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Angelo Raffaele
I Carmini
Santa Maria del Carmelo

Le Eremite La Romite
Gesuati
Santa Maria del Rosario

Ognissanti
Pio Loco dei Catecumeni San Giovanni Battista
Salute
Santa Maria della Salute
San Barnaba
San Gregorio
San Nicolò dei Mendicoli
San Pantalon

non-catholic
Saint George's (Anglican)

now on page 2
San Sebastiano
San Trovaso
San Vio
Sant’Agnese
Santa Margherita
Santa Maria della Carita
(Accademia)
Santa Maria della Visitazione San Gerolamo dei Gesuati
Santa Marta
Santa Teresa
Le Terese
Spirito Santo


 

 

Angelo Raffaele
Francesco Contino 1618-1639
 


History
Tradition has it that this church, dedicated to the Archangel Raphael, is one of the oldest in Venice, supposedly having been founded in 416, or 640. The story goes that when Attila attacked Italy for the second time Genusio, Lord of Padua, sent his family to the island of Rialto. When his wife, Adriana, arrived in Dorsoduro she vowed to build a church if her husband retuned safely. She built an oratory where the Bendictine nuns from San Zaccaria, whom she had befriended, could visit and worship. Adriana left the oratory to the nuns, who kept it up until it was destroyed by a fire which swept the whole district in 899. The church was rebuilt by the Candini and Ariana families. It became a parish church, which was destroyed by fire in 1105. The first written record dates from 1193, the year in which the church was rebuilt and reconsecrated following the fire. This church was itself demolished in the 17th Century being considered to be beyond repair.
The current church was built in 1618-1639 to designs by Francesco Contino, with further work in 1676 and 1685. The façade, facing onto a narrow canal, was rebuilt in 1735, with its statue group of Tobias, Raphael, the dog and the fish (see below) dating from this time too, and said to be by Sebastiano Mariani.

The Church
The restoration of the façade in 2004 left it looking like new but lacking, some complained, that certain crumbling charm and the aged look that it possessed before (see right). But the pristine look didn't last, of course, this being Venice. This is one of only two churches in Venice that are free standing, i.e. you can walk all around it.


Interior
The church has its original Greek-cross interior, which was reworked in the 18th Century and is given a warm glow inside by the orangey net curtains.


Art highlights
The 18th Century art here holds little to surprise, and there's the statutory Palma Giovane painting.  The organ over the entrance (built 1743-49 by Antonio and Tommaso Amigoni) has a balcony divided into five sections, each featuring somewhat feathery but strongly coloured paintings of The Life of Tobias by Giovanni Antonio Guardi (the elder brother of the more famous veduti-painter Francesco) in 1750-53.  There's a central ceiling fresco by Francesco Fontebasso a pupil of Ricci and Tiepolo (see photo below) which is a bit darkly out of tone, but impressive. And in the baptistery (entrance to the right of the high altar), a tiny low room, the whole ceiling of is covered with a fresco, also by Fontebasso.  It's been much altered, but recent cleaning has left it maybe a little too vivid.


Campanile 35m (114 ft) electromechanical bells
Rebuilt with the 18th Century's favoured form of the octagonal drum and onion dome.

The church in fiction
This church is central to the action in Salley Vickers' novel Miss Garnet's Angel and so it has become something of a pilgrimage destination for readers of that book. This probably explains the much better chance that you'll find it open lately and its recent spate of sprucings-up.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday 8.00-12.00, 3.00-5.00
Sunday 9.00-12 .00

Vaporetto
San Basilio

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Carmini
early 16th Century
 






















































































 

 
History
Founded in 1286 by the Carmelite fathers, an order originally of desert hermits centred around Mount Carmel, and finished and consecrated in 1348. In 1515 there was a major modernisation of the interior, and a new campo façade created, by Sebastiano da Lugano. The adjacent monastic buildings were also rebuilt early in the 16th Century.

