Cannaregio    Castello    Dorsoduro    San Marco    San Polo    Santa Croce    Giudecca    The Islands
The List    The Lost Churches    The Scuole
The Veneto: Padua and Verona               Emilia-Romagna: Bologna





I created this site in 2007 because there wasn't a site like it, or indeed a comprehensive book of Venice's churches available in English. It's all my own work. The photos are too, except where noted.

The churches are divided up by sestiere - the six 'boroughs' of Venice established by Doge Vitale Michiel in 1171. I've added an extra page for Giudecca, which is not a sestiere - it's actually part of Dorsoduro - but is a separate enough entity to deserve its own page, I think. There are also pages devoted to the lagoon islands and to demolished churches, and to the churches of Padua, Verona and Bologna.

I suppose I should point out that, contradictory as it may seem to some, this is a religion-free site. My interest is artistic, historical, and unpious. I am respectful of others' beliefs, usually, and expect them to be respectful of my personal convictions too.

Each church's history is told, followed by a description of its architecture, artistic highlights, unique features, the art it has lost and any interesting stories. The degree to which each topic is covered will vary, depending on the information available and what makes each church interesting and worth visiting, as will the amount of personal observation and opinion in each piece. The latter depends on my having visited the church, and how recently, and it's this aspect that will keep the site improving for a good long while, I think. My intention is to tell you what makes each church special, rather than to list all of its features and contents.  As I progress I'm finding that I'm becoming more interested in digging out the sparse facts about forgotten churches rather than writing about the churches that are well-enough covered elsewhere. Also I'm finding that on later visits experience and education is making me notice different things. Each entry also tells you the nearest vaporetto stop and a link to it's position on a special Google map. And then there's the opening times - I'll endeavour to keep these times as accurate as possible, but it's always a good idea to check before travelling, and to be prepared for disappointment.

There's also an alphabetical list of all the churches and a page revealing my sources

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15th January 2021
January can be a depressing month in the best of years, and Lockdown 3 in the UK has made this January even grimmer - stopping at home very strongly advised and only essential shops open. But this week began with us getting two new cats and has ended up with me getting my Covid vaccination. So some optimism that trips might be possible this Spring. May? June? Let's have hope.

14th November 2020
We’re a week into Lockdown 2 in the UK, and as museums and cathedrals are closed until early December my life currently consists of food shopping, online art-history courses and working on the websites.

The Churches of Florence colour scheme is no longer green, but a tasteful terracotta. I tried the green of the marble on SM Novella, using Windows’ new built-in colour-sampling function on photos of the facade, but it was too murky. Both churches sites are benefiting from some good stuff found on Oxfam’s online bookshop. A big hardback catalogue of the Accademia has been gone through and been a benefit, especially to the Scuole pages here. Some 1970s guidebooks to the Frari, Santa Fosca on Torcello and Santa Croce in Florence are now top of the pile, smelling strongly of old books.

12th October 2020
When the Covid situation improved in the summer, and lockdowns were eased, it looked like a September or October trip to Italy might be possible. But Autumn is bringing further restricting and measures and it's looking increasingly unlikely that I'll be getting my ass to Italy this year. I have been working on a page devoted to Ferrara for this site, but it needs more church visits and photos to be presentable. Three art-historical guided trips, to Siena, Lucca and Parma, have been postponed from this year to the first half of 2021 and I really hope that they, and some solo church research trips, happen. I'm getting around England, our cathedrals are grand, and empty museums are a treat, but I'm definitely suffering gelato, gilded-altarpiece and fresco-cycle withdrawal symptoms. Life goes on, though, and hope helps.

9th April 2020
My coronavirus-encouraged revising of this site has now seen the completion of Cannaregio. Dates have been added, or clarified, altarpiece listings improved, and more relic-related fun was had. I learned that Santa Maria dei Servi had a fragment of the titulus from the True Cross, the piece of wood with INRI written on it, and a famed and much-reported silver reliquary on the high altar containing the head of Mary Cleophas, one of the Three Marys, also known as 'the other Mary'. In a print of the reliquary her crowned head peaks above the rim in a way that you'd have to be unusually pious not to grin at.

1st April 2020
Over the years photos of firmly- closed churches have slowly found their way onto these pages. Mostly these have resulted from the buildings being used for art exhibitions - Sant'Andrea della Zirada, Santa Maria Valverde and San Lorenzo are prime examples. Much rarer are examples of the Venetian-resident wives of Welsh authors risking a shouting at by photographing the interior of a church long thought to have been crumbling, stripped and bare. My entry for Spirito Santo now has three interior photos that soundly contradict this assumption and, also courtesy of said Caroline, details of an altarpiece once in the church that looks to be a large can of worms in the making.

