Cristo Re alla Celestia Favaretto Fisca/Lirussi 1950-52
The original church dates from 1459. Along with its convent it
was closed by Napoleon, but re-established by
the Franciscan Nuns of Christ the King, founded by Princess Benedetta Savoia Carignano
and Angela Canal, a noblewoman from Venice, in 1878. In 1950 work began on a new larger
church, designed by the engineer G. Favaretto Fisca and the architect G.
Lirussi. This building was consecrated in 1952 and still houses the
Institute of the Franciscan Nuns of Christ.
A boxy nave and two
aisles with a plain coffered ceiling and a shiny marble floor. There is a gallery connecting
the church to the convent, and a small chapel to the right of the
times Update August 2021 Recent
reports say that this church is now open more often the not, with nuns in
attendance and notices of services posted.
Famous as the church of the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage
where Vivaldi taught and for whose talented girls he composed most of his
concerti and oratorios. The ospedale for foundlings had been
founded in 1346 by a Franciscan monk, but became more secular over time,
being under the patronage of the Doge from 1353, and governed by members
of noble families. The complex was enlarged in 1388, and modernised in
1493 and 1515. The current building dates from a rebuilding funded by a
three-year lottery granted by the Council of Ten in 1727, and another in
1733 when the first didn't reach its target. Having employed Giorgio
Massari who had won a competition in 1735, by 1738 land was being
cleared and stone bought. In 1744 part of the old orphanage was demolished
and the orphans placed in foster homes. Building took place between Doge
Pietro Grimani laying the foundation stone in 1745 and 1762. The church
was on a new site adjacent to the site of the old oratory but the hospital
wings planned were never built. It was finished well
after Vivaldi's death, but it is said that
the composer might have advised the architect Giorgio Massari
on the positioning of the choirs and the use of a vestibule to provide a
barrier to the noises of the Riva. Massari had won a competition in 1735
to provide plans for the reconstruction of the whole complex, but only the
church was ever built. He had won out over Antonio Tirali, and a
Franciscan friar called Padre Foresti.
The façade had only reached the level of the top of the doorcase pediment,
but was finally finished in 1906. Massari's plan for the church and
ospedale included three statues on the pediment (see below) but
there's only a cross, reflecting a change in iconographic priorities since
the facade was conceived. These statues were to have been Faith, at
the apex, triumphing over Hope and Charity, as in Tiepolo's
fresco over the chancel inside. Over the entrance is a large bas-relief
depicting Charity (an Annunciation?) from c.1913 by Emilio
Marsili, Marsili was a Venetian sculptor more famous for his bronze statue
of Paolo Sarpi of 1892 outside Santa Fosca, very near his studio.
Interior Oval-shaped, like a concert hall, and designed for acoustics,
particularly for choral performance. The rococo furnishings, including the
pulpit, the confessionals, the grills on he galleries and the organ case,
are all to designs by Massari. The roof was on by 1751 and a fresco
painter required. Tiepolo was the safe and obvious choice but he had been
away in Wurzberg. He returned in 1753 and signed a contract with the
governors on 15th April 1754, beginning work the following June 13th.
The largest of his three frescos is The Coronation of the Virgin
on the ceiling in the nave, which also features girl musicians playing
twelve different instruments. On the ceiling of the chancel is the
smaller oval Triumph of Faith, which depicts Faith (triumphing
over), Hope and Charity, the virtues of the Virgin.On the
chancel's end wall is a grisaille tondo of the old testament scene of
David and the Angel. The frescoes, Tiepolo's last great religious
fresco cycle, were unveiled on the 2nd of August 1755.
Piazzetta was commissioned to paint the high
altarpiece of The Visitation but died in 1754 leaving it
unfinished. It was finished by one of his pupils, Giuseppe Angeli.
Piazetta's pupils also supplied the altarpieces on the four nave altars.
A fourth Tiepolo oval fresco of Fortitude and Peace has been
reported and was probably in
the vestibule and so likely to have been more weather-beaten and removed
building of the façade in 1905-6. It is lost but a likely etching exists
in the British Museum.
Opening times For concerts.
Scaffolding update September 2021
It's been many years
since we've seen the façade of the Pietà, and it's still covered - the
huge advert being currently for expensive jewellery. But with rough sleepers in the entrance suggestive
disuse, and a certain irony.