The church
The brick façade facing the square and the canal is early Venetian Renaissance and influenced by the work of Codussi. The façade is by Sebastiano Mariano di Lugano, as are the statues, probably. The statues are, from the top, the redeemer, the annunciation and the prophets Elijia and Elisha. The last two are considered to be the founders of the Carmelite order. The doorway has an unusual double pediment. The side entrance on Calle de la Scuola with its very projecting canopy (see below left) is the original 14th Century façade and features Byzantine palm-leaf detailing. It was restored in 2006 by
Venice in Peril.

Interior
The interior dates from the original 14th Century Gothic building, but most of the decoration is later. The impression on entering is of vast length. There are twelve columns down each side, with gilded statues in each of the spandrels, much gilding of the arches, and a frieze of of paintings by late-17th and early-18th Century painters you won't have heard of. No transept but odd big singing galleries suspended either side of the apse entrance. The apse retains something of the appearance of the 14th Century church and the sacristy has 14th Century fresco fragments.

Art highlights
The second altar on the right has a 1509 Nativity by Cima da Conegliano, which is one of his best, with the figures not looking made of plastic, as they so often do. It's also unusual in including Tobias and the Angel Raffaele amongst the attendant saints. The third altar on the right is the only one decorated up into the dome above, with a sparkling fresco depicting Two angels in flight by Sebastiano Ricci. The forth altar, the Altare dei Compra Vendi Pesce, has a Presentation by Tintoretto.

Behind the altar is a copy of the central part of Titan's Assumption from the Frari, made by a painter called Tagliapietra in 1856. Hanging above the altar is a painted wooden crucifix said to be by Paolo Veneziano.

In the left hand aisle the second altar has a Saint Nicholas in Glory, with St John the Baptist and St Lucy, painted for this church in 1529 and still in its original Istrian stone frame. The effect of St Lucy's eyes floating above her chalice is very odd and frog-like. St George fights the dragon in the impressive Dutch-influenced landscape below. To the right of this painting, over the confessional, is a small Holy Family by Veronese, which was previously in San Barnaba.


Cloisters

The cloister of the former monastery (see right), which was rebuilt in the mid-17th Century and suppressed in 1810, has an entrance to the right of the façade. The wellhead in the centre is dated 1762 and has the Carmelite crest.

Campanile 66m (217 ft) electromechanical bells
The 1290 original is visible on Barbari map. It was damaged by earthquakes in 1347, 1410 and 1511, demolished in 1511 and rebuilt taller in 1520. This one began to lean as the foundations subsided and was straightened in 1688 by Giuseppe Sardi. The method by which he achieved the straightening involved digging away at the brickwork on the three sides away from the tilt and wedging wood into the holes. He then dissolved the wood away with strong acid and the tower tilted back. At this time the campanile was also topped by a small octagonal temple with a bronze statue of the Madonna of Mount Carmel. The current statue is actually a copy sculpted in 1982 by Romano Vio after the original was struck by lightning. When the lightning struck the campanile, in 1756, the monks ringing the bells at the time were so terrified they fled in panic and one of them hit his head against a wall and died.

The church in art
Santa Maria del Carmelo and Scuola Grande dei Carmini, a typically cropped oil painting by John Singer Sargent (see left) shows the façade stuccoed over.

Sickert's oil painting  The Church of the Carmine is from a viewpoint just a little to the left of mine for the photo above, and merely trims off the top of the façade. It too shows the façade stuccoed.

Opening times 12.30-7.00

Vaporetto Ca' Rezzonico or San Basilio


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Le Eremite
Giovanni Battista Lambranzini 1693
 


History
Built in 1693-94 by Giovanni Battista Lambranzini (who was also responsible for the nearby Santa Margherita and the modernization of the interior of Santa Marta) for Augustinian nuns, and paid for by Santo Donadoni. It's also said that the six nuns who inhabited the hermit's cell (eremite means hermit) above the door of San Marcuola moved here when that church became unstable in 1693. The widow of Doge Giovanni Corner lived here until her death in 1729.

The complex was suppressed in 1810, at which time 38 nuns were resident. The Cavanis moved here from Spirito Santo in 1811 and then Canossian nuns moved in in 1863. The complex has been used as a teacher-training college, by various schools, for language teaching, and as student and tourist accommodation.