30th March 2020
Last week I started my coronavirus-enforced revising of The Churches of Venice and have just finished the first page of Cannaregio. New knowledge includes the fact that Doge Renier Zen was a prominent sponsor of the Crociferi/Gesuiti church in the 13th century, having presented the church with the relics of Saint Barbara in 1256, which helped the order’s finances no end. (But a second body of Barbara at the convent of San Giovanni Evangelista on Torcello would later gain the official recognition.) Then in 1581 the city made a diplomatic gift of a rib from the relics to the Duke of Mantua. This knowledge came from a PhD thesis I found online, and have credited. Also up and credited is a photo montage I found on Wikipedia showing the Bellini San Giobbe altarpiece in its specially-carved stone frame. I also found out what art was supposedly once in the now stripped and bare San Leonardo. And more!

21st March 2020
Due to the coronavirus lockdown in Italy Florence is now not getting visited by me next week and neither is Siena in April. In better news all my websites are now shifted and working, I'm very happy to say. With several tripless months in prospect, and spending so much time at home, I'm now contemplating projects. Adding a new city, in optimistic anticipation of a comprehensive visit, is one option. Another is being more systematic about each church having an image (and a discussion?) of its best painting, at the very least. So now's the time - if you've ever thought 'Jeff's websites are great but I really wish he'd...' do let me know.

5th January 2020
Making plans for 2020. On this site Bologna and Venice have had a fair amount of attention of late, but Verona has fallen behind a bit, my last visit being in 2017. And I've yet to explore the churches there which had just been gathered touristically into a Chorus-type organisation called Verona Minor Hierusalem. Possible city additions in the Veneto are Modena and Vicenza, both of which I've never visited however. Over on The Churches of Florence and Siena the latter got a lot of work last year and Florence is getting visited this March. Possible new cities here include Pisa, Prato and Arezzo, the inclusion of which could prompt another name change to The Churches of Florence and Tuscany.
Also my new camera (a Fujifilm X-T30 mirrorless) helped my take some fine photos in Venice in November, and I now have a new very-wide-angle lens, which means that I’ve now got to revisit every church, especially the ones across narrow alleys, to get even more of them in!
Even more prosaically all of my sites will be moving to new hosting this year, but I hope that this will go so smoothly you won’t even notice.

26th November 2019
 The updating mentioned below continue, and I'm having to refresh the info on the special Biennale-related exhibition openings as they finished on the 24th. Any news about if the churches are remaining open through some other agency would be appreciated.

11th November 2019
I'm just back from my first visit to Venice in almost two years and so I've been adding useful facts and fab photos like fury! Rare visits to San Vidal, San Giovanni di Malta and San Samuele have lead to major updates, and next I'll be feeding in some books and guides that I picked up.

3rd October 2019
I'm just back from a week in Ferrara and Bologna with plenty of photos and words to add to my Bologna pages in the coming weeks, before next month's trip to Venice.

August 2019
Preparing myself for a trip to Venice in November, making a list of possible odd church openings and passing a list of updates needing updating over to Terry H, who provided sterling help last July and is in Venice now, has provided much good news and up-to-date updates. Both San Samuele (Byzantine icon and revetment) and San Giovanni di Malta (Bellini altarpiece) have guaranteed opening times until the 24th of November, due to their hosting art exhibitions - Biennale-related but not official satellites, hence the news of them being slow to arrive. This is looking like becoming a fashionable way to staff the opening of some churches and follows the even bigger deal of the even bigger San Lorenzo opening in March 2019 as Ocean Space and currently housing an exhibition until September 29th 2019. Furthermore the building work at San Sebastiano, long a noisy building-site experience, seems to be coming to an end. A long-suffering attendant told a recent visitor that it was hoped that the work would finally finish in October. Currently only the right side of the nave is still blocked off.
Good news all around!

June 2019
The month of May saw updates adding news about the sudden opening of San Lorenzo for an art installation and I've been swapping some photos with nicer spruced-up versions, replacing some of the small ones I'd made to lower my bandwidth, which has stopped being a problem.

It seems that guidebooks are waning in popularity, what with the internet and all. It's still gratifying to get good plugs in them, like the new edition of the Rough Guide to Venice and the Veneto, from which comes the scan below.

April 2019
Recent reading about Palladio has added some fascinating bits of content. For example I've been able to add to the fact that in 1204 the body of Saint Lucy was brought to San Giorgio Maggiore, but that her feast day celebrations on the December 13th became so popular that after a storm resulted in the deaths of many people in 1280 her body was moved to the church of Santa Lucia in Cannaregio, the fact that the disgruntled monks here held onto an arm relic. I've also added a photo of the Redentore interior that shows that until 1950 there were monochrome grisaille figures, like cardboard cut-outs, in imitation of sculpture, in niches in the nave. Improvement rather than expansion is my goal this year. A trip to Venice in September has been booked too, my last visit being January 2017.

Copyright © Jeff Cotton 2007-2021
Next year will be this site's 15th anniversary!



Cannaregio :: Castello :: Dorsoduro :: Giudecca :: San Marco :: San Polo :: Santa Croce :: The Islands :: Demolished

Padua :: Verona:: Bologna