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  Frari Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
San Cassiano
San Giacometto
San Giacomo di Rialto
San Giovanni Elemosinaro
San Giovanni Evangelista
San Polo
San Rocco
San Silvestro
San Tomà
San Tommaso
Sant’Aponal

 

 

Frari
Baldassare Longhena, Jacopo Sansovino, Marco Cozzi,  1492
 










Canova's original tomb for Maria Christina, daughter of
Empress Maria Theresia, in Vienna, from which the design
of his tomb in the Frari was taken.






 


History

The Franciscan friars (or Frari) came to Venice in 1222, but had no permanent home until Doge Jacopo Tiepolo gave them some unreclaimed land in 1236, adjacent to the abandoned Benedictine abbey they were inhabiting. The church that they built, dedicated in 1280, extending the abbey, was much smaller than the one we see today, and faced in the opposite direction. The current church was begun shortly after, in 1340, but work was slow - the old church was still being used in 1415, but it was demolished shortly after this date to complete the East end of the nave, work having been begun at the West end. The new church was finished in 1442, and consecrated in 1492. Its plan is attributed to Fra Scipione Bon, who has a tomb in the church. The monastery dates from 1256, being renovated after a fire in 1390 and having two cloisters, one by Jacopo Sansovino and the other attributed to Andrea Palladio.

The church
The exuberant, but brick-plain, Gothic façade contrasts with the more restrained façade on the Dominican’s San Zanipolo, built at the same time. Stand in the campo at it’s north-eastern front - the one with the canal running through it - to see the sequence of three entrances and three oculi windows (see photo below left) with the stout campanile rising above the middle one. In the Campo San Rocco at the other end you can admire the Gothic apse, as you indulge in a gelato and listen to the buskers. Its mouldings were said by Ruskin to be the source of similar designs on the Palazzo Ducale.

Interior
The twelve huge round pillars between the nave and the aisles represent the apostles, but the division of the nave and aisles is very unobtrusive, giving the impression of a single space dissected up high by tie-beams. The tie-beams are there because of the brick vaulting – a dicey choice of material in a sinking city. And here the bricks have been painted to mask their humble nature. Dominating the centre of the church is the dark wood of the monumental monks’ choir (a rare survival in Venice) separated from the nave by a carved marble screen, said to be the work of Pietro Lombardo. The choir stalls feature fine marquetry by Marco Cozzi, depicting views of an ‘ideal city’.

The nave features some mighty overpowering tombs, the most exhausting being the one for Doge Giovanni Pesaro, designed by Longhena, with the four huge moors bent under a weight of allegorical figures under a canopy of carved ‘brocade’. The pyramidal tomb to Canova is a far calmer and lovelier thing, if not exactly unwacky either. Its design was copied by his pupils from the memorial Canova created for Maria Christina, daughter of Empress Maria Theresia, in the Augustinerkirche in Vienna (see photo below left). His heart is preserved in a barely-visible porphyry urn behind the sinister open door, although the rest of him is buried in Possagno, with a finger said to be in the Accademia. Opposite is the tomb of Titian and, a few altars along, Vittoria's statue of St Jerome is said to depict Titian at 90. According to the parish records of San Canciano he died in August 1576 of a fever, but it was probably the plague. He was buried here despite funeral services being prohibited during times of plague for fear of contagion. The tomb was erected in the 19th Century by the Emperor of Austria.

From the Chapter House, beyond the Sacristy, it’s possible to glimpse the Cloister of the Holy Trinity, one of the two cloisters of the original convent which have housed the Venetian state archives since 1814 (after a period, post-suppression, of use as a barracks). The other is called the Cloister of St Anthony and both are unfortunately usually closed to visitors.

Art highlights
Claims are often made for the Frari as almost a museum of Renaissance art in Venice, and it certainly contains some of the finest church art in town.