The church was r
estored in late 1990s by
Venice in Peril as it had suffered severely from damp. The work was described as 'stabilising and consolidating the altars'. Also at this time the Fondation Jean-Barthélémy, and others, paid for the restoration of paintings in the church in memory of the painter Marie Thérèse Krafft, who lived nearby. This restoration work, on four wall paintings by Francesco Pittoni of The Miracles of St Augustine, was completed in 2002. More restoration work took place in 2008/9. When I wrote to the Istituto Canossiano in 2010 asking if I could have a look inside I was told that that 'at the present the church is being restored, and is not possible to enter'. A visitor in 2014 was told the same thing.

Interior
Described as 'rich and sumptuous' in Franzoi’s Le Chiesa di Venezia, the church consists of an aisleless nave, divided in two by the altar with an enclosed choir behind for the nuns. There are ceiling paintings, including The Crowning of the Virgin, by Niccolò Bambini, returned now after recent restoration, and 15th Century wooden choir stalls with an unusual gilt and polychrome relief carving of The Madonna of the Misericordia in the choir behind the altar (see photo below).



Campanile
13m (42ft) no bells
Has an eight-sided budino  (pudding) shaped dome.

Vaporetto
San Basilio

Opening times Always closed.
Which after all that expensive charity-funded restoration work seems something of a waste and a shame.


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Photo by Val de Furrentes
 






Photo by Brigitte Eckert
 

Gesuati
Giorgio Massari 1726
 


History

Monks from Sienna from the order of The Blessed Giovanni Colombino established themselves here in 1392. In 1423 they built an oratory and cloister dedicated to Saint Jerome.  (They had previously occupied the nearby church of Sant’Agnese.) A proper church and monastery were built here by the Poor Gesuati order (as they now called themselves) from 1494, consecrated 1524 and dedicated to Our Lady of the Visitation. The order was suppressed in 1668 and in 1669 the Dominicans bought the place and got Giorgio Massari to build the present, much larger, church, beginning work in 1726, to the east of the old church, and finishing it in 1743. Massari also converted the old church (Santa Maria della Visitazione) to a library. The newer church became a parish church when the order was suppressed in 1815, to replace the nearby suppressed churches of San Vio and San Gregorio.  The monastery to the left of the church, which become a boys' home after suppression, is now the home of the Istituto Don Orione.

The church
This was Massari's first major commission in Venice. The niches on the façade (a heavier and more theatrical reflection of the façade of the Redentore church opposite) contain large statues depicting the four virtues. A stone relief of the dead Christ supported by two Angels set into the side wall of the church (seen to the right in the photo right) may be from the original church.

Interior
The interior, like the façade, is modelled on the Redentore. It consists of an aisleless nave with six connecting side chapels, three either side, full of exceptional 18th Century art. The effect of the walls and detailing is pale grey, getting darker for the domed chancel, with it's unplain tabernacle by Massari.

Art highlights
This church is a treat for Tiepolo fans, with a fine altarpiece in the first chapel on the right and some ceiling painting well worth the neck ache, or the easier perusal using the handily provided (and correctly shaped) floor-standing mirror.  Also two by Piazzetta, a good one by Sebastiano Ricci, depicting Saints Pius V, Aquinas and Peter Martyr, and a badly restored Tintoretto Crucifixion which came from the nearby Santa Maria della Visitazione.

Campanile 21m (68 ft) electromechanical bells
Also by Massari, with a matching parallel tower.

The church in art
Dominates right foreground of The Giudecca Canal with the Zattere by Guardi. The Giudecca by David Roberts
Also many watercolours by John Singer Sargent.

Santa Maria del Rosario, known as Chiesa dei Gesuati,
by Rubens Santoro (below) with bizarre truncation of
the church and the wrong campanile.
 


