Well, wrap your head around the story of the theft of St. Mark's body from Alexandria. That's what's depicted in the picture.
Around the year 828 a group of Venetian merchants arrived at the sanctuary of Alexandria with the intention of transporting the relics of the saint, by whatever means, to the nascent city of Venice. Outstanding among these men were Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello. They learnt from the monk Staurazio and the priest Theodore, custodians of the sanctuary, that it risked being destroyed by the Arab governor of Alexandria who had decided to use marble and columns from the Christian churches to build a palace in the ancient city of Babylon. To console them the merchants offered to take them back to Venice together with the body of Mark.
Having overcome the resistance of the two religious men the evangelist's body was replaced by the nearby body of the martyr Saint Claudia and the relics loaded aboard ship, concealed in wicker baskets and protected by cabbage leaves and pork, the latter frowned upon by the Islamic religion. At the moment of departure an intense odour came from the sanctuary of St. Mark and spread throughout the town. All the inhabitants of Alexandria ran to the sacred place to see what had happened. Assured that Mark's body was still in its place, tricked by the substitution, they returned quietly to their homes. On passing the customs barrier the two Venetian merchants reported their goods with the fateful words "kanzir, kanzir" (pig), and were thus cleared by the excisemen who held their noses in disgust at the idea of pork.
The voyage to Venice was full of adventure, an apparition of the saint to the sleepy sailors even saving them from shipwreck.
On 31st January 828 the body of St. Mark was deposited at the Port of Olivolo, welcomed by the local bishop and the Doge Giustiniano Particiaco. The relics were first placed in a corner of the Ducal Palace to await building of the new basilica that was to house them. So Mark, already patron saint of Alexandria, now became patron saint of Venice.
© 2004 - Procuratoria di San Marco Venezia