Founded in 421 A.D., Venice grew to become the center of a maritime republic and one of most influential cultural cities in the Mediterranean world. In a brash move to proclaim Venice’s arrival as a city on par with Rome, two Venetian merchants stole the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria in 828 A.D. The relics were received with great ceremony and housed in the newly built Basilica of San Marco in 832. With that, St. Mark had replaced St. Theodore as the patron saint of Venice. By the 16th century, Venice had colonized all of northeastern Italy and held a monopoly over Mediterranean trade.