A Capriccio with the Gesuati by Canaletto (below)

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 10.00 to 5.00
Sundays: closed
A Chorus Church

Vaporetto Zattere

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Ognissanti
1505-1520
 


History
Founded by Cistercian nuns from the convent of Santa Margherita on Torcello who moved here because it was a more salubrious location. They brought their own paintings with them, amongst them a Palma Giovane. They probably occupied an existing house initially, having a small wooden church built for them in 1472. Their finances would've improved after they acquired a miracle-working image of the Virgin. The church was rebuilt enlarged from 1505 to 1520 and consecrated in 1586. The length of time taken was probably the result of the nun's poverty causing slow and often-interrupted work. The complex was suppressed by the French in 1806 and stripped of its art. In 1820 the convent became a girls' school and then an old people's home later in the 19th Century. It was a hospital after this and is now part of the Universita Ca'Foscari.
 
Interior
Aisleless with a ceiling divided into compartments where small paintings might be, but aren't, this is a small and plain and very used convent church with a big nun's gallery at the back (see photo below) taking up almost half the church’s length, with two wall-attached altars each side. The apse and its two side chapels have frescoed ceilings, and for these alone I'd recommend a visit.

Lost art
Veronese's Coronation of the Virgin, from the high altar here, now in the Accademia. It's dating coincides nicely with the church's completion in 1586. He was also commissioned to paint organ shutters for this church around the same time. These show The Adoration of the Magi and The Fathers of the Church and are now in the Brera in Milan.

The church in art
Rio e Chiesa Degli Ognissanti by Mortimer Menpes (see below)

Campanile 40m (130ft) manual bells

Opening times

Vaporetto San Basilio

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Photo above by David Orme


 









 

Pio Loco dei Catecumeni
Giorgio Massari 1727
 


History
The Pio Loco, founded in 1557, had previously been sited in San Marcuola and Santi Apostoli. It moved here in 1571, building on land provided by Andrea Lippomano. It may have moved here to cater for the increased number of guests at the hospital of the Incurabili after the battle of Lepanto. The institution cared for slaves and prisoners of war captured during foreign campaigns. It's more covert purpose being to convert 'infidels' (Muslims and Jews) to Christianity ready for baptism and subsequent citizenship. This task had previously been undertaken by families, who would take in potential converts and guide them through the process.

The complex was rebuilt in 1727 by Massari (the year after he completed the Gesuati above) based on Palladio's Zitelle, with a central church (San Giovanni Battista) flanked by two blocks of accommodation. It later became a nursery school, but now houses the Istituto Suore Salesie.

Vaporetto Salute

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Saint George's
Luigi Marangoni 1892
 



 


History

This church was converted from a warehouse previously belonging to the Venezia-Murano Glass company and bought by Sir Henry Layard. He donated it to a committee which had been set up to establish a permanent
English Church in Venice. The church opened in 1892, built to a design by engineer Luigi Marangoni, with sculptures by Napoleone Martinuzzi.  It contains the tombstone of Consul Joseph Smith, which was moved here from the Protestant burial ground on the Lido, where he was buried, in 1968. There's also a window commemorating Robert Browning who allowed Anglican services to be held in the Ca’ Rezzonico during the time he lived there. It is one of seven stained-glass windows here recently restored with the help of Venice in Peril.

The church was closed from 1935-45 and after 1945 reopened as a garrison chapel. Public services were later resumed for the Summer season. During his chaplaincy of 1967-74 Canon Victor Stanley resumed year-round services.

Opening times
Only for services, held every Sunday at 10.30am

Vaporetto
Accademia


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Salute
Baldassare Lo
nghena 1631-87
 















































Bibliography
Andrew Hopkins Santa Maria della Salute - Architecture and Ceremony in Baroque Venice Cambridge UP 2000

The church in film and on TV
The Salute has become a bit of a cliché for use in establishing shots that say Look - it's Venice! Amongst the most memorable scenes are the threesome having a picnic on the steps in The Wings of the Dove and the dome appearing mysteriously over Katharine Hepburn's shoulder as she chooses shoes in Summertime. (I say 'mysteriously' because there are no shops anywhere near the church.)

Opening times
Daily 9.00-12.00, 3.00-5.00

Vaporetto Salute

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History
The original monastery and church on this site, dedicated to The Holy Trinity, was given by Venice to the Teutonic Knights in 1256 in gratitude for their help in the war against Genoa. Suppression by Pope Clement XVI followed in 1592 and the complex returned to the patriarchate of Venice.
 
