St Mark's Church Outside

Where is St. Mark buried – Alexandria or Venice?

Have you ever wondered where Jesus’ Disciple Mark is buried? 

St. Mark (also known as Mark the Evangelist) is the author of the Gospel of Mark, and remains a very influential figure for all Christians to this day.

But do we actually know where St. Mark’s relics are? 

Legend goes that St. Mark was initially buried in Alexandria, Egypt, but later, the remnants of his body were moved to Venice, and his bones are currently in the crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica. But there is some controversy here, and some scholars believe that St. Mark’s body was used as a disguise to move the body of Alexandar the Great to Venice!

It’s such an interesting debate, so I pulled together everything there is to know about the location of St. Mark’s remnants and how you can visit them today!

St Mark icon in the Convent of the Holy Trinity in Vranov, Slovakia
St Mark icon in the Convent of the Holy Trinity in Vranov, Slovakia

Who was Mark the Evangelist?

Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Bible. Written around 66-70 A.D., it is the shortest of the 4 gospels. It heavily emphasizes action and events, portraying Jesus as a dynamic and powerful figure.

He journeyed alongside Peter, gaining profound insights into Jesus Christ’s life and teachings, and played a vital role in spreading Christianity during its formative years.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Mark spent the latter part of his ministry and life in Alexandria, where he died as a martyr around 68 A.D.

A scripture from the Gospel of Mark
A scripture from the Gospel of Mark

The Case for St. Mark’s Relics in Venice, Italy

A popular theory suggests that in the 9th century, Venetian merchants smuggled St. Mark’s relics out of Alexandria.

According to this legend, Alexandria had come under Muslim control, but they were still very strict about imports and exports. To get around this, the smugglers covered the relics under pork and vegetables, which is considered unclean according to the Law and would have repulsed the Muslim officials.

But this wasn’t the end of their trials. On the sea journey, there were intense storms. But miraculously, an apparition of St. Mark appeared to help guide them through the storm. In the end, the ship successfully made it to Venice with what they believed to be the relics of Mark the Evangelist and were received with great reverence.

The local bishop, Giustiniano Particiaco, kept them stored away for a little while but eventually commissioned St. Mark’s Basilica to be built to house them. The Basilica remains one of the most iconic buildings in all of Europe and is quite unbelievable to visit in person.

This story has been widely circulated for centuries. However, the specific details are uncertain and may be exaggerated, and historical evidence supporting such an event has always been lacking.

St Mark's Tomb in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Tomb in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy

The Case For St. Mark’s Relics in Alexandria

As time passes, leading scholars are questioning whether it is just a myth that St. Mark’s body was transported to Venice.

The roots of Mark’s connection to Alexandria are embedded in early Christian tradition. It is widely believed that he brought the message of Christianity to the city and served as its first bishop.

Shortly after Mark’s martyrdom, his remains were interred in Alexandria, Egypt. However, the exact location of his tomb remained hidden for centuries.

It wasn’t until the 4th century when Pope Theophilus of Alexandria had an angelic revelation that revealed where St. Mark’s tomb was located.

This event marked the founding of Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, which has since stood as an architectural marvel and a center of faith.

St Mark's Tomb in St. Mark’s Cathedral Alexandria, Egypt
St Mark’s Tomb in St. Mark’s Cathedral Alexandria, Egypt

Is The Body Of Alexander the Great Actually in Mark’s Tomb?

The reason why they ‘got away with it’ is because they supposedly swapped the relics with someone else – that someone being the body of Alexandar the Great. The most significant piece of evidence is that “we lose track of Alexandar the Great’s remains roughly around the same time St. Mark’s Tomb appears.”

Other evidence is that some sources claim St. Mark’s body was burned shortly after his martyrdom, but there are similar sources that say there were heavy rains that prevented them from starting a fire, so the body was buried instead.

Anyway, this has led some scholars to question if they actually renamed the remains after St. Mark as a way to protect them from being ‘lost’ and ensure Amexandar’s protection under the Christian government.

But no clear historical or archaeological evidence supports this claim, and it’s likely not the body of Alexander the Great in St. Marks Tomb in Alexandria. Some people even suggested opening the tomb and doing a DNA test. As you can imagine, the Church is outraged by this and fighting hard to keep St. Mark’s Tomb from being desecrated.

Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Where was Alexander the Great buried?

The exact location of Alexander the Great’s burial remains a mystery to this day. After he died in 323 B.C. in Babylon, there are varying accounts of where his body was buried or stored.