Dedicated to Saint Blaise and originally built in 1052 by the Boncigli family for the use of new
immigrants. From 1470 the Council of Ten allowed the church's use by
Venice's large Greek Orthodox community, considered heretics at the time
and so only granted the use of this small and non-central church. In 1498
they were given permission to establish a Scuola here, in the name
of Saint Nicholas. As early as 1511 Greek soldiers were petitioning the
Council of Ten to grant them larger premises, as they were not happy
sharing San Biagio, which due to the 'mixture of peoples, tongues,
voices and services ... creates a confusion worse than Babylon'. It was
also too small for their growing congregation and had no space for
burials, so that they were forced to 'mingle our bones with those of
galleymen, porters and other low creatures' burying their dead 'upon the
public way' where they were 'dug up and thrown into the water within a
few days of burial' to make way for others to be buried, this being the
sole source of income for the poor church. They eventually moved to
San Giorgio in
The present church dates from a rebuilding of 1749-54
by Francesco Bognolo, the architect of the Arsenale, brought
about by the previous
church falling into disrepair. Closed in 1810 by the French and reopened in 1817 as the
parish church of the
Navy. True to its more than somewhat
functional external appearance it is now part of the naval museum next
door, with a naval chaplain officiating at rare services.
Interior The ceiling panel, showing Saint
Blaise in Glory is attributed to Giovanni Scagliaro (see
right) a follower, maybe a pupil, of Tiepolo.
Admiral Angelo Emo, by Giovanni Ferrari, was taken from the demolished church
of Santa Maria dei Servi
and placed here in 1818. He was the last admiral of the Venetian Navy, who
defeated the Bey of Tunis in 1784-86 and invented the floating battery,
which can be seen with him on his monument (see photo below).
There are also five altars taken
from the church of Sant'Anna.
The local guilds, and their patron saints,
are commemorated in the church and include not only the rope-makers and
hemp-tanners that you'd expect, but also cap-makers, doughnut vendors and
vendors of cheap food.
History In 840 a
church was built on this site dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Thessalonica.
It was renovated in 1070 and dedicated to Saint Bartholomew. In 1291 Bartolomeo Querini, the Bishop of Castello had a hospice built here for
the elderly and the infirm, also dedicated to
Saint Bartholomew, his name saint. This complex
was taken over by the Friars Minor (the Minims) in the 1580s. They
converted the hospice to a monastery and rebuilt the
church in its current form from 1588, with the continued patronage of the Querini
family. It was
consecrated on August 8th 1619, dedicated to the Minims' founder Saint
Francis of Paola.
Between 1675 and 1688 the Bergamo
portrait painter Giuseppe Ghislandi, known as Fra Galgario, was a lay brother here. This decision may have been to benefit
his art, rather than his soul. He returned to Bergamo and entered another
house of Friars Minor there, the convent of Galgario, hence his name. The
monastery was suppressed by Napoleon in 1806, became a barracks and was
demolished in 1885 to make way for the building of a school. Interior
The church was remodelled in the late 18th century, but the ceiling was
preserved. An aisleless nave with a barco (nun's gallery) along the
back wall with arms stretching half way down the sides. There are four
shallow chapels each side with the first ones, at the back, being under
the nun's gallery.
Art highlights All the good art here is at clerestory level or on the ceiling, the
latter being by Giovanni Contarini (1603), a pupil of Titian. They were
commissioned by Cesare Carafa at a cost of more than 80 gold ducats. The
central panel of The Resurrection is surrounded by
scenes and episodes from the life of Saint Francis of Paola.
of the inevitable paintings by Palma Giovane here depicts four female
saints, but has had a hole cut into it top centre for an icon-like
image of the Virgin and Child to be inserted -
probably some earlier miracle-working image.
San Francis of Paola Heals a Possessed Man, one of the series of
scenes from the life of the saint, is said to be by Giandomenico Tiepolo.
The presbytery vault frescoes are by Michele Schiavone.
The saint Aside from walking on water and bringing his nephew back to
life, the 15th-century vegan Saint Francis of Paola (or Saint Francis the
Fire Handler) also famously brought two of his just-cooked pets back to
life - Antonella, a favourite trout, after it was fried by a priest,
and a lamb called Martinello which had been roasted by workmen. Neither
creature is lacking in religious significance, of course.
The painted clock You may notice that a clock has been
painted on the right-hand side of the façade and wonder why. I asked an
attendant and was told that it commemorates the fact that Saint Francis
died at 9.30. In the press The church was mentioned in an article about Venice's declining
population in the UK
Guardian in March 2009.Today the cavernous interior of the church of San Francesco di
Paola, complete with a Giandomenico Tiepolo painting, draws as few as
eight worshippers to mass. "We did get 150 in for Ash Wednesday," said
priest Don Giuseppe Faustini, "and we do fill up for funerals."
The old church of San Bartolomeo is visible on
map of 1500 in the top left hand corner, beyond the
spire of the demolished church of San Domenico.
San Giorgio dei Greci Sante Lombardo/Giannantonio Chiona 1539-1573
by and for
the Greek community in Venice, then consisting primarily of sailors and merchants, who had previously shared the
nearby church of San Biagio and who numbered around 4000 at the time. The church
was financed by taxing all the Greek ships arriving in Venice. It was
built in a Renaissance style reminiscent of Sansovino by Sante Lombardo,
from the laying of the foundation stone in 1539 until his death in 1547, and finished by Giannantonio Chiona.
The church was consecrated in 1561 with the cupola by Chiona (and not
Palladio, as has been claimed) added ten years later.
