes, no flash photography is fine as flash does distract but no photography? i remember when visiting St Paul’s cathedral whispering gallery in London a few years back the guide couldn’t explain anything to us because all she was doing was saying “no photographs please” all the time to everyone who entered it..

    • I can’t see why taking photos is a problem. What does it hurt?

  3. Debra, Congratulations on your 3,999…. 🙂

    Lovely to go with you into the Basilica – I didn’t, last time I was there, daunted by the throngs. Did it seem that the floor has recently (in the last decade or so) been ‘fixed’ – or is it only in my memory that those beautiful mosaic floors were almost corrugated in some places?

    • I don’t know about the floors. I was there a couple of years ago and it seemed the same. They are magnificent and it is incredible that they are in such good condition.

  4. Parbleu – I’m glad if I get a small fraction of your followers Debra!

    • It takes time Francis…keep on blogging.

  5. Always a pleasure to stop by the blog Deb. Congratulations on such a loyal following! Thoroughly deserved. San Marco looks divine in these photos. Hard to capture the majesty but your mix of exquisite detail and grand scale is perfect.

    • It is very difficult to capture the grandeur of San Marco in photos. It is huge and magnificent and you really have to be there to appreciate it.

  6. Stunning images, Debra, and such beautiful artwork. 🙂

    • It is a magnificent church, you could spend days in there and not see everything.

  7. The details are amazing Deb! 😮 So much precision and details to every little inch of space.

    • I really love the floors. We are renovating our tiny balcony in Ponte a Serraglio soon and I would love to have a geometric pattern along the lines of the mosaics…on a much smaller scale of course. Our balcony is less than 4 square metres.

  8. very beautiful. all the detail.

    • It is an incredible building. I have been a few times, but I am amazed every time.

  9. fantastic. gorgeous. all the detail work. something else.

    • I’m not sure I would like the job of dusting everything, but it certainly looks great.

  10. Congratulations, Debra! You deserve the success! As for San Marco is a masterpiece that everyone should visit at least once. I remember one of those visits some years ago as it was on St Mark’s day. We attended a solemn mass presided by the Patriarch of Venice with Gregorian chanting which sounded absolutely magnificent in the Basilica. Magic!

    • It is wonderful when moments like that happen. The church is magnificent and I know I will return to see it again.

  11. I also am so glad to be a part of your blog followers and especially honored to have met you in Lucca and to have spent a day visiting Casa Debbio. San March pictures are wonderful and you obviously timed your visit when the “lights are turned on”……such a different experience in viewing from when the lights are off. We are returning to Lucca on March 4th…..same apartment for five weeks this tiime. Hopefully you will be back in Bagni di Lucca then. Enjoying a busy summer with the two grandchildren here for two months…life will return to a more peaceful state when they head home to Atlanta later this week. Ciao

    • I will be in Bagni di Lucca in March and I hope you will come back to Casa Debbio to see the progress in the garden, it is really taking shape. I will be there in October to plant fruit trees on the terraces behind the house.

  12. Another beautiful post to enjoy as I have my morning coffee, I look forward to all your wonderful posts! What a way to start the day! The photos are always so beautiful and the information is always a way to learn more about the things that interest me!
    Thank so much for sharing!!

    • I’m glad I was able to take photos, my fingers were twitching last time when I had to keep my camera to myself. I love this church.

  13. Hi Eddie;    Some really beautiful photos of the interior of San Marco’s in Venice, I presume you saw the inside the church? When I lived in Venice I would enter the church every few days just to sit and take in all the art on the walls. Enjoy. 


    • Lucky you, to be able to visit regularly and take in all the details.

  14. Thank you for your photos! Wow! it’s been 40 years since I was there. Your photos and story is wonderful.

    • My first trip to Italy was more than 40 years ago and I remember being amazed by everything. I am glad that I go regularly to see all the incredible history.

  15. What a beautiful place. Congratulations on your approaching 4000 follower milestone, that’s impressive.

    • Thank you, I am delighted to have so many followers.

  16. Beautiful photos Deb! Brings back wonderful memories of our visit there 9 years ago!

    • It is a stunning church, one of my favourites in Italy.

  17. Cheers to your milestone! … I especially love the Byzantine influence on San Marco!

  18. These buildings never cease to amaze me. The craftsmanship, skill and art are quite extraordinary. Such beautiful photographs. The crusaders must have had extraordinarily big jumpers because they clearly nabbed an awful lot of loot. I must confess I would be really tempted to nab that beautiful green glass goblet. Nearly 4000 followers of your blog is wonderful too, well done – but it’s not hard to see why so many people subscribe – it’s such a pleasure to follow your progress.

  19. I’m glad no one stopped you from taking photographs, Debra. Otherwise we would have missed the beauty of this basilica altogether. Speaking of no photograph, I remember how our guide at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul told us that in the past photographs were allowed inside the palace. But there were incidents where some irresponsible visitors used flash light to take photos. Now we all have to bear the consequences. Anyway, great photos! I kept scrolling down and up for so many times to marvel at your photos.

  20. I was questioning it after reading that you can’t take pictures inside. People were snapping away pictures when I was there. Basilica-s in Italy are always great esp. because of the grandeur and the massive amount of intricacy to marvel at. When I was there, the group I was with didn’t stay for a long time but I remember standing there at awe looking up the ceiling.

  21. Beautiful photos! 🙂

  22. It’s been a long time since I’ve been inside this basilica but I still remember marveling at the beautiful marble floor mosaics, though I didn’t know about the heart tile! Creepy to think about his heart being buried there…

    I’m so glad you joined in taking photos. 🙂

  23. Keep on with the photos Debra – blow the photo police!
    Your photos and words allow us to re-live our visits. Hope to get back to Lucca next year – had to cancel this years trip so I love seeing all your photos of the new, and old shops there. Good luck with your October planting.

    • I find it annoying when photos are not allowed, I can’t see why. I am looking forward to planting apples, pears, plums, cherries and figs on my terraces. In spring it will look lovely with the white blossoms.

  24. As much as we enjoy the opulent art and design of Venice’s Byzantine San Marco we marvel at the jewel box of Byzantine mosaics inside the unassuming churches of Ravenna and the starry ceiling of the tomb of Galla Placidia. A fitting post as you celebrate your 4000th! Brava!

    • I love the mosaics in Ravenna too. I think I need to go back.

  25. I’m so glad you took out your camera so that you could share this wonderful basilica with us…it is breathtaking.

    • It is amazing. It is a toss up for me between the duomo in Siena and this one in Venice.

  26. Lovely! Some of the liturgical art is just fantastic

  27. Debra thank you for taking photos. I’ve been here, didn’t take pictures and I barely remember it now. It’s far nicer now to scrutinise your pics through my screen and mutter…yess, I’ve been there!

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