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The Veneto: Padua and Verona

 

 

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 fašade 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) fašade faced the campo, which was long used as a fish market. It is said that Comino's plans for the fašade 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 down the nave. To the left of the high altar there is access to two highlight chapels. The first is the Capella del Chiodo which contains a mighty impressive large panel of The Coronation of the Virgin by Antonio Vivarini (see right) which formerly hung to the left of the high altar and is 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 (see below) with some 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 here whilst painting, but this may just be a story. The fact that he died in 1710, six years after the painting was completed, would seem to refute it.
More of his work can be found in some of the other chapels here and he was buried in this church. Although a recent (October 2016) visitor was told by an attendant that he wasn't.

There's also a Veronese here
(se
e right) 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 box. 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 west-facing 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 and it came over for the big Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery in 2014. If you saw it then, lucky you - you saw it closer and better lit than you can in the church.






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 like a vibrator, I'm sorry.

Update May 2016 Scaffolding currently covers the campanile.

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.

 



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