Mosaics and St. Mark
The mosaics of San Marco Basilica are an important representation of mosaic art and its change over time in Venice and demonstrate the importance of the art of mosaic in Venice starting from the 11th century to present day. In particular the depictions of Saint Mark through the medium of mosaic in San Marco portray the importance of Venice’s relationship to both subjects: St. Mark and mosaics. In these mosaics Venice relates itself to the saint using him as a personification of Venice’s glory by making icons out of a prestigious event within the cities own history.
Venice is responsible for creating its own legend surrounding the life of Mark and his eventual translation to Venice. To be taken seriously as a powerful entity in Europe Venice felt it needed a connection to an important saint. Whether based in fiction or fact the San Marco Basilica was built and decorated as a large reliquary for a body believed to be that of St. Mark. His stories are given precedence in mosaic particularly on the façade of the Basilica and in the interior of the sanctuary.
The chronology of the St. Mark mosaics is interesting and is evident in their appearance. Styles ranging from the early 12th century to restoration work of the 19th century are present. The stylistic changes occurred due to restorations as well as each time period’s dislike for the work done by earlier artists. Even with these changes Venice did create some regulations as early at the 17th century pertaining specifically to mosaics in an attempt to preserve their iconography and narrative. A comparison of the varying styles can be made because evidence of the old mosaics remain in both the decoration of San Marco, personal accounts of viewers and artwork featuring the Basilica that includes the mosaics.
San Marco has undergone many changes in its lifetime and issues concerning mosaics have been a part of it since the end of the 11th century. Examining them in regards to the depictions of St. Mark allows for a more in depth analysis of the mosaics as well as the Venetian relationship to their stolen saint and his portrayal in Venetian art.
 John J. Norwich, A History of Venice (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 29.