The adjoining late-17th- century buildings are by Baldassare Longhena. They
housed the Collegio Flangini (until 1905), named for its sponsor and now a
Byzantine studies institute, and the
smaller Scuola di San Nicolo, now a museum of Byzantine icons. The wall
along the canal is also by Longhena. It encloses the rather lovely
courtyard around the church, with olive trees and two fine well-heads. The
church itself is free-standing, something of a rarity in Venice.
Orthodox in atmosphere, aisleless with a frescoed central dome,
painted with a Last Judgement by Giovanni Kyprios (John the Cypriot) supervised by Tintoretto. There's also a
women's gallery (about the construction of which Palladio is said to have
been consulted) over the narthex at the back, and there are dark wooden
stalls all around the plain and grubby walls. But the thing which grabs
the attention is the iconostasis, the icon screen - a glowing
gold-overload all covered in 46 icons, some painted by Giovanni Kyprios,
amongst four artists, but the majority are the work of the Cretan
Michael Damaskenos in 1574 - Damaskenos having been in Venice between 1574
The monument to Gabriele Seviros of 1619 is said to be the
first known such work by Longhena.
44m (143 ft) manual bells
Built in 1582-92 by Simone Sorella, and leaning ever since.
Its adjoining loggia (see below) is all that remains of the Renaissance cloister.
Monday, Wednesday – Saturday:
History The meaning
of in Brágora is uncertain. It could refer to a square (agora),
a fishing site (bragolare: to fish), or a marshy area (brago)
combined with a stagnant canal (gora).Tradition has it that
the first church on this site was one of the churches founded by Saint
Magnus in the 7th century, but the earliest written record dates to 1090. The church
is said to have been built to house relics of Saint John
Rebuilt again in 1178 and 1475. The current Gothic church is
this later 15th century rebuilding. Restoration with baroque
embellishments was carried out in 1728.
The church The
three-part brick façade is transitional: harking back to the gothic of, say, the
verging on the Renaissance style of Codussi, who was said to have been
inspired by this church when designing
San Michele and
Interior There’s a a ship's-keel roof and old columns. It’s a nicely lofty but
compact space - a nave and two aisles with a pair of chapels in each.
Unusual gilt decoration on the capitals of the columns, with painting over
the arches too. The last pair of supports before the altar are square
pillars, carved and gilt. They were originally part of a decorative screen, the work of Sebastiano Mariani da Lugano, which was dismantled in the late 16th
century, with some panels used to line the chancel, which is itself a bit
of a surprising burst of rococo.
The architect Giorgio Massari, who designed the
Gesuiati church, the Palazzo Grassi,
and the nearby Pietà where Vivaldi famously taught,
who died in 1766, is buried here. He was born
in the quiet campo that you enter if you leave by the side entrance of this
church, called the Campiello del Piovan, at No 3752. He is also thought to
have been responsible for the redecoration of the chapel (second on the
right) housing the
body of San Giovanni Elemosinario here, in 1745. The saints remains had
been taken from Alexandria in 1247.
Art highlights There are remains of 15th-century frescoes.
Cima de Conegliano's
impressive 1494 Baptism of Christ over the high altar, in its
original stone frame, carved by Sebastiano Mariani, was Cima's first
commission in Venice and the first known use of a narrative scene, rather
than a formal arrangement of saints, over a high altar in Venice.
It also features fine landscape and Cima's characteristic putto-heads in
clouds. It was moved up the wall when ecclesiastical
dictates saw the altar, which it had rested upon, moved forward in the
late 16th century. Why the new-in-town Cima was chosen instead of the Vivarini,
then dominant in Venice, is open to theories. Cima's later Constantine and Saint Helena of 1501 is in
this church too, near the door to the sacristy.
There’s a Virgin with Saints John the Baptist and
Andrew triptych of 1478 by Bartolomeo Vivarini, and a small painting of The Saviour
Blessing, a Resurrected Christ and a Virgin and Child,
all by Alvise Vivarini, his nephew, from the 1490s.
Also a Deposition by
Lazzaro Bastiani, which was taken from the church of
even quite a likeable Palma il Giovanne The Washing of the Feet on the left-hand side of the
chancel, which has a pleasing touch of Tintoretto about it.
He was born in a house in Calle del Dose nearby on 4th March 1678 and was
baptised in this church two months later on the 6th of May. In fact this
was his second baptism - he'd been hurriedly baptised at home as it was
thought that he was too sickly to survive. So the font is made much of here
(see right) as
is a copy of his entry in the registry of births.
The original one can be seen on Matthaeus Merian's map of 1635 (see
was demolished (in 1826 or 1728) and replaced with the current belfry.
Opening times Monday - Saturday:
9.15 - 11.45 & 3.30 – 6.00
Sunday: 9.15 - 11.45
Seems to have recently become a
NO PHOTO! church.
