By Martina Bollini

25 April marks the feast day of Saint Mark, one of the four Evangelists. Mark’s mother was a prominent member of the early Christian Church and offered Peter shelter when the saint was released from prison. Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul took Mark with them at the end of their ministration in Jerusalem and, later, Mark acted as a sort of assistant on their many religious missions. According to a widespread tradition, Mark founded the Church of Alexandria (Egypt), one of the most important episcopal sees of Early Christianity. Here, the Saint died in 68 aD: according to Eusebius and to the Golden Legend, his body was dragged in martyrdom all over the city. 

In 828 the relics of Saint Mark were stolen by two Venetian merchants and taken to Venice. The saint was proclaimed patron of the city and, consequently, the construction of the first Church of Saint Mark in Venice began. 

In early Christian art, the four Evangelists Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were often represented by the tetramorph, a symbolic arrangement of four differing figures. Saint Mark was associated with the winged lion. When the use of the tetramorph in visual arts declined, the Evangelists were chiefly shown in their human forms and Mark was most often depicted writing or holding his gospel. The account of the life of Saint Mark was frequently represented by Venetian artists such as Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto.

Symbol of St. Mark, first half of the V century, Galla Placidia Mausoleum (mosaic of the nave vault), Ravenna.

Paolo Veneziano, Pala feriale: Translation of the Body of St Mark, 1345,

Donatello, Saint Mark (copy), 1411-13, Orsanmichele Church, Florence. The original statue is inside the church’s museum.

Andrea Mantegna, Saint Mark, c. 1450, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.

Giovanni Bellini, St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria, 1504–07, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.  

Angelo Bronzino, Saint Mark, c. 1525, Cappella Capponi, Church of Santa Felicita, Florence.

Pordenone, Saint Mark, c. 1535, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

Tintoretto, The Miracle of St Mark Freeing the Slave, 1548, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

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