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


 

Eremitani
Piazza Eremitani


History
Built from 1276 and, like the previous church on the site, built by Augustinian monks and dedicated to the saints Philip and James. The church is known as the Eremitani after their adjoining monastery, which now houses the municipal art gallery and the Scrovegni chapel ticket office. Work was completed in 1306 with Fra Giovanni degli Eremitani's ceiling and fašade. The Augustinians left following suppression by Napoleonic in 1806 . The church reopened as a parish church in 1808, with the complex becoming a military barracks, called the Gattamelata barracks. The church and former monastery were badly damaged by an air raid on the 11th March 1944 carried out by the US 15th Air Force and targeting the marshalling yard. Heavy damage saw the fašade, the ceiling and parts of the apse end completely destroyed, including the Dotto and Ovetari chapels. Much restoration work followed, directed by Ferdinando Forlati.
 
Exterior
The fašade was added in 1306, with the church consecrated in 1435. The loggia is later. The side entrance is known as the Door of the Months as it has four panels attached to its pillars by sculptor Niccol˛ Baroncelli from 1422, consisting of 12 reliefs depicting allegories of the months.

Interior
The nave
Coming through the door in the fašade the church presents huge rectangular vista free of columns and with banded red, white a yellow brick walls. The ribbed ceiling of 1306 is by Fra Giovanni degli Eremitani, using timbers from the the old wooden ceiling left over after the construction of his new ceiling of the Palazzo della Ragione, given to him by a grateful city. A guidebook of the late 19th century (by Augustus J. C. Hare) reports the the ceiling was at that time painted blue and white, spoiling 'what would otherwise be a striking and beautiful building'.
The church houses the matching and protruding Gothic tombs of Jacopo II da Carrara (near the beginning of the left wall) (see photo right) and (at the beginning of the right hand wall opposite) Ubertino da Carrara, both were members of the 14th-century dynasty of rulers of Padua, and both tombs are the work by Andriolo de Santi. Under Jacopo's sarcophagus is inscribed the sixteen verses in Latin written to his friend by Petrarch. Both tombs were originally in Sant'Agostino, a church which was demolished in 1819. Further along the left wall are two renaissance altarpieces with no altars, from the same demolished church. Also on this wall is the sandy-coloured monument of 1546 to Marco Mantova Benavides, a renowned 16th century humanist, jurist and collector of art and antiquities, which has recently been restored. It is by Bartolomeo Ammanati and is made from yellow Nanto stone with marble figures - Labour and Patience either side of the sarcophagus, with Benavides above, flanked by Time and Fame, and Immortality over the top.
Further along on the left are two large Nanto-stone architectural and polychrome terracotta sculptural altarpieces. The first is called the Dossale della Madonna and the five figures may  be the work of Andrea Riccio; the other is the Dossale di San Nicola da Tolentino, with three figures by Domenico Boccalaro.
Along the right hand side are four small chapels, the first one is the chapel of the Tebaldo Cortellieri who died in 1370, dedicated to Saint Augustine. It was redecorated in the 17th century but still contains traces of frescos by Giusto de' Menabuoi from around 1370, his first work in Padua, depicting Saint Augustine with the Virtues and the Liberal Arts.  The chapel was commissioned by Traversina, the mother of Tebaldo who had been employed by Francesco (il Vecchio) Carrara as a judge and diplomat.
The second chapel is dedicated to Saint Anthony Abbot and features very damaged frescoes by Guariento, the Paduan painter who also frescoed the apse here.
In the forth there's a Head of Christ by him (?) on the underside of the arch, all that remains of a Flagellation, and there's a Virgin and Child Enthroned over the altar by Altichiero.

The east end
The Giottesque  frescoes in The Presbytery (see photo right and detail of Santa Giustina nearer right) are by Guariento di Arpo, a Paduan painter who became a kind of court artist to the Carrara, going on to provide panel paintings and frescoes for the Carrara Palace. He has other frescoes here, painted the wall around the tomb of Doge Giovanni Dolfin in San Zanipolo in Venice, and the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge's Palace c.1365, the first time a painter not in the Venetian Painter's Guild had been given such a prestigious commission. This last work, including a large Paradise, were seriously damaged in the 1577 fire but discovered in 1903 under Tintoretto's Paradiso.
The left wall here in the apse has four panels showing Scenes from the Life of Saint Philip and two (at the bottom) Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine. Below the narrative paintings are allegorical personifications of The Seven Planets and The Seven Ages of Man.
The scenes on the right wall and vault were also destroyed in the bombing. They included a Christ Enthroned with Saints and scenes from the Lives of Saints James the Less and Philip, and have now been replaced with Guariento's earlier Coronation of the Virgin (see below) and his


