One of the world's best-known churches, home to most of St. Mark's remains

Eight centuries after his death, the Venetian ruling class of merchants decided that a more impressive patron saint was required for their increasing powerful city state. St. Mark of Alexandria was a big enough name to add a spiritual sheen to their economic success.

A mosaic in the Basilica of St. Mark, Venice, showing the saint guiding the boat with his own remains through a storm

Some enterprising merchants put the plan into action in 828. First, they had to trick the Christian keepers of his tomb. Then they had to smuggle the body out of Egypt, which by then was very much under Muslim control.

St. Mark the Evangelist was bishop of Alexandria, Egypt

A Renaissance painting of St. Mark preaching in Alexandria, which looks more like Venice -- although giraffes would have been rare in both cities.

The altar in front of St. Mark's tomb in the basilica's crypt


St. Theodore with his crocodile

Venice's original patron was St. Theodore, but as the city-state grew in wealth and power it decided to seek a more famous patron in St. Mark.

The winged lion, the symbol of St. Mark and his Gospel

The winged lion of of St. Mark still dominates the Piazza San Marco although it was looted by Napoleon in 1797.

Egypt's Coptic Christians trace their apostolic lineage to St. Mark.

The Coptic Pope Tawadros II is in a direct line of descent from the church's founder, St. Mark, almost 2,000 years ago.