This original complex was demolished in order that this church be built to hasten and celebrate the end of the last great plague of 1630-31 which had taken 46,000 people, 30% of Venice’s population. It had supposedly been brought from the quarantine island of San Clemente by a carpenter who lived in the nearby parish of Sant'Agnese. Santa Maria della Salute means St Mary of Health - the Virgin was thought to have had a hand in saving the Venetians. The commission was prestigious and a competition was held, among the conditions of which being that the church be flashy but not too expensive. Eleven proposals were reduced to two, the other of these being a more traditional design by Smeraldi. The twenty-six year old Longhena’s winning design took a Palladian base and made something freshly baroque and theatrical. Longhena had studied with Scamozzi, who had himself collaborated with Sansovino and Palladio. Building took 30 years (a wooden oratory was used in the meantime) with the square in front laid out in 1681. Longhena died in 1682 and Gaspari finished his work. Consecration took place on the 9th of November 1687
 
The church’s dome with its crowds of angels and its famous huge volutes cannot be said to make a small impression. And the building needed to impress, as it formed the centrepiece of the grand annual ceremony where the doge crossed the canal on a specially-built bridge of barges and processed through the central arch to give thanks for Venice’s deliverance. The ceremony continues to this day, without a doge, but with crowds buying sweets and candles and streaming across the rickety structure. In the 1930s it did collapse, with Sir Osbert Sitwell on it. The church long symbolised Venice’s triumph over adversity and its republican strength, just as its silhouette now symbolises Venice in almost every film and TV programme that gets made about the city.
 
The church
An extravagant display, made up of eight Palladian façades, with the grandest facing onto the Grand Canal. Huge buttresses with orecchioni (big ears) support the drum of the dome and lots of statues of saints and angels. The lantern on top of the dome supports a statue of the Virgin blessing the city. Behind there's the smaller dome over the sanctuary and two delicate campanili.
 
Interior
The interior is impressive but restrained, given the church’s  exuberant external appearance – a quite plain octagonal space with an ambulatory and six radiating chapels. The high altar is by Longhena. The paving is said to be inlaid with 33 roses symbolising the 33 years of Jesus's life.
 
Art highlights
Works by Titian (including The Pentacost which, like all the works by him in this church, was taken from the deconsecrated church of Santo Spirito in Isola) and Tintoretto, amongst others, and a Byzantine icon of The Virgin, brought from Crete and set into the somewhat overpopulated altar.

Campanile 48m (156ft) electromechanical bells
Two towers, but only one has bells.

Edwardian suicides
In 1908 jean Cocteau wrote a poem called Souvenir d'un soir d'automne au jardin Eaden, which tells of an argument between Cocteau's companion on his trip to Venice and a young American. The quarrel, which took place in the Garden of Eden, lead to the friend shooting himself on the steps of the Salute, which was a not-unusual event at the time, it seems. Francois Mauriac, writing in Le Mal many years later, mentions this event and says of the steps of the Salute: 'One cannot even count all the young men who have chosen to die there!'

Ruskin said
One of the earliest buildings of the Grotesque Renaissance, rendered impressive by its position, size, and general proportions. These latter are exceedingly good; the grace of the whole building being chiefly dependent on the inequality of size in its cupolas, and pretty grouping of the two campaniles behind them. It is to be generally observed that the proportions of buildings have nothing whatever to do with the style of general merits of their architecture. An architect trained in the worst schools, and utterly devoid of all meaning or purpose in his work may yet have such natural gift of massing and grouping as will render all his structures effective when seen from a distance: such a gift is very general with the late Italian builders, so that many of the most contemptible edifices in the country have good stage effect so long as we do not approach them. The Church of the Salute is farther assisted by the beautiful flight of steps in front to fit down to the canal; and its façade is rich and beautiful of its kind, and was chosen by Turner for the principal object in this well-known view of the Grand Canal. The principal faults of the building are the meagre windows in the sides of the cupola, and the ridiculous disguise of the buttresses under the form of colossal scrolls; the buttresses themselves being originally a hypocrisy, for the cupola is stated by Lazari to be of timber, and therefore needs none. The sacristy contains several precious pictures: the three on its roof by Titian, much vaunted, are indeed as feeble as they are monstrous; but the small Titian, "St. Mark, with Sts. Cosmo and Damian," was, when I first saw it, to my judgment, by far the first work of Titian's in Venice. It has since been restored by the Academy, and it seemed to me entirely destroyed, but I had not time to examine it carefully.

