San Marco Square (Piazza San Marco) forms the center of Venice. This is also the lowest point in the city, and because of this the square is constantly flooded with water, especially in winter. San Marco Square is surrounded by beautiful buildings - the Basilica of San Marco , the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia , the Campanile belfry and the Marciana Library. To the right of the basilica you will find Piazetta Square that leads to the Grand Canal. The first San Marco Church was built in the IX century in order to store the relics of Saint Marcus that were stolen by Venetians from Alexandria. This church was burned in a fire, and then a new church was built on the same site. That church was destroyed in the XI century. The modern basilica is built on the foundation of that church. By the way, some historians believe that the relics stored in this church are the remains of Alexander the Great, and not St. Marcus – the relics of the great conqueror disappeared at the same time, when the relics of St. Marcus were found. The basilica has five domes and a large number of arches, turrets and other architectural decorations that have appeared over the centuries due to the treasures, brought by Venetian ships from the East. Therefore, today, one can see Byzantine silver, gold and utensils, captured during the Fourth Crusade in the XIII century, in the treasury of the basilica (Tresoro). The quadriga that adorns the pediment of the basilica was brought as a trophy at the same time. By the way, the horses on the front, which visitors see today, are a replica of the original that has been kept behind the glass since 1990.
The basilica itself has often been the victim of looting. Thus, during the capture of Venice by Napoleon, jewels that decorated the icons of the golden altar (Pala d'Oro) and the main altar of the church were stolen. However, these days the composition made of numerous medium-sized icons is in a fairly good condition. The Napoleon army also stole the front quadriga, but it was returned to Venice in 1815.
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