Titian’s Assumption over the main altar dominates the church, and is said to be the largest altarpiece in Venice. His working on an altarpiece for the nearby (now demolished) church of San Nicoletto della Lattuga may partially explain how such a prestigious commission went to a relatively untested artist. Other sources claim that it was his first public commission. It was commissioned to go above an altar erected in 1516 and was installed by 1518. Ruskin said that this painting was 'not one whit the better for being either large or gaudy in colour' and complained of its excess of 'fox colour.' The friars who commissioned it (led by the prior, Frate Germano) had their doubts too - telling Titian that his apostles were too big in relation to the Virgin - but they stopped complaining when Charles V expressed an interest in buying it. It spent some time during the nineteenth century, after its return from France, as the highlight of the Accademia gallery (room 2 was built to house it) before returning here in 1919.

Along with this early triumph  - it was one of Titian's first altarpieces - there's the slightly later and much quieter, but no less impressive Pesaro altarpiece (currently - September 2013 - away being restored) which Ruskin thought to be the artist's best work in Venice. (Jacopo Pesaro's mixed motives for commissioning the altarpiece included his bitterness at not receiving due credit for his part in defeating the Turks at Santa Maura in 1502, and that instead the glory had fallen upon his cousin Benedetto Pesaro, one of the brothers who commissioned the Bellini altarpiece mentioned below, which he may also have wanted to outdo. Jacopo belonged to the Dal Carro branch of the family and it was the San Benetto branch who commissioned the Bellini.)  These career highlights, along with the painter’s tomb, gives rise to this being known as Titian’s church.

In the Sacristy there’s also a Giovanni Bellini altarpiece to contemplate at length, a Virgin and Child with Saints (also known as the Frari Madonna). It has that same power to calm as his later altarpiece in San Zaccaria, despite a somewhat overpowering frame, probably designed by Bellini himself and carved by Jacopo da Faenza, and a bit too much distance between it and us. Bellini was reputedly just not good at painting movement, which 'limitation' gives us something to rest in front of (chairs are provided) after his pupil Titian’s more kinetic works. The Franciscans tended to stress the Virgin's exalted and chosen state, as the Titian Assumption illustrates. This Bellini seems more in keeping with the Dominicans' idea of a more human Virgin but he has, probably at the Franciscans' request, painted St Benedict with his bible open at the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, which is the strongest source for the controversial theory of the immaculate conception. The Sacristy was the Pesaro family chapel when, in 1478, Pietro Pesaro's sons commissioned Bellini to paint the altarpiece in honour of their mother, Francescina Tron. The two saints are the son's namesakes.

Palma Giovane's Martyrdom of St Catherine was so unsatisfactory to the friars that they reproached Alessandro Vittoria who had recommended the artist to them.

Two sculptures of John the Baptist, one by Donatello and the other by Sansovino, are equally impressive, as are works by Bartolomeo Vivarini (including his last, in the last lateral chapel to the right of the altar) and his nephew Alvise (whose final work is to be found in the first lateral chapel from the left). This last work, the Saint Ambrose altarpiece, was commissioned for the chapel of the Milanese community in Venice, and was finished after Alvise's death by Marco Basaiti. The painting celebrates Saint Ambrose, the patron of Milan and was the biggest altarpiece in Venice before Titian's Assumption.

Campanile 69m (224 ft) electromechanical bells
The second highest in Venice, work on it began in 1361, to a design by Jacopo Celaga, and completed by his son Pietro Paolo in 1396. It still looks like it did on the Barbari map (see below). It's amongst the tallest in Venice (being as tall as San Franceso della Vigna's). Restored in 1871 after subsidence, with the foundations further reinforced in 1903. The three-light belfry is surmounted by an Istrian-stone balustrade and an octagonal drum.


The church (not) in art
Canaletto never painted the Frari.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 9.00 to 6.00
Sundays: 1.00 to 6.00
A Chorus Church

Vaporetto San Toma

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San Cassiano
13th-17th Centuries
 


History
The first church here was said to have been an oratory built in 726 and dedicated to St Cecilia. Rebuildings followed in 926, 1106 (after the fire), 1205 and 1350, with this church consecrated in 1376. Rebuilding in the early 17th Century to its current internal appearance, this work finishing in 1663. The portico was demolished in the 19th Century when the church acquired its external appearance.

