BASILICA DI SAN MARCO

abt 1250-1469

 

St Marks Basilica is one of the most remarkable examples of Byzantine influence in Italy. The basilica is dedicated to St Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Venice, whose relics are housed in the church.

In 828, Venetian merchants stole the relics of Saint Mark from his resting place in Alexandria, Egypt. It is said the Venetians hid his body in a barrel under layers of pork to evade Muslim guards and transport the body via ship to Venice.
The relics were initially housed in a temporary chapel within the Doge’s Palace, but a more substantial church was built to shelter the valuable relics in 829-32. This church burned in a rebellion against the Doge in 976. The present basilica, which incorporates the earlier building, was completed around 1071.
While the basic structure of the building has changed very little over the last millenium, its decoration was regularly modified after its completion. The succeeding centuries, especially the 14th, all contributed to its adornment, and Venetian vessels from the Orient brought a virtually continuous supply of columns, capitals, and friezes from ancient buildings to adorn the basilica.
The exterior brickwork was gradually covered with various marbles and carvings, some much older than the building itself. A new frontage was constructed and the domes were covered with higher wooden domes in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge’s Palace. St Mark’s was the chapel of the Doges for most of its history, but in 1807, it became the cathedral of Venice.

ST MARKS IS FULL OF AN OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF TREASURES. I’VE DIVIDED IT LIKE THIS:

EXTERIOR
   Western Facade
   Southern Facade

INTERIOR
   Ceiling Mosaics
   Floor Mosaics
   Treasures

  EXTERIOR FACADES:

Before walking inside the church, check out the outside full of mosaics and spoils.

The exterior of the church has 2 exposed sides, one on the west facing the large piazza and the other on the southern side facing the Doges Palace and the Grand Canal.

 

1.  Western Facade

The western facade is the current main entrance. It is divided into a lower segment, upper segment and domes.  In the lower register there are 5 arched portals, inlaid with mosaics relating to stories of the relics of St Mark. The upper segment is inlaid with mosaics depicting the Life of Christ. The moasic above the main portal is the Last Judgment.

The five big domes that give the building its distinctive shape are just a superstructure made of wood covered with a thin layer of lead. They are actually completely empty: the brick built domes with the mosaics that you see inside the church are much lower.

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UPPER REGISTRAR MOSAICS

Scenes from The Life of Christ:
from left to right
Christ victory over death
Harrowing of hell
Resurrection
Ascension

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OUTSIDE PORTAL: LUNETTE #4: ST MARKS BODY CARRIED INTO THE BASILICA

The fourth mosaic is actually the oldest dating back to the 13th century.

It shows St. Mark’s body being carried into the Basilica, which was built in his honor. The style is a bit different than the others, more Byzantine, with a bright golden background and the figures with a flatness known for this time, .

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OUTSIDE PORTAL: LUNETTE #3

Shows Doge Giustiniano Partecipazio and the government of the Republic in adoration of the relics.

Note: St. Mark’s body is now covered with a blue sheet. The Doge, in his golden clothes, opens his arms wide and stares at the important relics.

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OUTSIDE PORTAL: LUNETTE #2

The second mosaic from the right shows the arrival of the relics into Venice from Alexandria:

-on the side: two merchants are carrying the relics wrapped in a white sheet off or onto the ship. (to me, looks like they are wrapping up the sail)

-front: Relics arriving, (looks like the white is part of a sail) wrapped in a white sheet.

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OUTSIDE PORTAL: LUNETTE #1

The four mosaics on the lunettes on the lower part of the façade tell the story of how St. Mark’s body was taken in 828 AD from Alexandria, Egypt and brought to Venice.

The story starts on the right side of lunette-The merchants are taking St Marks body wrapped in a white sheet from a tomb/church in Alexandria.

Front: St. Mark’s stolen body was hidden in a large basket covered in pork to evade Egyptian customs officers. Note the reactions of the Egyptian officers when they see the pork. One of them pinches his nose, another turns away in disgust.

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MAIN DOOR MOSAIC: LAST JUDEGEMENT

The original was destroyed by a fire and this replacement was installed during the 19th century.

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REPLICAS OF 4 BRONZE HORSES

During the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204 AD) French and Italian knights sacked Constantinople and many treasures were brought back to Venice.

