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Basilica di San Marco

For a glimpse of the architectural glitter that was once Byzantium, there is no better place than St Mark’s Basilica. Its 8,000 square metres of dazzlng mosaics are echoed in the high altar retable. Known as the Pala d’Oro, the Golden Cloth, the gem-encrusted, gilded paneling was commissioned from Constantinople in the 12th century and is recognised as a pinnacle of Byzantine craftsmanship. The church was founded in the 9th century when relics of Mark the Apostle were stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants, and over subsequent centuries many architectural elements from antiquity were added by returning merchants from their voyages around the eastern Mediterranean. The four bronze horses on the Basilica’s façade are replicas of ones that in Roman times stood in Constantinople’s Hippodrome. The original quadriga, which may date from the 4th century BC, was brought from Constantinople when it was looted in the Fourth Crusade and is now kept in St Mark’s museum.

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