The church
Outside it just looks like a big box. The rio-facing façade misses its portico and is encroached on by buildings. It retains its Byzantine-era doorposts, possibly from the original church. Entry is usually now via the small side-door onto the campo.

Interior
The interior makes up for the lack of façade and the very plain exterior, being highly decorated but managing to stay this side of exhausting, despite having an altar by Meyring and Nardo, the first being responsible for the decoration of San Moise, the church that makes you say 'blimey!' His work here is relatively restrained as are the rather splendid Venetian chandeliers. The use of pale colours generally lightens the interior, even the heavily decorated ceiling, with its paintings by a Tiepolo-follower called Costantino Cedini, including one of San Cassiano in Glory. Even the Tintorettos here are likeable and exceptional, with a Crucifixion, Resurrection and Descent Into Limbo ranged in sequence around the chancel. St John in the famous and superior Crucifixion even gestures comic-strip-like into the next 'frame' - the Resurrection over the altar. Then in The Descent into Limbo Jesus meets up with Adam and a very sexy Eve. I had to ask, but access to the small chapel half way along the left hand wall is worth it as it is an odd little jewel-box of a room - all marble and inlaid semi-precious stones. Commissioned in 1746 by Abbot Carlo del Medico it has an altarpiece (1763) and ceiling fresco by Giambattista Pitoni. It also contains an early 18th Century painting of the Martyrdom of San Cassiano by Antonio Balestra, and yes those children are hacking at him and stabbing him with pens. He was a teacher martyred by his pupils using pens, and so is now the patron saint of schoolteachers.

Lost Art

The San Cassiano Altarpiece by Antonello da Messina was commissioned by Pietro Bon and was housed in the old Gothic church. It brought oil painting to Venice, probably, and was massively influential in introducing the layout of the typical 'Venetian' altarpiece. Its influence on Giovanni Bellini, with its use of colour and shade to form features, is also debated as he had been heading in this direction already. (The argument as to whether this painting or Bellini's lost St Catherine of Sienna altarpiece from San Zanipolo was the first unified pala produced in Venice still rages.) It disappeared sometime in the early part of the 17th Century - the disappearance is first mentioned in 1648. The painting reappeared in the collection of Archduke Leopold William in Brussels, attributed to Giovanni Bellini. In 1700 the three fragments that remain (there were originally eight saints) (see below right) found their way to Vienna, and are now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Almost lost was the Tintoretto Crucifixion. In Venice in 1852 John Ruskin wrote a letter asking for £7000 from the National Gallery in London to acquire it 'for the nation'. The Tintoretto Marriage at Cana was included in the deal, for £5000. He never got the money and so the paintings remain in their Venetian churches. He presumably sold this shameful asset-stripping to his conscience because his opinion was that the Tintorettos were all the church had going for it (see below).

Campanile 43m (140 ft) electromechanical bells
Its sturdiness suggests that it may have been built as a defensive tower and later acquired by the original church. Built in 1295 with a Gothic belfry added in 1350.

Ruskin says
This church must on no account be missed, as it contains three Tintorets, of which one, the "Crucifixion," is among the finest in Europe. There is nothing worth notice in the building itself, except the jamb of an ancient door (left in the Renaissance building, facing the canal), which has been given among the examples of Byzantine jambs; and the traveller may therefore devote his entire attention to the three pictures in the chancel. Of The Resurrection he says It is not a painting of the Resurrection, but of Roman Catholic saints thinking about the Resurrection.


Local colour
In 1488 this church's entrance was ordered to be chained shut, and the porch of Santa Maria Mater Domini was sealed off, 'after the twenty-third hour' to 'stop sodomites using it as a meeting place'. Local pastry shops were also said to be dens of such iniquity.

The funeral procession of Caterina Corner, the ex-Queen of Cypress, in 1509 started here and made its way over a bridge of boats to the church of Santi Apostoli where she was buried.

Campo San Cassiano was the site of the first public opera house in the world which opened in 1637. It was demolished in 1812 having been badly damaged by several fires.

The church in fiction
The painting The Martyrdom of San Cassiano by Antonio Balestra features in the novel Lucifer's Shadow by David Hewson.