The four bronze horses (actually mostly copper) on the balcony are replicas of those which came from Constantinople. Their origin is uncertain. It is thought that they were cast at the time of Alexander the Great and later on they were brought to Rome to embellish a triumphal arch. From there they were moved to the Hippodrome of Constantinople. In the 1200's to Venice. In 1798 Napoleon brought them to Paris where they were placed on Arc du Carrousel. In 1815 they were returned to Venice.

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STATUE OF ST MARK

It is flanked by six angels, located above a large gilded winged lion (the symbol of St Mark and of Venice).

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WINGED LION: SYMBOL OF VENICE

The Venetian lion normally has wings, very often holds a book below its paw, and sometimes is completed by a halo around its head. These three elements (wings, book, halo) reveal it as a symbol of Saint Mark the Evangelist, patron saint of the city.
According to a tradition started in the 2nd century AD, each of the four Evangelists are represented by a symbol (St Mark by a lion, St Luke by a calf/bull, St John by an eagle, St Matthew by a man).

The winged lion symbol is associated with St. Mark because according to ancient legend, while taking refuge from a storm in the city of Venice, Mark was visited in a dream by an angel in the form of a winged lion. The lion exclaimed in Latin “Pax tibi Marce Evangelista meus, hic requiescet corpus tuum” (“Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist. Here will rest your body”).

These words are sometimes written in the book the lion holds.

2. Southern Facade

The southern façade was the only side visible from the water, so the Venetians used it to express their wealth and power. It is richly encrusted with rare marbles, spoils, and war trophies.

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TETRARCHY STATUE

Treasure from 4th Crusade: Porphyry sculpture (300AD).

The statue shows four emperors from Rome’s brief tetrarchy, which saw the empire ruled by four people: two senior Augusti and two junior Caesars. An Augustus teamed up with a Caesar to rule the Eastern half of the empire while the other two took control of the West.

It has been fixed to a corner of the façade since the Middle Ages.

There is a foot missing from one of the figures. This foot was found in the 1960s during an archaeological dig in Istanbul which is now displayed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

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PIETRO DEL BANDO

Treasure from the Battle of Acre in 1258,
(now in northern Israel) where the Venetians defeated the Genovese in 1258.

When the stone came back to Venice it was first used as the place where the judgment of traitors of the Republic was read. Legend has it, that if the verdict was guilty, the heads of these traitors were consequently displayed on the stone.

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PILLARS OF ACRE

Treasures from the battle of Acre in 1258: Where the Venetians defeated the Genoese (Acre is now in northern Israel and was the Genoese outpost in the Middle East).

Although, new evidence suggests they are from the now destroyed Church of St Polyeuctus in Constantinople.

The Church was built in the 520s before Justinian’s major building program that included Hagia Sophia. It was one of the largest and most sumptuously decorated churches in Constantinople. It seems to have been abandoned by the 13th century and its ruins were discovered in 1960.

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HEAD OF EMPEROR JUSTINIAN OR CARMAGNOLA

Another treasure from the sack of Constantinople. The style of crown identifies the head as that of a late Roman emperor, between the 4th and 6th centuries. Some believe it is Emperor Justinian.

Legend claims it is the hardened skull of “Francis Bussone , called Carmagnola. He was a captain-general of the Venetian Republic who was found guilty of treason and beheaded in 1432.

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PORTA DELLA CARTA

This was one of the 2 entrances into Doges Palace.
A bust of St Mark in the roundel, a statue of Doge Foscari (replaced with a replica) kneels before the lion of St Mark over the door.

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FORMER ENTRANCE TO CHURCH

Between 1503 and 1515, the entry hall was transformed into the funerary chapel of Giovanni Battista Cardinal Zen, bishop of Vicenza. He left a large portion of his wealth to the Venetian Republic, asking to be entombed in St Mark's. Since tomb's were not allowed in the basilica, to get around this, the southern entrance to the basilica was closed off creating a chapel. The opening is blocked by the altar and a window above.