The church of San Giovanni del Tempio and the adjacent hospital of Saint
Catherine were built in 1187 by the Knights Templar of Saint
John. After the dissolution of the Knights Templar in 1312 the church
passed to the Knights of Saint John of Rhodes, later called the Knights of
Malta, an order set up to assist pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land.
The present church dates from a total rebuilding from 1498 to 1505,
when the number of altars was reduced from seven to five, this work being
instituted by Grand Master Sebastiano Michiel. The church became known
locally as San Giovanni dei Furlani, after the nearby calle dei Furlani,
this being the name given to immigrant families from the Friuli region.
Both church and monastery were suppressed and plundered by Napoleon in
1806. The altars were stripped and the church used as a theatre. The Commenda di Malta, part of this complex, was
where works of art stripped from religious institutions at this time
were stored pending decisions as to their fates. The church was used by
printers, but was repossessed and reopened by the Knights of Jerusalem in
1839 using altars and sculpture from other suppressed churches. An
sala capitolare (chapter house) has some faded
and damaged medieval frescos the Life of
Saint Catherine of Alexandria (the dedicatee of the hospital) which
have recently been restored.
In recent years there has been talk of restoring the garden (the biggest
private garden in Venice evidently) back to its 15th-century appearance,
as represented in the old plan (see far below) and opening it to the public via the gate at Campo delle Gatte. Also of
creating apartments in the old
hospital buildings of the order.
interior A long plain-walled nave with a timber and brick ceiling. Some
dark wood panelling to above head height and one altar in the centre of each side
wall containing later-inserted full length female saints looking 18th-century. A full width organ gallery at the back.
right wall at the back has a copy of Titian's
muscular John the
Santa Maria Maggiore.
The inlaid marble high altar is early-16th-century, by Cristoforo del Legname, and was taken from the demolished church of
Above it there are three statues of saints in niches by Bartolomeo
High on the right-hand
wall of the nave near the east end is a Baptism of Christ of c.1500
by the studio of Giovanni Bellini (see above). The flat-looking donor
figure on the left is Grand Master Sebastiano Michiel who was responsible
for the rebuilding here at the same time as his commissioning of the
painting. Opposite the painting across the nave, and set upright in a
niche, is the tomb slab of Fra' Bertucci Contarini.
The large cloister contains a 15th-century well head along with
many tombs of knights, and is lined with their painted coats of
Ranuccio Farnese Titian's famous portrait of the 11-year-old Ranuccio Farnese (see
right) was painted in 1542, after the boy had been sent to study in
Padua and Venice by Pope Paul III, his grandfather. Ranuccio had been
prior here since he was 4 and the portrait was painted on the occasion of
his attending a congregation here - the Maltese Cross is prominent on his
uniform. He went on to become archbishop of Naples at the age of 14 and by
the time he was 19 he was patriarch of Constantinople and archbishop of
Ravenna. He became archbishop of Milan in 1564 shortly before dying at the
age of 35. The Titian portrait is now in the Washington National Gallery.
Opening times Unpredictable -
Mostly just when hosting Biennale-related art. Update September 2021 Although a current sign on the door says
Monday - Saturday 11.00 - 1.00 & 3.30 - 6.30 it
seems not to be believed.
here for photos of a visite exceptionnelle in 2009,by someone else,
showing how the cloister looked before the recent restoration, how the
Bellini used to be in the
and the frescoes in the sala capitolare.
Cloister photo by Val de Furrentes
The church is left centre, with the cloister
above and the
Scuola di San
Giorgio degli Schiavoni
San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti Vincenzo Scamozzi/Antonio
Sardi/Francesco Contin 1601-31
The name derives from the Mendicant Friars who founded the Hospice of Saint
Lazarus here in 1601, one of the four Ospedali Maggiori.
The order had run the San Lazzaro leper hospital on the island of the same name since 1262.
The cloisters of the hospice and the body of the church were designed by
Vincenzo Scamozzi and finished in 1631, after his death, with consecration
following in 1636. The canal-facing temple-front façade, designed by Antonio Sardi and based upon
an earlier design by Scamozzi was completed by Sardi's son Giuseppe in 1673.
There is a tiled hallway, used as a
funerary chapel, between the outer doors and the actual church doors,
with the cloisters stretching out through doorways to left and right. In
this hallway are several monuments, including two by Sardi.
The church itself is an aisle-less nave
with grubby grey walls and stone-coloured and geometrical marble
detailing. It was designed (1634-37) by Francesco Contin, for both services and music recitals, with
a choir gallery along the right-hand wall. The whole back wall is taken up
by the overpowering monument to Alvise Mocenigo (see below right) who defeated the
Ottomans in Crete in 1651
and died there in battle in 1654. His statue is in the dark niche in the centre
of the monument.
