Photo: Travel: Italy: Venice: Churches: San Marco
Basilica di San Marco, San Marco, Venice
There isn't much to say that has not already been said about this amazing structure. Laid out in the Greek Cross to copy a Byzantine church long since vanished, this building used to be the Doge's private chapel. As such, no expense was spared in its decoration: the interior is jaw-droppingly beautiful with rich golden leaf mosaics covering every square inch of the vaulted and domed ceilings. The throngs of tourists will probably prevent you from seeing the stunning floor but it is worth a look from the upper gallery. For an additional fee, you can visit the treasury with the famous golden screen looted from Constantinople when the Venetians led the Normans in the sack of the city during the Fourth Crusade. The grave of St Mark is supposed to house the body of the saint that Venetian merchants smuggled out of Egypt. The museum on the upper floor has the real horses of St Mark (the four outside are replicas), more mosaics, some excellent tapestries, and tons of other paraphernalia that hints at the splendor of Venice at her height. Tourists shuffle in and out at a monotonous pace and although many venture snapshots, the enforcement of the photography ban is pretty strict. There are some excellent views of Piazza San Marco and the piazzetta from the outer gallery on the second floor. Worth repeated viewings. There are several guidebooks with very good photographs for sale at the gift shop.