Mystery in Venice: Where is St Mark’s Body?

Jul 20 11:10 2017 Lisa Jeeves Print This Article

Nothing makes history more interesting to children than a mystery! Venice tours bring history to life with the intrigue of St. Mark's mummified remains.

While it's perhaps most often associated with romantic travellers,Guest Posting Venice is actually a wonderful family holiday destination. Small group Venice tours can bring the highly accessible history of the city to life for young children, by placing them right at the sites of a host of architectural masterpieces and monumental events.

One of the enduring mysteries of the city surrounds the body of St. Mark, the remains of which are housed in one of the city's most recognisable landmarks. But the question being posed by some historians now is: whose bones really lie beneath the High Altar of the Basilica of San Marco? This fascinating story can't help but captivate young hearts and minds.

The Mystery of St. Mark's Remains

In the year 828, the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist were stolen from the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Two Venetian merchants had discovered that the church in which the remains were housed was in danger of being plundered by the Muslims and turned into a mosque. They stole the venerated remains of the saint and smuggled them out of the country hidden in wicker baskets, secreted amongst cabbage leaves and pork. (Muslims were forbidden to have contact with the meat so there was less likelihood of discovery.)

On their return to Venice the merchants presented the remains of St. Mark to the Doge, who commissioned the construction of a church behind the Palace to serve as a sepulchre. The bones of the saint were considered such a prize that the city's status was immediately catapulted to the dizzy heights of Rome's.

Strange Goings On

But plans did not run smoothly and during the construction of the Basilica, in 1063, the body of St. Mark disappeared without a trace. As legend has it, it wasn't until some 30 years later that it reappeared – just as mysteriously. It's said that his arm showed up behind a pillar in the church, with the fingers pointing in the exact direction of the rest of his bones. Today, the mummified remains are housed in the High Altar of the Basilica.

A Twist in the Tale

In 2004, British historian Andrew Chugg made claims that the remains that have been so revered as those of St. Mark are actually those of Alexander the Great – a man of very different character indeed! His theory involves the disguising of the great warlord's body as St. Mark's by members of the church in Alexandria, to prevent it from being destroyed during a Christian uprising. He believes that it was in fact Alexander's body that was stolen some four centuries later and not St. Mark's. 

There is much dissention among archaeologists and historians as to whether Chugg's theory carries any weight, but without DNA testing (which the church refuses to allow) it will remain a tantalising mystery… although all the more appealing to children!

Historical Venice Tours – Perfect For Families

For those travelling with children, there are definitely some benefits to booking small group Venice tours to unwrap the history of the city. Firstly, you'll start things off on the right foot by jumping the queues, and the tours are also scheduled at quieter times, meaning youngsters will be able to get a better look at everything without having to jostle the crowds.

But the most wonderful thing about such small group Venice tours is the companionship of an expert guide. These passionate, knowledgeable individuals know just how to engage children and which ancient stories of the city to highlight to capture a young attention span.

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About Article Author

Lisa Jeeves
Lisa Jeeves

Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Venice tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the city’s palaces and basilicas to unforgettable gondoliering lessons.

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