The Basilica of St.Mark the Evangelist, the cathedral church of the city and seat of the Patriarch of Venice since 1807, when it took the place of the former cathedral of San Pietro di Castello, is a living testimony of christian faith.
In particular the mediaeval mosaics, depicting stories and episodes from the Old and New Testaments, are not only a biblical meditation but also - like the ikons of the Eastern Churh - a sign of God's presence in the world.
The present Basilica is the third church to be built on the site, following the one commissioned by doge Giustiniano Partecipazio to celebrate the arrival of the body of St.Mark in Venice in 828, and the X cent. rebuilding ordered by doge Pietro Orseolo I after a fire in 976.
In the second half of the XI cent. doge Domenico Contarini had the church entirely rebuilt on a much larger scale, though using much of the ancient foundations and masonry.
It was consecrated in 1904.
The main faÐ·ade, originally finished in unfaced brick, was subsequently decorated with marble and columns brought from Constantinople (Byzantium) when the city was conquered by Venetian forces in 1204, during the IV Crusade.
The mosaics in the arches of the upper order and in the lunettes over four of the doors are all seventeenth century reworkings of XIII cent. mosaics (with the exception of the first on the left, the only original work, and the second, which dates from ca. 1730).
The three splayed arches around the central doorway are decorated with fine carvings. The XIII cent. Venetian sculpture shows both eastern and western influences (the latter from Padua and France) and there is a discernible development of style between the inner and outer arches.
On the balcony above the main doorway stand copies of the four horses (the originals are inside the church) which were brought to Venice from the hippodrome in Constantinople and placed in their present position in the second half of the XIII cent., a potent symbol of Venice's view of itself as the heir of the great imperials capitals: Rome (the Western Empire) and Byzantium (the New Rome, capital of the Eastern Empire).
On the faÐ·ade facing the water, St.Mark's Basin, there was once an entrance, the Porta da mar, giving access straight from the wharves beside the Palazzo Ducale.