The church in art
Amongst the many views are all the usuals (Canaletto, Guardi, Marieschi, Turner) but perhaps the most famous are Sickert's and Sargent's. They both had a thing for unusual cropped views, like the one by Sargent right.


 

San Barnaba
Lorenzo Boschetti 1749-76
 


History
Founded in 809, the original church burnt down in 1105 and was rebuilt, and consecrated on 6th December 1350. The current church dates from 1749-76 and is by Lorenzo Boschetti, a follower of Massari. His façade is another Greek temple front, based on Massari's nearby Gesuati, but heavier with even beefier columns.

Art highlights
A couple by Palma il Giovane. Also a ceiling fresco by Constantino Cedini, a follower of Tiepolo.

Lost art
A quite-recently restored Holy family with the infant Saint John (brought here from the Maddalena church in Padua in 1774) which some, Bernard Berenson included, have attributed to Veronese, was more recently moved to the Carmini, where it is confidently labelled as a work by Veronese.

Campanile
35m (114 ft) manual bells
Brickwork with a pine-cone shaped steeple. The original 11th Century tower was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1350 and restored in 1882 by Lodovico Cadorin.

The local Barnabotti
The cheapness of the rents in the area around the church lead to its colonisation in the 18th Century by nobles who had ruined themselves through extravagance, and who where thus called the Barnabotti, in honour of the area. They were supported by the state and their daughters were accorded begging privileges.

The church in film
Featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - our hero finds catacombs, rats and dead Crusaders under the floor and later emerges from a manhole in the campo. Katherine Hepburn fell into the canal in front of this church in Summertime and the shop where she finds the red glasses, and her handsome love interest, is to the left of the façade - it's now a toy shop.

The church in art
Maschere à San Barnaba by Italico Brass (see right).

Opening times
The church used to be mostly closed, but is currently open 9.30 - 7.30 daily due to a 'temporary' exhibition of models of Leonardo's machines which has been here for several years now and shows no sign of ever leaving. (Find details here.) But there's a lot of scaffolding and stuff inside, which makes appreciation of the actual fabric of the church pretty much impossible.

Vaporetto Ca' Rezzonico

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San Gregorio
Antonio di Cremona  15th Century
 









Two of the Tintorettos from the Madonna dell'Orto
('The Presentation of the Virgin' is to the left) getting
restored in San Gregorio in the late 1960s.


 

 


History
Founded in 806 and given to Benedictine monks in 989 who founded an abbey here in 1160. The current church dates from the mid-15th Century and is by Antonio di Cremona. It's closely modelled on the nearby church of the Carità with its three-part Gothic façade, but has long since lost the finials that the façades shared, visible in the detail from the Canaletto painting (see far below left). Has a triple-apse (see below left) facing onto a canal at the rear. Built into the façade of the canonica to the right
of the church’s façade is an arch from a 14th Century funerary monument, visible in the film still below. The skin of Marcantonio Bragadin, flayed alive by the Turks in 1571, was kept here before being moved to San Zanipolo in 1596.

The complex was suppressed by the French in 1806 and the buildings turned into a metal-refining workshop for the Zecca (the Mint) in 1818. It was later used as a hotel and in 1919 was 'restored by an antiquarian', but it fell into a sad state of  disrepair in the mid-20th Century and plans were made to make the church into a concert hall. In 1968 it was restored and became home to an art restoration laboratory set up by State departments and heavily funded by private rescue committees from across
Europe and the USA. This all being prompted by the flood of 4th November 1966. Their first big job was the Tintorettos from the Madonna dell'Orto (see interior photo below left) then getting much restoration attention.