The high altar is by Sardi, the altarpiece here is The
Raising of Lazarus by
Giovanni Fino, from 1857, and is not, for me, an
artistic highlight of the church.
has many tombs, including two designed by Longhena, and one for the
Art highlights The rearmost pair of facing altars have altarpieces which were both taken from the
On the right is a somewhat dingy Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John
'almost certainly' by Veronese, and painted by 1581, it came here in 1821. It became better known, and its reputation
improved, after its restoration for the 1939 Veronese exhibition in
Venice. Opposite is the brighter and better Voyage of Saint Ursula and
the Eleven Thousand Virgins of arguable date (see
right) by Jacopo Tintoretto.
The pair on the nave altars nearest the
apse are, on the left, Saint Helena by Guercino, opposite an
Annunciation by Salviati (also taken from the demolished
church) with an oddly cat-faced Virgin. This quartet
makes this church worth the visit, I think.
Vivaldi connection Vivaldi's father taught violin at the ospedale music school here from
1689-1693. Along with the
Incuribiliit was one of the four institutions in
Venice which took in abandoned girls and trained them to sing and play
music. In the church the grills remain behind which the girls sang.
Campanile 32m (104ft) no bells
the 1601-31 building too, it’s plain, even penal-looking, with a sundial
on the south-facing side.
The church in art
It peeks in at the left-hand edge of Canaletto's Rio dei Mendicanti: Looking
South. Also, from the other direction, the dark and smoky A view of the Rio dei Mendicanti
by Guardi has the façade right of centre.
May 2021 - A new poster said:
Special Opening Monday- Saturday 1.00 - 5.30
September 2021 - it's still there!
Legend says that a church here
was built by the Badoer family
in the 9th century and was
dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It is said to have been rebuilt in 1054 and rededicated to the
canonised Pope Leo IX, a supporter of the independence of Venice's
churches. The first documented mention dates to 1108. Early in the 16th
century the church was rebuilt by Pietro
Lombardo and his son and reconsecrated in 1619, with the campanile demolished
mid-century. Restored in 1783, with a plain façade retaining the Doric
doorway from the early-16th century church.
A surprisingly plush and interesting little church - an aisleless nave,
created in the 18th century, with four unsimple side altars, The inner
façade has tall credenzas used by local confraternities to house their
The lovely Gussoni chapel to the right of the high altar is
early work by Pietro Lombardo (and possibly his son Tullio, for
the Lamentation panel). Restoration work in the mid-1980s revealed, beneath layers of
plaster, fresco decoration between the cupola ribs - a rare remainder in
the work of the Lombardo family.
Canaletto is, tradition says, buried in this
very chapel and was baptised in this church. He lived in a house facing
onto the nearby Corte Perini.
Art highlights Works by
Giandomenico Tiepolo, including the ceiling fresco of The Apotheosis of
Saint Leo in Glory and the Exaltation of the Cross (which now has a
floor-standing mirror to aid viewing), an altarpiece by
Palma Giovane of the Dead Christ Supported by Angels with Saints and a late and restoration-damaged, but still impressive, Titian
painting of Saint James from c.1550. The Crucifixion is by Pietro della
Vecchia, who was also known (erroneously) as Pietro Muttoni.
His family name was also wrongly thought to be a nickname because he was
famous for his emulation of the painting styles of his elders (and
betters) which bordered on outright forgery. This painting is described as
his best work but also as being more than a little disturbing, which I
can't see, unless it's the weirdly calm bunch of burghers painted in at
the bottom. Campanile
Can be seen on the De Barbari map, probably dating from the 1054
building. Only the lower section still remains, in the campo to the left
of the entrance. Probably truncated in
The church in art Miracle of the Relic of the Holy Cross in Campo San Lio (see above)
c.1494, by Giovanni Mansueti is in the Accademia. It
depicts an event in 1474 when a holy relic would
not allow itself to be carried at the funeral of a doubting man, becoming
too heavy to carry. The church's façade (presumably the pre-Lombardo
version) is to the right in the painting. There's also a drawing in the
tentatively attributed to Gentile Bellini, who taught Mansueti, from around
the same time, and which is thought to have been the basis of Mansueti's
painting. It shows a bit more of the façade and campanile base (see
detail right) and is the earliest surviving topographical drawing
Daily 9.00-12.00 Update August 2021 In January 2020 a correspondent reported
San Lio being closed, with a sign on the door saying that they have no
Rector. It seems that this sign has now gone, but the church remains
closed. Further reports welcome.
History The original church was founded in 812 by Orso
Partecipazio (later Doge Partecipazio) with its Benedictine convent
established by him in 854. Rebuilt several times, the current church dates
from a complete rebuilding by Simone Sorella from 1592 to 1602. But the façade was
never even started.
Marco Polo, as his will dictated, and with an
associated donation, was probably buried here upon his death in 1324, but his
sarcophagus is thought to have been lost during the 1592 rebuilding.
Vivaldi is said to have rehearsed here, due to the excellent acoustics.
Following damage during the Napoleonic War the church was suppressed in 1810 and its art works dispersed.
