In 829, Saint Mark, symbolized by the winged lion, was chosen as the protector of the Venetian Republic. Wherever the Venetians ruled, the lion can be found again, mostly on a column.
So how did the Holy came to Venice? Venice???
Legend goes that the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark came as a missionary to Northeast Italy at the request of St. Peter. There he founded the first archbishopric of Aquileia (was also part of the area that once should become Venice).
On one of these mission trips, so the legend, the saint got lost in the lagoon at dusk and lay down on an island. In his dream an angel appeared and welcomed him with the words "pax tibi Marce" (Latin for peace with you, Mark, which is the sentence written in the book that is held by the lion with his paw).
Normally you can see the lion of St. Mark with an open book. But in times of war, however, the book closed. Thus, no peace.
The angel predicted that exactly this very resting place would once become the place of his highest worship. And with a little help from the resourceful Venetians it was then.
His travels took Markus in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which he won for Christianity, and where he founded another bishopric. Alexandria was the place where he also suffered his martyrdom. The pagan party caught and tied him with ropes and dragged him to death. The Alexandrian Christians buried him in his episcopal church.
In the 9th century the town was owned by the Muslim Saracens. The Caliph ordered the construction of a magnificent palace. As building material also parts of the christian churches. Thus the final resting place of the Evangelist was in danger!
Two Venetian merchants (Rusticus and Bonus, which just happened to be in Alexandria and which had just finished their devotion in the Church of St. Mark) were alarmed by the plans of the Caliph. The Venetians made no bones and devised a plan to rid the relic of the saint.
First off they had to convince the recalcitrant monks, that it would be better to give the relic in her hands than to let it being mistreated by the Saracens. The advocacy succeeded. But how to bring out the relic from the city?
Bonus and Rusticus fervently prayed to the saints for help. And so it happened that a violent storm came down on the city, as they managed to find his body the church. So they got away unnoticed with their booty from the church. But how should they get past the muslim customs?
They knew also here to help. They transported the so "wonderful" smelling corpse in a box covered with pork meat. The customs officers were so horrified that they let them pass immediately. In a wonderfully fast ride they took the body to Venice on the 31th of January, where he was solemnly received.
They wanted to bring the precious relic in the Doge's Palace. During the transport, right on the exact spot where St. Marks church was later to be, the relic became so heavy that several men could no longer carry it. Only when the Doge promised in a vow that the would accurately build a church at this point, the body could be picked up again and carried away to its provisional resting place.
So far the story goes. Or put the venetian way: "Se non vero é, é trovato ben". (If it is not true, then it is well invented!)
In these times Venice was embroiled in violent clashed with the Archdiocese Aquileia over an independent Venetian diocese. Well, as the Missionaries of the Archdiocese of Aquileia were in Venice, not even the Pope could deny the Serenissima its own diocese.
Not few historians have claimed, therefore, Rusticus and Bonus did not come for Alexandria as dealers, but had the mission to rob the relic and with this to decide the annoying diocese-question once and for all times in favor of Venice.
The veneration of saints and the belief in the presence of the relic, it did not come to an end even when the body disappeared several times, and then, reappeared again, as if by magic, unharmed.
It is certain that the two Venetian relic-experts Rusticus and Bono found (after at least 7 centuries) and took away the right corpse?
If so, too bad that the relic went lost soon: as the Venetians feared, that the Alexandrian Christians would come back on them to get Mark back, they hid the relic precautiously at a secret location in the St. Mark's Church, of which only the Doge and his closest advisors knew.
Unfortunately St. Mark's Church burned down during the uprising against the Doge Orseolo in 976. The Doge was killed, and so no one knew where the relic was!
Of course no one was told about this and more than 100 years later - again as if by magic - the miracle happens: Mark himself extends his hand out of the column in which his body was hidden. A scene that can be admired in a beautiful mosaic in the right transept. The solemn funeral of the emerged relic coincides with the inauguration of the magnificent new church of Markus in 1094.
Conclusion: Whoever it was who was brought from Alexandria by Rustico and Bono and buried crypt in 1094 - under the banner of Markus the Venetians became the greatest naval power in the Middle Ages.