Cloister
Adjoining, with an entrance (attributed to Bartolomeo Bon) facing the
Grand Canal. Admired by Ruskin, it's all that remains of the abbey, which had two cloisters until one was demolished in the late 19th Century. In the early part of the 20th Century the remaining cloister was let as tenements (see photo below) but it has recently been spruced up and used for art exhibitions.

Lost art
A late 14th/early 15th Century Portable Altar, now in the Accademia.

Ruskin said
An important church of the fourteenth century, not desecrated, but still interesting. Its apse is on the little canal crossing from the Grand Canal to the Giudecca, beside the Church of the Salute, and is very characteristic of the rude ecclesiastical Gothic contemporary with the Ducal Palace. The entrance to its cloisters, from the Grand Canal, is somewhat later; a noble square door, with two windows on each side of it, the grandest examples in Venice of the late window of the fourth order.

The cloister, to which this door gives entrance, is exactly contemporary with the finest work of the Ducal Palace, circa 1350. It is the loveliest cortile I know in Venice; its capitals consummate in design and execution; and the low wall on which they stand showing remnants of sculpture unique, as far as I know, in such application.


The church in art
The Entrance to the Grand Canal... by Canaletto (see detail below left) shows San Gregorio with the façade's original embellishments.

The church in film
The church and a view of the campo in front of the entrance (see screen grab below)
features in Who saw her die?

Opening times
Now used for art restoration.

Vaporetto Salute

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San Nicolo dei Mendicoli
12th-16th Centuries
 


History
The area around this church is thought to be one of the first parts of Venice to be settled, being so close to the mainland, and tradition says that the first church here was built in the 7th century by Paduans fleeing the Langobards. (Although some books say that this building may have been a military structure.) Recent restoration work found the foundations of this earlier church, which was dedicated to St Lawrence, and discovered that it became Greek-cross shaped in the 8th Century. Fire destroyed this original church in 1105 and the current church was built. In the late 12th Century it was dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra. The name 'dei Mendicoli' means 'of the Beggars', reflecting the area's long history as home to Venice's working classes, traditionally fishermen and their families. The church was restored in 1361-4 and remodelled in 1553-80. The last major changes were made in 1750-60 when the new Istrian stone entrance façade was created, perhaps by the Roman architect Paolo Posi. A priest was imprisoned for not being able to say where the money for this 18th Century rebuilding came from. It was said that a hoard of Roman gold and silver coins had been found under the campanile. This story also helps add weight to the one about the church being built on the site of an ancient temple. Venice in Peril carried out major restoration work from 1972-80, including re-roofing, damp-proofing, work on paintings and crucifixes, and the raising of the floor, which was 30cm below canal level.

The church
The creation of the present, somewhat baroque, Greek temple front entrance (see photo right) resulted in restoration work on the old 15th Century porch (to the right of the photo above right) which was once a common feature but now the only other one is at San Giacomo di Rialto. It was rebuilt in 1903 using bits of the 12th Century building. Poor and virtuous women were allowed to shelter and sleep here. The newer entrance has statues of the Virgin (centre) and Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint John of Nepomuk.

The interior
A nave with two aisles, the 12th Century basilica plan features two colonnades of columns with 14th Century capitals surmounted by rows of statues of the twelve apostles dating from the 16th Century. The three-arched screen between the nave and the apse gives the impression of aisles on three sides and the three deep chapels in the right aisle make for a pleasing asymmetrical impression, so it's this spatial interest that appeals here, and the atmosphere generated by the darker upper parts. The paintings, mostly 17th Century, feature no big-names - even the Marieschi painting is labelled 'attrib' and there's a lot of 'anonime' works too. The varied and attractive frescoing on all of the chapel ceilings, though, is appealing. And do put a Euro in to illuminate the place - it cuts down on some of the shadowy atmosphere but makes it much easier to see what you're looking at.  Even more of a mixture of periods and styles than usual, then, but a pleasing effect nonetheless, based upon numerical harmonies.