Some of the convent buildings in front of the church were demolished soon
after. In 1842 the complex passed to Dominicans, but in 1865 was returned
to the city council. The church was
badly damaged in World War 1, but restored in the 1950s (see the black and
white photos, taken in March 1955 below). Around this time there
were also archaeological excavations looking for Marco Polo's remains.
buildings were later converted into a hospital, but are now sheltered housing.
As part of the music festival at the Biennale in 1984 Renzo Piano
built sets for a performance of Luigi Nono's opera Prometheus.
In 2012 the
church was acquired by Mexico for use as its Biennale location for nine
years, with the condition that they restore the place. So in that year,
for the first time in years, some small access was possible (see photo
below right). And then Mexico pulled out of the
agreement. The large hole in the floor, remaining from the archaeological
excavations, was still not filled in.
In 2016 the TBA21-Academy, a charity devoted to the
inter-disciplinary exploration of the oceans, acquired the church. After
'revitalization work', including the filling-in of the hole in the floor,
they opened the church in March 2019 as Ocean Space, asserting a
commitment to conserving and giving new life to the building itself. More
work was planned from Autumn 2019 to transform the building into a
'dynamic interdisciplinary hub for oceanic research and innovation'. A relaunch in 2020
was announced and work on the interior is expected to be
completed over the following two years.
A huge single space divided in half widthways by a large three-bay screen
with a double-sided altar and much decorative ironwork over the aisle arches. One half was for the
laity and the other
for the nuns, and each side had its own organ.
Lost art A panel depicting The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence with Two Nuns
by Jacobello del Fiore of c.1425, now in the Rijksmuseum, seems to have
come from the convent here.
A typically strange and fruit-swag-full Virgin and Child
with Infants Bearing the Symbols of the Passion of c.1460 by Carlo
Crivelli (see right) now in the Castelvecchio in Verona, was
originally in the monastery here. It is an early work, nonetheless painted
after he left Venice (following his release from prison where he'd been
sent for adultery in 1457) and before he set up in the Marches
A panel from a larger polyptych of c.1530/40 depicting Saint Stephen by Girolamo da
Santacroce is now in the Brera. A very matching panel depicting Saint
Lawrence is in the Courtauld Gallery in London.
Well into the 18th century the younger daughters of Venetian nobles were
mostly (and famously) likely to end up in convents, the need for hefty
dowries meaning that most families' funds could only stretch to the marriage of one
daughter if the family were not to be, as they saw it, impoverished. The
exploits of these unwilling nuns have been well reported, with
San Zaccaria the most famous source of such stories. But here
too, the second
largest convent after San Zaccaria, a nun called Maria de Riva was found
to be leaving the convent at night for liaisons with the French
ambassador. When the Inquisitori di Stato ordered her to stay in the
convent the ambassador objected and a not-inconsiderable diplomatic
The church in fiction In Dressed for Death
by Donna Leon Commissario Brunetti says:
“The brick façade of San Lorenzo had been
free of scaffolding for the last few months but the church still remained
closed...he knew that
the church would never be reopened, not in his lifetime...”
The church in art The Clothing Ceremony of a Nun at San Lorenzo, a 1789
painting by Gabriel Bella shows the interior of the church. It's in the
There is a
drawing by Canaletto of c.1742/5 called Capriccio with San Lorenzo,
Venice and Houses in Padua in the Morgan Library in New York. It's an
imaginary view which nonetheless features the upper part of the façade and
a bit of the upper exterior of the nave, with the campanile of San Moise!
Update San Lorenzo
opened in March 2019 as Ocean Space and has been open for various
exhibitions since then. Check their
website for current details.
Wednesday - Sunday 11.00 - 6.00 Closed Monday and Tuesday Entrance
Vaporetto San Zaccaria
The campo was until quite recently also home to a Dingo cat sanctuary.
Read more about this (with photos) on the
Cats page on my other website.
Named for Saint Martin of Tours, this church is traditionally said to have
been founded in 650, possibly by Paduan refugees, but documentary sources mention rebuilding
in 932 and 1026.
The current church dates from a rebuilding, funded by
Antonio Contarini and to a design by Sansovino begun in 1540, and finished
around 1619, with consecration following in 1653. The work progressed
fitfully, it is thought, due to the poverty of the parish, it being near
the Arsenale and populated mostly by poor dock labourers. It had to sell
some vineyards to help pay for the church.
The façade This was
erected in 1897 to a design by engineer Federico Berchet and architect
Domenico Rupelo. They retained Sansovino's doorway, to the right of which
is a bocca di leone, a lion's mouth, for the posting of anonymous
accusations of one's fellow citizens' sins, in this case relating to
blasphemy and similar irreverence.
This church is Greek-cross shaped with eight chapels in pairs at the
cornersand it gives
the impression of greater width than depth. The interior decoration is
much later than the fabric of the church, being mostly 18th-century.
