St. Mark’s, Venice: Something Sublime

I’m not the religious type. I’m certainly not tied to an organized religion. But when traveling, I often attend a church service at a prominent church, cathedral or basilica, particularly if it it’s known for the quality of its music as well as beautiful architecture and art. So in Venice, I took the opportunity to attend a Sunday high mass at Saint Mark’s Basilica. Oh my. The outside is amazing. The golden glow from the centuries-old mosaics inside takes your breath away. Even the stone mosaic floors are stunning.

Religious or not, it’s hard to sit in such surroundings, bathed in the sound of beautiful voices raised in celebration and prayer, and not believe that something so sublime, created by humanity, wasn’t somehow also touched by the divine.

A few practical notes: Attending mass at San Marco is one of the best ways to see the basilica. In fact, these days, it’s the only way, as the basilica is currently closed to ordinary visitors and those buying tickets for tours are only allowed into the museum. Mass and prayers are offered several times a day, both on weekdays and Sundays. Only the 10 AM Sunday Mass is sung, however. You can (and should) arrive somewhat before the service begins and are likely to be allowed to walk around a bit before taking a seat. Similarly, once the service ends, you can get up and move about, even taking photos for perhaps 10 minutes, before staff members start shooing you out. Understandably, no photographing is allowed during the services, though you’ll see some folks surrepticiously doing so. During my visit, one tourist was brazen, even setting his camera in the center aisle for a better shot. He was quickly and firmly admonished, however, by the St. Mark’s staff and put his camera away for the remainder of the mass. Entrance for services is on the left side of the church, not through the main door on the plaza.