INTERIOR: Ceiling Mosaics, Floor Mosaics & Treasures

This church has a designated path you have to follow, it’s usually crowded and feels rushed, and there is so much to see in every direction it’s hard to take the details in or understand what you are seeing. It’s so beautiful that it’s not necessary to pay attention to the details, but if you want to or have the time i’ve tried to map it. I’ve used round icons for mosaics in the domes or cupolas, round icons with an x for things on the floor and arrows for things on the walls. I did not include wall mosaics because there are way to many.

1. Mosaics in Ceiling & Cupolas & Domes

More than 8000 square meters cover the walls, vaults and cupolas of the Basilica.
Essentially Byzantine in design, they were developed over some 8 centuries of the Basilica’s history.

The are divided into OLD TESTAMENT and NEW TESTAMENT stories and SAINTS.

 

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Old Testament Stories can be found in the narthex. They tell the stories of Noah, Creation, Joseph and Moses.

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New Testament stories are down the center cupolas of the church. They include pentecost, ascension, prophets and christ pantocreator

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Saints are numerous and all throut not only on the ceiling but the walls, in the cupolas you can find st john, leonard, clement,basius, nicholas, st peter

2. Mosaics on the Floor

The floor  is an actual marble carpet spread over no less than 2,099 square meters in rich earth tones set in intricate geometrical and natural patterns. 

While the domes and ceiling portray the celestial realm, St. Mark’s follows the Byzantine church architectural tenets by creating a floor that underscores earthly solidarity.

While most of the floor is geometric, it is lightened occasionally with intricate animal and floral designs made with tiny pieces of marble or even glass. It is thought that the artists who created the floor, like those who did the mosaics above, came from Constantinople or Greece.

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You can find animals like peacocks, rhino among the intricate patterns of mosaics

3. Treasures

In addition to its primary role as the ducal chapel of Venice, the Basilica of San Marco was also used as the treasury for the Venetian Republic’s most precious objects.

Byzantine treasures and spoils of war were displayed among mosaics, paintings, and sculptures, created by artists from Venice and other parts of Italy and beyond.

In 1075, the Doge passed a law requiring all returning ships to bring back something precious to decorate the basilica, accounting for the more than 500 columns of rare marble, porphyry, alabaster, and jasper brought back from the East.

The arrow points in the direction

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OLD TESTAMENT: MOSES

Cycle telling the story of Moses:
How to find:
-Look for details in circular center
-Circled is the burning bush scene

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OLD TESTAMENT: JOSEPH 3

Content Here

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OLD TESTAMENT: JOSEPH 2

In this cycle Joseph is taken to Egypt, becomes a steward to a pharaoh, interprets dreams which prevent a famine in the future

Identify:
-Details from centre circle
-Circled is a scene with Joseph dreaming

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OLD TESTAMENT: JOSEPH 1

Tells the story of Josephs' brothers trying to hid and sell him into slavery.

How to Identify-
-details from circular center
-Circled is the scene of Josephs' brothers hiding him in a tube

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OLD TESTAMENT: ABRAHAM

to identify
-Circled are hands representing God talking to Abraham, they are repeated 4x in the cycle
-Also circled is the scene where God tells Abraham Sara will get pregnant and her having child

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OLD TESTAMENT: NOAH'S ARK

Content Here

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OLD TESTAMENT: DOME OF CREATION

there are twenty-six scenes.
IN THE CENTER: dove hovering over water
1ST RING: days 1-3 of creation, judging by the number of angel figures surrounding God.
2ND RING: days 4-6 and day 7 with the 7th angel being blessed.
3RD RING: the expulsion of Adam & Eve
SPANDRELS AND LUNETTES: figures of cherubim and Stories of Cain and Abel.

The mosaics were created between 1220 and 1270.

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ST CLEMENT (1250ish)

The chapel features a great figure of the saint in the bowl-vault.

St Clement , like St Mark, was linked to Alexandria. He was a Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He died in 215 ad.

hmm???? a pillar here, the remains of St Mark were found in 1094. They had been hidden away from rebellions and thieves hundreds of years earlierand then got forgotten. … ??? CAN' FIND

FIND:***:where is the translation of St Mark from Alexandria by Venetian merchants in the Clement Chapel.

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ST PETER

Look for mosaic of st mark preventing a shipwreck.

The miracles of St Mark and his martyrdom and burial are pictured in the Peter Chapel.

I have not been able to find these mosaics.