 

Portraits of Ubertino and Jacopo da Carrara of 1351, three detached fresco fragments which were over the latter's tombs (now in this church by the entrance) when they were in the (now demolished) church of Sant'Agostino, and initially when they were moved here. (Although they didn't look entirely convincing in that position - see c.1912 photo right). The crucifix over the high altar is by the Venetian Nicoletto Semitecolo from 1367.
To the left of the presbytery is the Sanguinacci family chapel decorated on the right wall by Giusto de' Manabuoi in 1373 (so an early work) with a Virgin and Child, Saints and Donor. The donor might be the German soldier Heinrich Spisser, who died in September 1373 in the employ of Francesco il Vecchio Carrara. (But some sources say that this Giusto-decorated chapel was destroyed in the 1944 bombing.) Over this fresco is another, a slightly earlier (1340s) Virgin and Saints by the anonymous Maestro del Coro Scrovegni.
The two chapels to the right of the presbytery are the Ovetari and Dotto Chapels - see right.

Lost art
Very many damaged fragments of a fresco scheme of scenes from the Life of Christ (of the early 14th century) for a chapel of the cloister here by Pietro and Guiliano da Rimini are now in the room with the Giotto Crucifix in the Civic Museum next door.
There's also a damaged fragment of a fresco of Saint Augustine by an anonymous artist from the Veneto in the same museum.

A plaster cast of a relief showing the Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic, Peter Martyr, John the Baptist and James the Greater is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The terracotta original (the Pala Ovetari) from 1448/50, by Giovanni di Francesco da Pisa, with traces of paint and gilding, is still in the Ovetari Chapel here, but following the 1944 bombing the cast is in better condition.

A short sad story

On Christmas Eve 1585 the body of Vittoria Accorambuoni, the beautiful niece of Pope Sixtus V, lay in state in this church, with the body of Flaminio, her younger brother. They had been murdered the day before by Prince Luigi Orsini. An angry mob of Paduans later besieged the Prince's palace and, having forced him to surrender, strangled him in prison. 

Opening times

Monday - Friday: 7.30 - 12.30 & 3.30-7.00
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays: 9.00 - 12.30 & 4.00-8.00
 


A photo from the 1950s/60s



The apse and the Ovetari Chapel before the bombing -  a photograph from a guidebook of 1912











The Ovetari and Dotto Chapels


The chapel of Saints James and Christopher (The Ovetari Chapel) in the right transept, containing early frescoes by Mantegna, was mostly destroyed by American bombing on the 11th of March 1944, the monastery having been used as a barracks, which made it a target, although the main target of the long 1943-45 bombing campaign had been the railway marshalling yard. The air raid took place around 11.30 in the morning and by 2.00 in the afternoon students from the Art School were picking fragments of the frescoes out of the rubble.

The original contract, signed by Mantagna's brother because he was only 17 and hence underage, also included
Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna from Venice and the Paduan Nicol˛ Pizzolo, who was Mantegna's friend and partner and had been Donatello's assistant. They were commissioned to paint half of this, the funerary chapel of notary Antonio Ovetari, by his widow Imperatrice ForzatÚ. But, after the death of Giovanni d'Alemagna, Vivarini quit two years later, by which time only the vault frescos had been completed (see black and white of vault photo taken before destruction above).  Two further painters were employed, Ansuino da Forli and Bono da Ferrara, but following the death of Pizzolo, from wounds sustained during a quarrel, they quit too. Bona da Ferrara, a pupil of Pisanello, did paint a fresco of Saint Christopher Ferrying the Infant Jesus for the Ovetari Chapel in 1451, but it too was destroyed in 1944. A black and white photo (see below) is all that remains. So Mantegna ended up painting most of the chapel, between 1448 and 1457.  His frescoes have been partially reconstructed and the photograph (see below right) of the right-hand wall of the chapel, depicting The Life of Saint Christopher, shows the painted restored sections and the monochrome areas taken from old photographs. The two panels at the bottom survived through having been removed decades before the bombing to protect them from damp. The coloured photograph (see right) is a pre-war image.
The terracotta Pala Ovetari, the altarpiece in the chapel, is a relief showing the Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic, Peter Martyr, John the Baptist and James the Greater from 1448/50, by Giovanni di Francesco da Pisa, has traces of paint and gilding, but following the 1944 bombing it too needed considerable reconstruction and the plaster cast in the V&A in London is in better condition. Mantegna was involved with this work too, but his contribution is thought to be just the contribution of the design.
Between the Ovetari chapel and the apse is the Dotto chapel, which had an early Coronation of the Virgin by Altichiero, but this work was also destroyed in 1944. On the right wall is the funeral monument of Francesco Dotto.


























 



 





Home

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