This limited group tour (never more than 25 people) offers both an informed insiders view of the wonders of St' Marks and a chance to visit the Zen Chapel, one of the Basilica's treasures that is ordinarily off-limits to visitors.
St Mark's is obviously on the must-see list for all visitors to Venice, but few leave with such a treasured insight into its treasures, and many see the queues and content themselves with some external photographs ... this is a fully-inclusive skip-the-lines tour that also features a viewing of the stunning Pala d'Oro.
San Marco is the self-evident religious heart of Venice and the Basilica (cathedral) is testimony to both this and the enormous wealth of the long-lived Venetian Republic. This tour will uncover the secrets of St Mark's, the story behind the building and its treasure trove of art, and how the cathedral began life as a simple church to the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale).
The tour begins with a historical introduction before moving on to the baptistery and then the Zen Chapel. This can only be viewed as part of a guided tour and is a splendid example of renaissance art and craft, with mosaic work that predates the current building to the time when this formed part of the principal entrance. Next it's the treasury, two rooms that are the only remaining sections of the original Palazzo Ducale; here your guide will focus on the noted collection of liturgical pieces and relics. There are almost 300 pieces here including many Islamic and Byzantine pieces dating to the sacking of Constantinople.
After admiring the high altar area it's time for what is probably the crowning glory, the Pala d'Oro, quite possibly one of the most valuable objects in the world! Made of siver-gilt leaves and decorated with cloisonné enamel work and precious stones, it is by the great goldsmith Buoninsegna and was completed in 1345. It is actually the backdrop to the altar but is usually hidden, being maneuvered into place only for grand occasions and celebrations.
Once the tour is over you're free to remain inside and explore independently, opening hours permitting.
4.8 stars out of 5 from 8 ratings.