Listen to the podcast for San Marco
Today we visit the basilica of San Marco. First dedicated to Saint Mark the Evangelist, the church was later also dedicated to Pope Saint Mark, who once lived on this site.
This is one of Rome’s oldest churches, built around the year 336. Known as Titulus Marci, this was one of the original twenty-five titular churches.
The portico outside the church is made of travertine marble that came from the Colosseum. On the right-hand wall of the portico is the funerary monument of Vannozza dei Cattanei, mistress of Pope Alexander VI and mother to Lucrezia Borgia. Over the years it was vandalized several times by enemies of the Borgias.
Inside are beautiful reddish-pink columns made of Sicilian jasper. Above it all is a coffered wooden ceiling thought to be the oldest in Rome. The ceiling was made by the same architect who built the Sistine Chapel, Giovannino de Dolci.
The ninth century apse mosaic is special in a few ways. First, Christ is standing. We typically see Christ sitting enthroned. Second, this was the last major mosaic project in Rome for nearly 300 years. As we’ve seen several times throughout this Lenten tour of churches, the pope depicted in the mosaic, Pope Gregory IV, has a blue square halo indicating that he was alive during the project. Beside him stands Saint Mark, who, with his hand on Pope Gregory’s shoulder, is introducing him to the Lord.