The flat ceiling is decorated
with trompe l'oeil architectural perspectives by the Brescian
painter Domenico Bruni imitating
the actual walls - in the middle of which is Saint Martin in Glory
by Jacopo Guarana. Some attractive monochrome wall painting too.
In a dark
corner next to the pulpit is an altar table with legs in the form of
angels by Tullio Lombardo (see below right) which came here from the
suppressed and demolished church of
San Sepolcro which stood on the Riva
degli Schiavone. Following the 1966 floods the supporting angels were in a poor state, and so were removed and restored by Venice in
Peril in 1991-92.
The largest chapel is frescoed by Fabio Canal. The tomb of Doge
Francesco Erizzo over the side door was evidently conceived to echo the
façade of his palazzo,
which is visible over the canal through this door. The left-hand chapel
near the front has signs pointing to a sacristy, which can best be
described as a 'working' sacristy, but has an
interesting fresco covering
the ceiling with regular stripes of missing paint, looking just like it
was painted between the beams which were later removed.
The area behind the altar screen is usually
inaccessible, but correspondent Alexander from Toronto asked
nicely and got to confirm the presence there of a Road to Calvary
by Palma Giovane (see below).
The scuola The small building attached to the right
façade is the former Scuola di San Martino built around 1526-32 by the
Guild of Ship Caulkers. It was
partly rebuilt in 1584 and restored in
1772. Over the door is a 15th-century bas-relief (see right) of Saint Martin
Cloak, by far the most commonly depicted scene from the saint's life.
Before becoming an ecclesiastic, let alone a bishop, he encountered a
naked beggar outside Amiens and gave him half his cloak, only to then have
a vision of Christ wearing it. The image also appears on garishly-iced and sweet-studded
biscuits given to children on the 11th of November, the saint's feast day.
The day is also known for being unusually warm and so the feast day is
synonymous with the English term Indian Summer.
22m (72ft) electromechanical bells
Romanesque and dating from the Sansovino rebuilding. Restored in 1902 and
Opening times Monday-Saturday 11.00-12.00, 5.00-6.30
San Pietro di Castello Andrea Palladio/Francesco Smeraldi/Mauro
Codussi (campanile) 1557-1621
San Pietro sits on the island of Olivolo which was the easternmost part of
the city until the creation of Sant'Elena. A church of 650, one of the
said to have been established by Saint Magnus, was dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
The legend states that Saint Peter appeared to Magnus and told him to
build a church where he saw oxen and sheep grazing side by side. The
first documented reference to a church to Saint Peter here is dated 853
but it's foundation is said to go back to 832-41. This first church was destroyed
by fire in 1120 and rebuilt, with a separate baptistery since lost. It was part of the bishop's residence until 1451 when
it became the cathedral of Venice and the residence became the
home of the Venetian patriarch, with Patriarch Tommaso Donà instigating
restoration works soon after. This Romanesque church is shown on the de'
Barbari map of 1500. Between 1508 and 1511 Patriarch Antonio Contarini
carried out much work - roof and pavement repairs and the building of two
chapels in the presbytery.
Patriarch Vincenzo Diedo
commissioned Palladio in 1558 with the reconstruction of the church’s
façade. Diedo's death
meant that Palladio's plans were not implemented (beyond a start made) until much later in the
century, after Palladio's death, and
they were then much altered by Francesco Smeraldi who had previously
worked with him. The façade (right) is one of Palladio's
temples-within-temples, being a three-part façade echoing the interior,
and it was his first piece of church design for Venice, where all of his
churches were built. It
was finished, along with substantial internal remodelling, under proto
Giovanni Girolamo Grapiglia, another close follower of Palladio, in
It was during this work that a crypt under the presbytery,
which housed the remains of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, the church's
original dedicatees, was demolished, and the saints' remains removed to a
The church remained the see of the bishop of Venice, the cathedral
of Venice, up to the fall
of the Republic in 1807, when this function was transferred to San Marco.
Latin cross shaped, with a dome at the crossing and a three-bay nave flanked by aisles each with three
altars. This church is a big, bright and grey space
worth the trip in itself.
The interior was also completed by Grapiglia, with the
Vendramin Chapel on the left by Longhena, who also designed the somewhat
crowded high altar of 1649 which was executed by Clemente Moli. The remains of the first patriarch of Venice, Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani,
are preserved in an urn supported by angels.
In the right-hand aisle is Saint Peter's Throne,
a carved marble throne upon which Saint Peter supposedly rested whilst in
Antioch, containing a Muslim funerary stele and carved verses from the
Chapel is a pleasing space, the only survival from the earlier
gothic church, with a mosaic altarpiece, signed and dated 1570, by Erminio
Zuccato (who also worked at
San Marco) and based on a Tintoretto cartoon.
The chapel also has two large columns and a marble balustrade in
Veneto-Byzantine style from the 9th century from the old church. Also a
Roman mosaic of the 2nd century in the steps.