The ancient sources provide conflicting information, and over time, the location of Alexander’s burial has become a mystery. The most widely accepted historical account suggests that his body was initially placed in a golden sarcophagus in Babylon and then transferred to Alexandria by Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander’s generals.

But we lose track of them around 400 A.D.

The Alexander Sarcophagus at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum
The Alexander Sarcophagus at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Tips for Visiting St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria

St. Mark’s Cathedral is also known as Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral and sits right at the heart of Alexandria. It’s one of my favorite places in Egypt and one of the city’s must-see spots. It’s actually the very first church to be built in Africa, standing as a testament to Christianity’s worldwide influence at the time.

Don’t confuse St. Mark’s Cathedral of Alexandria with St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Sometimes, when researching one, you will find information about the other, so it’s always a good idea to double-check.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Mark, and I agree that the saint’s relics lie beneath its main altar.

The Cathedral has a mix of traditional Coptic and modern architecture, and it serves as a major center for Coptic Christianity and is the seat of the Pope of Alexandria.

Inside St Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria
Inside St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria

What to Expect at St. Mark’s Cathedral

As you step into the Cathedral, the first thing that strikes you is the beautiful architecture, with its intricate designs and religious iconography. These icons, frescoes, and other artwork tell stories of faith, perseverance, and devotion. It also houses several relics and artifacts connected to the growth of Christianity in Egypt through the centuries.

This makes it a fascinating stop for anyone who is interested in religious history.

At the center of the Cathedral is an altar, under which are the remains of St. Mark. As you can imagine, this is the most sacred part of the Cathedral. The presence of St. Mark’s tomb adds to the spiritual weight of the Cathedral.

I found great joy in spending time here reflecting on the teaching of Mark’s Gospel.

Opening Hours

St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral welcomes visitors throughout the week. Typically, the Cathedral is open to the public from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, but it’s essential to note that opening hours may vary, especially on Easter, Christmas, and other religious holidays.

Liturgies happen daily from 5:00 to 7:00 AM and 8:30 to 10:00 AM (except Sundays, 6:00 to 8:00 AM and 8:30 to 10:30 AM).

Occasionally, ceremonies restrict visitors from entering the crypt.

It’s always a good idea to check the latest visiting hours before heading over to the Cathedral since the schedule is subject to change.

Entrance Fees

Visiting St. Mark’s Cathedral is completely free, but donations are welcomed and go towards maintaining this historic site.

You should also be aware that security can be tight in this area of the city. I’ve heard stories from other tourists who were asked to leave their passports with officials at the entrance. This didn’t happen to me, but I can understand why this would make some travelers weary about visiting.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit St. Mark’s Cathedral is during the cooler months, from October to April, when Alexandria’s weather is most pleasant. It will still be quite hot, but these months don’t have the same sweltering summer heat, so it can be a bit more comfortable.

I’d also encourage you to visit early in the morning. You can catch the end of the liturgy and then explore the Cathedral without hoards of other tourists around. This allows you to have more time for peaceful reflection. Also, I’d avoid major Christian holidays.

Regardless of when you choose to visit, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria is fantastic. So, it’s still worth it despite the crowds if you can only visit in the summer or later in the day.

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Where to Stay Near Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral?

In the vicinity of Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, there are a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets.

Places to stay in the city are really affordable compared to Western prices. You’ll spend less than $100 per night for a luxurious hotel room with a balcony with a view.

Here are a few of my top recommendations for where to stay in Alexandria!

Best Affordable Hotel: Paradise Inn Windsor Palace Hotel

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Downtown Sea View Suites

Best Luxury Hotel: Steigenberger Cecil Hotel

So, Where are the relics of St. Mark located?

My answer to those asking, “Where is St. Mark buried?” is always Alexandria, Egypt.

Historical records and early Christian traditions firmly associate St. Mark with Alexandria. Here, he is believed to have been the city’s first bishop, where his martyrdom is said to have occurred.

I believe that relics of Mark are in Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt. They are in a chamber beneath the main altar of the Cathedral houses the sacred relics of St. Mark. Pilgrims and visitors often come to this Cathedral to pay homage and experience the site’s spiritual significance.

St. Mark’s Cathedral may be one of my favorite places in Alexandria, but there are so many other cool things to see in the city.

If you’re running short of time or only have a day to spend in Alexandria, consider booking a full city tour that takes you through all of the highlights of the historic city!

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