Campanile 26m (85ft) manual bells
Dates from the 12th Century building. Damaged by a stray bomb in WWII. The clock was added in 1764. Also benefited from the  restoration work by Venice in Peril in the 1970s.





Fresco upstairs
A Crucifixion with saints from the 14th Century (photo below) recently discovered. See my fresco story



The church in film
This is the main church that Donald Sutherland is restoring in Don’t Look Now.


Opening times
Mon-Sat 10.00-12.00, 4.00-6.00
Sunday 4.00-6.00


Vaporetto San Basilio

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San Pantalon
Francesco Comino 1668-86
 






 
History
Tradition says that this church was founded in the 9th Century, but the earliest written record is dated 1101. It was dedicated to Saints Pantaleon and Giuliana, but became plain San Pantalon. The church was rebuilt, and reconsecrated in 1305. The Barbari map of 1500 shows its façade facing Rio de San Pantalon, as does the Merian map of 1635 (see below). Later an entrance facing onto the campo was added, but when the church was rebuilt in 1668-86 by Francesco Comino the church's orientation was rotated by 90 degrees so that the (still unfinished, looming brick) façade faced the campo, which was long used as a fish market. It is said that Comino's plans for the façade had been inspired by the church of the Redentore and San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti. San Pantaleon, a martyr saint more popular in the East, was a 3rd Century doctor from Nicomedia and became famous in Venice in the 18th Century due to a play written by Goldoni.

Interior/Art highlights
The church is big and tall and aisleless, with three deep chapels on each side of the nave. To the left of the high altar there is now access to two chapels to the left of the apse. The first is the Capella del Chiodo which contains a mighty impressive large Coronation of the Virgin by Antonio Vivarini, which formerly hung to the left of the high altar and was said to have been a collaboration with Giovanni d'Alemagna. There's also the Capella della Santa Casa di Loretta. This is medium-sized, dark and brick-walled, with sweet fragments of fresco by Pietro Longhi.

The big problem with this church is gloom, it has to be said - it's a dark church with very sparse lighting, a situation made worse when it was only open in the evening. But once your eyes acclimatise the ceiling reveals itself as something very special.
This is a very Baroque ceiling by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani, done between 1680 and 1704, depicting scenes from The Martyrdom and Glorification of St Pantalon amongst looming illusionistic architectural perspectives. It's the largest oil painting in the world, supposedly, measuring around 443 square feet and made up of 40 canvases sewn together. Ruskin found it vulgar, unsurprisingly. The artist is said to have fallen to his death from the scaffolding whilst painting, but this may just be a story. The fact that he died in 1710, six years after the painting was completed (and was buried in this church) seems like a pretty strong refutation.
More of his work can be found in some of the other chapels here.

There's also a Veronese here
(see below left) The Miracle of San Pantalon which he began painting a year before he died and which is his last known work. It was commissioned by Bartolomeo Borghi, the pievano (parish priest) in 1587 and includes his portrait as the priest supporting the boy who has been killed by a snake bite. The saint is shown curing the boy with prayer whilst ignoring the proffered medicine. The snake, looking more like a small dragon, is seen making off the bottom right-hand corner. Although commissioning such a work may strike us now as an act smacking of self-importance and vanity it would probably have been seen more as an act of piety at the time. When the axis of the church was twisted through
90° in the 17th Century this painting, which had been over the high altar, kept its orientation, now being in a chapel in the centre of the right-hand aisle. It was restored by Venice in Peril for the Genius of Venice exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1983. 

Campanile 47m (153ft) manual bells
The original church's tower was restored 1225 and demolished in 1511 after an earthquake. Current tower built 1704-32 by Giovanni Scalfarotto. It has a neo-classical belfry with a tall circular drum above and an elongated dome. To me it looks a lot like a vibrator, I'm sorry.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday:
10.00 - 12.00, 1.00-3.00

Vaproretto Ca' Rezzonico

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This detail from the Merian map of 1635 shows
the old San Pantalon facing the canal,
with Santa Margherita (left foreground) still with its campanile.

Continued on  page 2





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