The church of San Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio, better known simply as San Marco, was originally built by Pope Mark (r. 336), making it the first place of public Christian worship in the heart of Rome.
San Marco, which is the national church of Venice, has been subsequently restored and rebuilt on several occasions. The last major reworking was completed by Cardinal Angelo Maria Quirini between 1735 and 1750.
The beautiful mosaics were added by Pope Gregory IV (r. 827-44). In the centre of the apse stands Christ, holding an open book in his left hand. We read: 'EGO SUM LUX EGO SUM VITA EGO SUM RESURRECTIO' ('I am the light. I am the life. I am the resurrection').
To the left of Christ stand Pope Gregory IV (holding a model of the church), St Mark and St Felicissimus, while to the right stand St Agnes (holding a martyr’s crown), St Agapetus and Pope Mark (r.336). The divine hand of God the Father can be seen above the head of Christ, while under his feet we see a dove with a halo perching on the edge of a fountain.
In the centre of the lower band stands the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) flanked by twelve sheep (symbolising the twelve apostles). On the outside of the arch are roundels of Christ and symbols of the four evangelists. The two full-length figures depict St Paul and St Peter.
The ceiling, bearing the coat of arms of Pope Paul II (r. 1464-1471), is one of only two 15th century wooden ceilings in a Roman church (the other is at Santa Maria Maggiore).
Embedded into the right wall of the portico of the church is the tomb slab of Vanozza Cattanei, mistress of Cardinal Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503), to whom she bore four children, including the infamous Cesare and Lucrezia.
The charming image (1464) of St Mark (and lion), above the entrance to the church, is the work of the sculptor Isaia da Pisa (1410-64).
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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