“Saint Mark’s Basilica is truly an embodiment of the Venetian aesthetic,” writes Melanie Renzulli at Tripsavvy. Originally the private chapel of the Doge, St Mark’s only became Venice’s official cathedral in 1807, replacing the city’s original basilica of St Peter’s in Castello. "Often seen as the living testimony of Venice's links with Byzantium, St Mark's basilica is also an expression of the city's independence,” says Time Out. It is “modelled after Constantine the Great’s Church of the Holy Apostles (no longer standing) and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul,” notes Sacred Destinations. It is one of Venice’s most visited sights and a must-see on any visit, advises Walks of Italy, boasting “a history that stretches all the way back to the 9th century A.D., it’s also a church with a lot of interesting stories and legends behind it.”
The first basilica built in the lagoon was the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, on the northerly island of Torcello. It was “established in 639 according to the wishes of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius and the Exarch of Ravenna … an inscription at the site, dating from the cathedral’s founding, is considered the oldest known document in Venetian history,” explains the World Monuments Fund. Inside, its shimmering mosaics “bear testimony to the beginning of Venetian art’s separation from the influences of Ravenna and Byzantium,” says Italian Ways.
Sign up for Guidebook's weekly collection of fresh stories and useful news about Venice for travelers. It’s free.