Opening times

Tuesday-Saturday 9.00-12.00 & 5.00-7.00

Vaporetto San Stae

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San Giacometto
11th Century
 









 

History
Traditionally said to be the oldest church in Venice - an inscription on the left-hand pillar in the chancel says 421. Legend goes even further and claims that the church was consecrated at noon on the 21st March 421, this being the date that the republic used to celebrate as Venice's birthday. It's also supposedly the date of The Annunciation.  Information about the rebuilding is vague. The current church was built sometime during the reign of Doge Domenico Selvo (1071-84) and reconsecrated in 1177. It survived the fire of 1514 which destroyed most of the market, but must have been damaged as it underwent considerable restoration in 1531 (according to a plaque by the entrance) and again in 1599-1601. This latter work improved the lighting and installed some heavy baroque altars, but the original mosaics were lost. The choir on the inside façade was removed in 1933. This has always been seen as the 'market church' and has altars dedicated to various guilds of merchants and craftsmen. An cross-shaped inscription from the 12th Century on the outside of the apse (below left) tells merchants to be honest in their dealings and precise in their weights. The church now hosts concerts where Vivaldi's Four Seasons is performed most nights.

The church
The façade is dominated by one of only two wooden Gothic church porches to remain intact in Venice (the other being at San Nicolò dei Mendicoli). It was restored in 1958. Also the large and ever-wrong 24-hour clock above the 17th Century windows, which was put up in 1410 and restored in 1749.

Interior
Hemmed in by the market bustle, this is a dinky little Greek-Cross shaped church with a cupola, some charm, but no great art. Most of the city's original 70 parish churches would have been this shape originally, if not this small. This one has had reconstruction too, of course, but retains its original shape. The Greek marble columns with their Veneto-Byzantine capitals remain from the 11th Century church.

Campanile
The original was destroyed by fire in 1514. The current Roman-style tower was built in  1749. Under the bells is  a Gothic relief of the Virgin and Child from the early 16th Century.

Local colour

Opposite the church you'll find (usually buried under a pile of boxes and rotting vegetables) the 16th Century granite statue of Gobbo di Rialto (the Hunchback of Rialto) - a crouching figure supporting a flight of stairs and and a plaque. The Republic's decrees where once read from this pedestal and men convicted of petty crimes would run the gauntlet of beatings naked from Piazza San Marco to this statue where the punishment would end when the criminal kissed the statue. Shakespeare is said to have named the clown Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice after the statue.

The church in art

Canaletto's San Giacomo di Rialto (see below) is in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 9.30-12.00, 4.00-6.00

Vaporetto San Silvestro or Rialto

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San Giovanni Elemosinario
Antonio Abandi (Scarpagnino) 1527-29
 


The church
The name saint translates as St John the Almsgiver, the Patriarch of Alexandria - his body is in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora over in Castello. Tradition claims that this church was founded in the 9th or 10th Century. The first record is dated 1050, but it calls the church 'ancient'. Rebuilt in 1167, and again in the 15th Century, this old church was destroyed in the Rialto fire of 1514 and rebuilt by Scarpagnino (as part of his wider rebuilding commission after the fire) in 1527-29. It underwent much restoration recently and reopened in 2002 after having been closed for 20 years.

Interior
Greek-Cross shaped and classical in style, this church has a bright Pordenone-frescoed cupola (thought lost but rediscovered during the recent restoration) and a very mannerist-influenced altarpiece by him depicting Saints Sebastian, Roch and Catherine. Also a fine late Titian altarpiece of the church's name saint (see below) which was returned from the Accademia following restoration. It is to be found over the high altar, which was built in 1633 and dedicated to the Casteletti (the guild of lottery clerks). The local market guilds seem to have paid for most of the art and fittings here.


Campanile 41m (133ft) manual bells
Collapsed in 1071 and again in 1361. It was rebuilt 1398-1410, and again by Scarpagnino as part of the 1527-29 rebuilding. Originally topped by a dome and four pinnacles, it now has a hipped roof with pantiles.

