The masterpiece of Piazza San Marco is, of course, the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica. Commissioned in 1071 by doge Domenico Contarini, this amazing church is built in Venetian-Byzantine style, a mixture of western and eastern styles.
Nicknamed the “Church of Gold” because of its opulence, it has been the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, since 1807.
Ever since the remains of St. Mark were brought to Venice in 829, this former chapel of the Doges has been an important religious landmark. When Venetian crusaders brought back shiploads of Byzantine art treasures after the fall of Constantinople, St. Mark’s became wealthy beyond imagination. Those treasures and the artistry that has been lavished on the basilica over the centuries make it not just a landmark of Venice and Italy, but of all Europe. Highlights to see are the 4,240 square meters covered in ethereal and luminous gold mosaics, the magnificent golden Byzantine retable known as the Pala d’Oro, the inlaid marble floors, the gold reliquaries and icons in the Treasury.
The basilica has a separate campanile – bell tower – that stands 98.6 meters tall (323 ft) and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Originally built in the ninth century, the current version was rebuilt in 1912 after the original tower collapsed in 1902.