Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pax Tibi, Marce

Today's feast of St. Mark brings me back to Venice and the stupendous Basilica of San Marco. The emblem for the Basilica (and for the city of Venice) is the symbol of the evangelist Mark: a lion, but the book the lion holds is not the Gospel, but features the inscription "Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista Meus". That's not a scripture quote at all! Where does it come from?
Mark is said to have been St. Peter's right-hand man, and his Gospel basically a transcription of Peter's preaching. But Mark didn't stay at Peter's side his whole life. He eventually left Rome and evangelized in Egypt, especially in the prominent city of Alexandria which had an enormous and well-educated Jewish community. Eventually, Mark was imprisioned in Alexandria. There the Lord appeared to him (as he also did to Paul on more than one occasion) with the encouraging words "Peace to you, Mark, my evangelist." The very next day, Mark was martyred.
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story:
His body remained in peace in Egypt until the 800's when it was stolen by merchants and spirited off to Venice (under a pile of pork, so the Muslims wouldn't inspect the shipment too closely!). The doge of Venice happily received the relics of the saint for his private chapel...now the Basilica and Cathedral of Venice.

2 comments:

nancy (aka moneycoach) said...

I had absolutely no clue about this. Thanks for the history lesson - esp. the Very Little Known Fact re: smuggling in pork.

xaipe said...

There's even a mosaic in the basilica depicting this scene: the Muslims are holding their noses!