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HALF DOME BEHIND ALTAR: CHRIST PANTOCRATOR

The Christ Pantocrator is traditional Byzantine iconography. The letters "IC XC" are the Greek abbreviation (monogram) for Jesus Christ, commonly found in Byzantine Art.

Below are four saints thought to be associated with Venice or St Mark:
St Nicholas: patron saint of sailors and of the Venetian fleet
St Peter: Mark was his disciple
St Mark:
St Hermagoras: St Peter sent Mark to Aquilea to preach, 3 years later when he returned to Rome he brought Hermagoras with him to be ordained by St Peter. After his return to Aquilea he was martyred at the request of Nero.

Venice because their relics are there.?????? is this true?? where????. I only know for sure st mark

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NEW TESTAMENT: PROPHET'S DOME

In the Center is half-figure of Christus Emmanuel against a starry sky. The Virgin and thirteen prophets posed as orants radiate out from the centre. Orant is a type of gesture during prayer in which the hands are raised, set apart, and the palms face outward. It was once commonly seen in early Christian art. The symbols of the evangelists appear in the four pendentives below. The mosaics are dated from the twelfth century but the figure of Christ was restored in the fifteenth century.

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NEW TESTAMENT: ASCENSION

Dates to the second half of the 12th century.

The Ascension is typical Byzantine iconography, with Christ seated on an arc of light, with his right hand raised in blessing. Behind him is a star-studded ring carried by 4 angels representing the heavenly realm. The Virgin Mary, two angels, and the twelve apostles form the outer ring. Below them, between the windows, are allegorical figures of virtues and beatitudes, which are found in Western iconography.

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ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST

Stories from his life
Look for:
-the awakening of the two men killed by the poisoned drink intended for the apostles
-St John in the pose of an orant
-the awakening of Drusiana.

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STS LEONARD, CLEMENT, BLASIUS & NICHOLAS

12th century mosaics

-St Leonard of Limoges: He was a nobleman at the court of Clovis. King Clovis was his godfather (1st catholic King of France). He was credited with miracles for the release of prisoners, women in labour and the diseases of cattle.
- St Nicholas: patron saint of the sea, bound Venice to the Adriatic and Aegean territories where he was widely worshipped.
-St Clement: the third pope, associated with Alexandria (like St Mark) where he was invited by the Apostle Peter to preach.
-St Blaise: was one of the saints worshipped in the territories with which the Repubblica Serenissima had ongoing relations.

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ST MARK

St Mark (replaced God in the 16th century) is under the hand of god. Underneath (in blue) is an 11th century Virgin Mary, surrounded by 8 apostles, and below them the 4 evangelists.

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NEW TESTAMENT: PENTECOST (1125)

The dove of the Holy Spirit in the centre shoots out a pinwheel of "spiritual lasers", igniting tongues of fire on the heads of the 12 apostles below. This gave them the ability to speak other languages so they could go out and preach.

One of the oldest mosaics in the church, it has distinct “Byzantine” characteristics:: a gold background, flatness, apostles with halos, solemn faces, almond eyes, delicate hands, all facing forward.

What is the Pentecost?
Told in the New Testament book of Acts.
After the resurrection, the 12 apostles and other early followers were gathered to celebrate the traditional Jewish Pentecost. Suddenly, a terrific wind came from heaven and filled the room.
Then, flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.
Immediately, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, causing them to speak in tongues. The crowds of visitors were astonished because every pilgrim heard the apostles speaking to him or her in their own foreign language.

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ST ISIDRO CHAPEL

Contains the saint's remains in a wall sarcophagus and is decorated with mid-14th-century mosaics.

Isidore of Chios was a Christian who was martyred on the island of Chios in 251 under the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Decius.

An officer in the Roman navy, Isidore confessed himself as a Christian to the commander of the fleet while they were on the Aegean island of Chios. He refused to repent and worship the gods of the state so he was tormented and beheaded, and his body cast into a cistern.

According to tradition, his friends Ammonius and Myrope, also destined to martyrdom, retrieved the body and interred it properly. Later Myrope was buried beside Isidore,

St Isidore's veneration spread in all the Mediterranean sea and he became a sailors’ protector.