Art highlights Luca Giordano, Pellegrini and Veronese are represented, amongst some
middling 18th-century art. The presbytery is lined with six
late-17th-century canvases devoted to the life of Lorenzo Giustiniani,
whose remains are housed in Longhena's high altar.
John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul,
a late altarpiece by
Paolo Veronese from 1585-8, which is now
on the wall over the door of the Lando chapel, in the left aisle just
before the Vendramin chapel, was
commissioned by Giovanni Trevisan, the 13th Patriarch of Venice, for the
altar here that he had dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, completed by
1581. The painting was restored in 2004.
The 1653 Virgin and Child with Souls in Purgatory by Luca Giordano was painted for Cardinal Francesco
Vendramin. It was stolen from the church in October 1994, but was found six
weeks later, rolled up inside a packing tube in a garage in Mestre. Having
suffered significant damage it was restored and returned to the Vendramin
Chapel, at the end of the left side of the nave.
The third altar on the right has Saint Peter Enthroned with Saints Nicholas, Andrew, Jacob,
and Anthony Abbot from c.1520/30 by Marco
Basaiti, a pupil of Alvise Vivarini, greatly influenced by Giovanni
Bellini and Cima. It is not one of his best works, but has a certain
Bellini-like lustre - it opens out into a lovely landscape and is calmly
in-keeping with the mood of church.
seems pasted into a too-large frame with some mock stonework painted in to fill the gap. The painting was
originally in the Péoli d’Istria Scuola Chapel in the Patriarchal palace,
and was moved here in the 19th century. The two flanking marble statues
are the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. The second altar on the right has an altarpiece
of God the Father in Glory by Tizianello, Titian's nephew, in the
early 17th century. Inset into it is an icon of a Black Virgin with
Child in a gilded frame.
Giambattista Tiepolo was baptised here on 16th April 1696. At this
time the church was still the cathedral of Venice, but it was also his
family's local church. Lost art
A Paulo Veneziano-like fragment depicting Saint John the Baptist, now in the Correr Museum, probably originated here.
After being lost for 300 years, Pisan mathematician Fibonacci's
radical and influential book Liber Abaci was found in the library
here in the late 15th century by wandering scholar and mathematician Luca
Pacioli. The latter was friends and a collaborator with Alberti and
Leonardo, and is credited as an early educator in the field of
accountancy, spreading knowledge of double-entry book-keeping, said to
have been invented in Venice.
To the right of the church is the former Patriarchal Palace, with a large
gateway leading to a lovely 16th century cloister which was
made into a barracks in 1807 and is now social housing and attractively ramshackle. On
a visit in early 2007 I recorded a man just singing his heart out in this
cloister to an accompaniment of
Click here to listen to an mp3
of this fragrant fragment. Or the video is to the right. It's a bit rough, and
made with just a compact still camera, but it has a certain something.
54m (175ft) manual bells Detached, standing in the campo in front of the church, one of the few
campi in Venice which is still grassed over. Erected in 774, it collapsed in 1120 in a fire, was rebuilt, but
destroyed again in a storm in 1442. Rebuilt 1463-64, but damaged by
lightning in 1482.Rebuilt 1482-90 by Mauro Codussi, and faced with Istrian stone, it's a
chunky and memorable tower andthe only stone-clad
campanile in Venice. The original dome was blown off in
1659 and replaced with a
polygonal drum in 1670. It was described by P. Barbaro in 1482 as 'powerful, isolated,
crystal-white. Immobile at its base, yet in movement up there amongst the
clouds. It is sculpture, caught between entrapment and flight...ready to
flee with the wind.' Restored in 1884, 1902 and 2000, it still leans
to the East.
The church in art The Querini Stampalia gallery has L'Ingresso del Patriarca a San
Pietro di Castello by Gabriel Bella (1779). See it
The Gemäldegalerie in Berlin has Canaletto's The Vigilia di San Pietro.
An oil painting by Félix Ziem from the late 19th century, The Leaning Tower of San Pietro Venice, shows the campanile leaning at a somewhat
Ruskin wrote It is said to contain a Paul Veronese, and I suppose the so-called
"Chair of St. Peter" must be worth examining.
W. D. Howells (in
Venetian Life) wrote At a comparatively late period Venetian fathers went with their
daughters to a great annual matrimonial fair at San Pietro di Castello
Olivolo, and the youth of the lagoons repaired thither to choose wives
from the number of the maidens. These were all dressed in white, with hair
loose about the neck, and each bore her dower in a little box, slung over
her shoulder by a ribbon. It is to be supposed that there was commonly a
previous understanding between each damsel and some youth in the crowd: as
soon as all had paired off, the bishop gave them a sermon and his
benediction, and the young men gathered up their brides and boxes, and
went away wedded. It was on one of these occasions, in the year 944, that
the Triestine pirates stole the Brides of Venice with their dowers, and
gave occasion to the Festa delle Marie, already described, and to Rogers's
poem, which every body pretends to have read.
Opening times Monday to Saturday: 10.30
- 1.30 and 2.30 - 5.00