St. Mark’s Square or the Piazza San Marco is a large public square in Venice. Constructed between 800-1100, this is the main square of the city. The locals refer to it as the ‘la Piazza’ or ‘the square’. In fact, St. Mark’s Square is the only square in Venice that is called a ‘piazza’ – the others are referred to as ‘campo’.
The square was the front courtyard of a small chapel. The Rio Batario ran between the square and the Doge’s Palace. It is now a gathering place for both locals and visitors. You will love the open space, which is lined with outdoor cafes, restaurants, and stores beneath the surrounding covered arcades. You can see many pigeons here at all times. The main street of Venice, Merceria, leads to the square through the arch of the Saint Mark’s Clock tower.
Piazza San Marco opens to the Grand Canal through the delightful Piazzetta, which was formerly called II Broglio (Intrigue) because from 10 AM to noon, only the nobles were allowed to meet here. There was a time when many plots and conspiracies used to be planned here. See the 2 granite columns, the Lion of St. Mark, and the statue of St. Theodore, which came from Constantinople. You can read the detailed history of St. Mark’s Square here.
St. Mark’s Square – Quick Facts
|St. Mark’s Square||It is a large public square or piazza in Venice, Italy|
|Other Name||Piazza San Marco|
|Nearest Vaporetto stop||Piazza San Marco|
|Main Attractions||St. Mark’s Clock Tower, St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Campanile|
|What To Do||People watching, restaurants, cafes, iconic buildings|
Napoleon once commented that St. Mark’s Square was ‘the drawing room of Europe’. There is, however, no documented proof of this.
St. Mark’s Clock Tower
The clock tower is a landmark of the piazza. It adds a graceful background to the square with its galleries and columns. The Clock Tower was constructed at the end of the 15th century. Its dial bears the signs of the zodiac. On its summit, you will see the famous moors, which is a pair of giant bronze jacks that have been striking the hours for 500 years.
See the Old Law Courts built at the beginning of the 16th century to the left of the Clock Tower. Officers of the building committee of the basilica used to live here. They were in charge of looking after the building.
St. Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica was the State Church of the Republic. A former chapel, this has been an important religious site since the remains of St. Mark were brought to Venice in 829. St. Mark’s became extremely wealthy after Constantinople fell, and the Venetian crusaders returned with loads of Byzantine treasures. You will see some of that artistry and treasures on the basilica.
1. Don’t miss the 4,240 sq meters of luminous and ethereal gold mosaics
2. Pala d’Oro – The Byzantine golden retable
3. Marbled inlaid flooring
4. Gold reliquaries
There are always long lines at the St. Mark’s Basilica, but it is still a must-see in Venice. It is, after all, a landmark of Europe, and not just the city.
You will see many pigeons at St. Mark’s Square, but you cannot feed them. Heavy fines are imposed on those who feed them.
Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica are the two most famous buildings in Venice. They are next to each other. Also called the Palazzo Ducale, see and appreciate its airy, harmonious design and the soft colors, and also the sculpture, arches, domes, and the mosaics of the façade. The Interior of the Doge’s Palace is equally impressive.
- The oil paintings of Tintoretto,
- Sansovino’s Scala d’Oro golden stairway
- Sala del Maggior Consiglio
- Paintings by Veronese, Titian, Bellini, and Carpaccio
Campanile is a tall bell tower that is made of brick. Constructed between the 10th and the 12th century, this is the bell tower of the basilica, linking the Piazzetta with the piazza. In fact, at 98.6 meters, the tower is so tall that once ships arriving in Venice used to be guided by a beacon that was placed on its top. Campanile collapsed in 1902 but was rebuilt. See the bronze masterpieces of Sansovino between the 2 columns. You can also take the elevator to reach a platform to get a spectacular view of the lagoon and the city.
It was also a pillory during the Middle Ages. Renegade priests and adulterers were kept in a cage here and hoisted up the tower. Sometimes, they were kept up for many weeks.
Top Things To See At St. Mark’s Square
- St. Mark’s Basilica – Basilica di San Marco
- Doge’s Palace – Palazzo Ducale
- Clock Tower – Torre dell’Orologio
- Piazzetta and Libreria Sansoviniana
- Bridge of Sighs
- Archeological Museum