Hidden treasures

The Crypt of St. Mark's Basilica

Unknown places & works
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The Crypt of St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice is probably one of the most famous and visited churches in the Western world. Every day, thousands of tourists come to its doors to admire the beautiful mosaics and precious marble it preserves inside... Here there are places that have retained a hidden aura of mysterious charm, such as the crypt.

St. Mark's Basilica crypt lies below the presbytery and is accessible from two docks that are not always noticeable... The interior of the crypt is a bit bare but there is an incredible ancient atmosphere!

In 1063 Doge Domenico Contarini commissioned the construction of a new basilica to keep the remains of the Evangelist Mark; the ruins of previous buildings were transformed into a crypt and the new basilica was built above it.

When in 1094 the body of St. Mark was miraculously found, it was placed with full honours inside the crypt. As the water level rose, in 1563 it was considered necessary to raise the crypt floor, but this was not enough to restore the building, so soon the Brotherhood of the Mascol[am1] i, who officiated there, had to move their seat in a chapel inside the Church. In 1604 access to the crypt was closed with seals.

In the following centuries St Mark’s crypt was considered an unhealthy and fetid place... But no one had ever forgotten that there lied the heart of St Mark’s worship: the relic of Marc's holy body. For this reason periodic and unsuccessful reconnaissance efforts were carried out, also to control the Basilica's wall structures, which are constantly in need of verification and consolidation.

In 1811, restoration work finally started, during which the wooden box was discovered, where the Evangelist relics were preserved, which were then moved under the altar of the Basilica.

The crypt was reopened only in 1889; since then it has also been used as a burial place for the Patriarchs of Venice.

The crypt is open to the public on only a few occasions... One of these is our evening guided tour of St. Mark's Basilica: you can access the most important religious building in Venice beyond the usual opening hours to the public and enjoy an intimate and exciting visit that also includes access to this amazing crypt!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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