Ruskin said
Said to contain a Titian and a Bonifazio. Of no other interest. Its campanile is the most interesting piece of central Gothic remaining comparatively intact in Venice. It stands on four detached piers; a greengrocer's shop in the space between them; the stable tower for its roof. There are three lovely bits of heraldry, carved on three square stones, on its side towards the Rialto. The Titian, only visible to me by the sacristan's single candle, seems languid and affected.

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

Vaporetto San Silvestro or Rialto

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Photo by David Orme
 

San Giovanni Evangelista
Bernardino Maccaruzzi 1758-9
 

























 


Interior photos by Valerie de Furrentes

 



History
Founded in 970 by the Badoer family. Rebuilt in 1443-75, restored in late 16th Century by Simone Sorella and again in 1758-9 by Bernardino Maccaruzzi. More work in the 19th Century.

The scuola was founded in 1261 (making it the second oldest after the scuola of Santa Maria della Carita) and was housed in the church of Sant’Aponal until it moved in 1301 to this church and to an ospizio (asylum) building opposite, again at the expanse of the Badoer family. The scuola building too was rebuilt in the mid-15th Century. It was suppressed by Napoleon in 1797, but a new confraternity was established in 1857 (1929?) and thrives still.

The screen spanning the campielo between the church and the scuola, completed around 1485, is usually attributed to Pietro Lombardo. Until the dissolution of the scuola it had doors.
It features an eagle, the symbol of St John the Baptist in its semi-circular pediment - the original relief of the saint himself is now in the Berlin Museum.

Interior
Contains sarcophagi of the Badoer family, a Domenico Tintoretto Crucifixion and works by Marieschi.

Lost art
The famous sequence of nine paintings of The Miracles of the True Cross by Carpaccio, Gentile Bellini, and others, now in the Accademia gallery, were painted for the Scuola here.

Campanile
30m (98ft) manual bells
Also rebuilt by Maccaruzzi in 1759.

The church in art
The Offering of the Relic of the Cross to the members of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista by Lazzaro Bastiani is in the Accademia. It shows the old façadewith its portico, before it was demolished.

Courtyard of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista (1913), an oil painting by John Singer Sargent. An unusually (for him) uncropped view, it is a head-on view of the screen. It excludes the iron railings in front of the screen, but shows their stone bases.

Ruskin said (of the Scuola)
A fine example of the Byzantine Renaissance, mixed with remnants of good late Gothic. The little exterior cortile is sweet in feeling, and Lazari praises highly the work of the interior staircase.

 

Vaporetto San Toma

Opening times
The Scuola is open during events and concerts, and by arrangement.

map

 

 

 

San Polo
15th Century
 


History
This church, dedicated to the Apostle Paul, was founded in 837 by the doges Pietro Tradonico and Orso Partecipazio and rebuilt in the 12th and 15th centuries. Some heavy-handed restoration, additions and losses (including a mosaic-covered chapel and a silver Byzantine altar-front) in the early years of the 19th Century by David Rossi were partly reversed in 1927 revealing, for example, the 15th Century wooden ship's keel roof and restoring the rose window which dates from the same period.

The church
The 15th century work resulted in the gothic windows and the impressive South doorway by the Bon workshop that visitors enter from the cramped and busy calle. The façade is now hidden by the Oratorio del Crocifisso, but from the nearby Corte de Cafetier you can see the Gothic rose window with trefoil arches and irregular quatrefoils. The apses face onto Campo San Polo and have several carvings, including the 14th Century relief of The Enthroned Madonna and Child with St Peter and St Paul.

Interior
The ship's keel ceiling dominates San Polo's somewhat knocked-about seeming interior. It's pleasingly rough and calm, and pretty dark at most times. To the left of the door is a sweet small carving fragment. of the Presidio.

Art highlights
Aside from a late work by Tiepolo senior, The Virgin Appearing to St. John Nepomuk*, there's a couple of Tintorettos - the dramatic Last supper, and the Assumption, which is more of a studio work. There are five by Palma Giovane in the big apse. The chapel to the right has a nicely frescoed dome by Gioacchino Pozzoli. The chapel to the left has a Veronese Marriage of the Virgin with an older painting of the Virgin oddly inset later.