In 1125 his body was brought from Chios to Venice. This small chapel containing the sarcophagus was built. In 1627 his skull was stolen from Constantinople and is also in the chapel.

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DODECAHEDRON FLOOR MOSAIC

Attributed to Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), the famous Florentine Renaissance artist. He was a painter and a mathematician who was notable for his pioneering work on visual perspective in art.

From 1425 to 1431, Uccello worked in Venice as a master mosaicist. All his work in Venice has been lost, however.

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ZEN CHAPEL

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Zen died in 1501 leaving a great deal of money to the Venetian Republic, with the stipulation that his tomb with a bronze effigy of himself be placed in the Basilica. The church had to work around the proposal as there was no tradition of burials – not even of Doges – inside San Mark's . A solution was made by enclosing a part of the Narthex along with an entrance into the church.
The chapel is decorated with scenes of St Mark's life, miracles and martyrdom.

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BAPTISTERY

Doge Andrea Dandolo, gave the Baptistery its current appearance during the 14th century. He replaced earlier fresco decorations with mosaics inspired by Byzantine models.

He was buried here in 1354, after which burials were no longer allowed in the basilica. You can find his contributions to the baptistery by his monument on the right side of the wall.

The interior is decorated with frescoes from the life of St John the baptist.

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ENTRANCE TO TREASURY

A big part of the collection is loot from the sacking of Constantinople in 1204.

Highlights (I have not seen these)
-cross encased in gold which Constantine took into battle
-relic of St John the Baptist (skull?)
-arm of St George
-Nails from the true cross and/or 2 pieces of the true cross
-3 stones used to martyr St Stephen

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PILLAR WHERE ST MARKS REMAINS WERE HIDDEN

Legend has it that in one of these pillars the remains of St Mark were hidden away from rebellions and thieves for hundreds of years. They had been forgotten until a hand miraculously appeared from the pillar directing attention to the lost body.

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RED MARBLE SLAB

The red slab of porphyry marks the exact spot in 1177 where the Holy Roman Emperor knelt before the Pope in defeat following the Treaty of Venice.

According to tradition, on 24 July 1177, the German Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Frederick I (known as Barbarossa) knelt in front of Pope Alexander III, as a sign of submission after a long war that had seen the Rome Pope allied with the municipalities of northern Italy (Lombard League) against the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

It is said that Barbarossa, to diminish his defeat, told the pope 'I do not kneel before Pope Alexander but Peter's successor ' and the Pope replied: 'I am Peter', digging the heel of the shoe in the neck of his enemy.

Look for a small white lozenge with a Latin inscription:

ALEX P.P.III FRID.I.IMP.
XXIIII VII MCLXXVII.

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NICOPEIA MADONNA

Trophy from Crusades in 1204, originally located in the monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Constantinople and was one of the city’s most precious icons. The image was thought to give miraculous protection to those who venerated it.

According to legend, the icon had been painted by Saint Luke himself. Although it dates to the early twelfth century, this association would have heightened the importance of the work.

This icon had been carried in battle at the head of the Imperial Army. Venetians venerated the Nicopeia Madonna (“she who brings victory”) as protectress of their city and on solemn occasions they displayed her on Basilica de San Marco’s high altar.

Both frame and image were encrusted with valuable jewels placed there as votive offerings. In 1970 a robbery resulted in the loss of the painting’s jewels.

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VIEW OF HIGH ALTAR

St Mark, Pala d'Oro, canopy, pillars, mosaic

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Nicopenia Madonna-viewpoint

Hard to see, chapel usually blocked off. Stand here and look in this direction.

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Look up: mosaic in the Dome or 1/2 dome

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Look on floor: mosaic

Look direction of arrow: treasure or chapel

USEFUL INFORMATION

Museum Pass: NO
visitmuve.it

The pass can be picked up in any of the museums included on the list. It’s good for 6 months from the date of purchase.

 

Chorus Pass: NO
chorusvenezia.org

12 euro includes over 12 churches
can buy online or at one of the church entrances.
normal entrance 1-3 Euros per church

 

Church Website:
basilicasanmarco.it

Cost: book tickets directly thru website above. Cost varies from 6 for basilica only to 32 for basilica, loggia, museum and bell tower.
Hours: vary depending on time of year: approx 930-500, check website for exact times