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St. Mark's Basilica, Venice

St. Mark's Basilica, Venice

Certainly Venice's best-known church, and one of the most easily recognized in the world, St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was originally the Doge's private chapel, decorated with Byzantine art treasures that are part of the booty brought back by Venetian ships after the fall of Constantinople. The gold-backed mosaic pictures above the doorways on the façade only hint at the mosaic artistry inside, where 4,240 square meters of gold mosaics cover the domes and walls.

These set a distinctly Byzantine tone to its soaring interior, but you'll find treasures from other periods, including later mosaics designed by Titian and Tintoretto - names you'll encounter all over the city. The magnificent golden altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro, one of the finest in Europe, was begun by early 12th-century artists, and centuries later, adorned with nearly 2,000 gems and precious stones. If you can tear your eyes from this, the mosaic domes, and the multitude of richly decorated altars, glance down at the floor, a masterpiece of marble inlay. And take time to see the gold reliquaries and icons in the Treasury.