More memorable is an impressive sequence of paintings of fourteen Stations of the Cross by Giandomenico Tiepolo, son of the more famous Giambattista, in the Oratory of the Crucifix, built onto the old façade. The son seems to have rebelled against his father's exuberance in life and in his use of colour in his art - these works are paler and much more melancholy than anything by his father. (Comparison can be made with The Virgin appears to Saint John of Nepomuk* in the main church.) He painted them, whilst still in his early 20s, from 1747-49 and they are rare examples of his being allowed to work alone while his father was alive.

Campanile 26m (85ft) manual bells
Detached, an inscription says it was built in 1362, but it could well be older. The doorway features two carved lions, one with a snake in its mouth, the other with a human head in its paws (see below). The latter is popularly thought to be a reference to the punishment of Doge Marin Faliero for his plotting against the Venetian Rebublic. Although it's also (and more often) said to represent the head of the condotiere Count Carmagnola, beheaded by the Republic in 1402. The well was restored in 1884 and the spire and belfry in 1909.

Local history

Having come through the church and having left by the south door, on his way to visit his lover, Lorenzino de'Medici, along with his uncle Alessandro Soderini, was murdered in 1548 by two assassins. Lorenzino (also known as Lorenzaccio or bad Lorenzino, a nickname he acquired for having decapitated several statues in Rome) had himself killed his cousin Allessandro de'Medici, Duke of Florence, for which crime, Cosimo de'Medici, another cousin, who had succeeded Allesandro, had dispatched the killers. The attackers, called Cecco Bibboni and Bebo da Volterra, fled and took refuge in the church of Spirito Santo.


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

Vaporetto San Toma or San Silvestro

map


 

*Saint John of Nepomuk is a national saint of Bohemia. He was the confessor to the Queen of Bohemia and for refusing to reveal secrets of her confession he was thrown from a bridge in Prague in 1393. He was canonised in 1729 and is the patron saint of silence, and also of protection from floods and calumnies. He is sometimes painted with a finger to his lips or a padlock on his mouth. In the painting here he 'consecrates his tongue' to the Virgin. There is a worn 18th Century statue of him on the fondamenta at the junction of the Grand Canal with the Cannaregio Canal. The saint is represented here because the church was given a Nepomuk relic by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, in 1740.







 

San Rocco
Giovanni Scalfarotto 1725
 





 


History

One of Venice's four plague churches, along with San Giobbe, San Sebastiano and the Salute, this church was built 1489-1508 by Bartolomeo Bon for the Confraternity of San Rocco, along with the scuoletta to the right of the church's façade (which currently houses a Leonardo exhibition). The confraternity had been founded in the plague year of 1478 by a group of prominent families. It had thrived following its stealthy 'translation' of the saint's remains from Volghera in 1485 by two monks, its mission being to help the poor and sick, particularly plague victims, and so this church was built to house these remains. This original church can be seen on De Barbari's map and the engraving of the church by Carlevarijs (see below). Extensive rebuilding, occasioned by danger of collapse, by Giovanni Scalfarotto in 1725, which left only the apse, the (repositioned) side door and a window from the Bon church. Following the plague of 1575/6 the Doge and Signoria would visit San Rocco on the saint's day to give thanks for his intercession.

The church
The façade was erected in 1765-71 by Giorgio Fossati and Bernardino Maccaruzzi to reflect the façade of the scuola. The statues flanking the doorway are by Giovanni Marchiori, who has more works inside, those above are by Gian Maria Morleiter. The side door and rose window are the work of Bon - the window had been on the façade but was moved around the side when the baroque façade was built. Both door and window were restored 2000-2001.

Interior
The church is well lit and so not as dark and requiring of coins-in-slots as some others. The titular saint is very well represented in the art. There are Tintorettos, but they're a bit unspecial, the best being an Annunciation which was once an organ door, to the left of the door. The apse is attractively decorated and above the altar is the saint himself, whose remains were brought here in 1485, and a statue of him - the altar and statue both being by Bon.

Lost art
Christ Carrying the Cross, attributed to either Giorgione or (most commonly) Titian (with Vasari giving it to both of them) used to hang in this church but is now displayed in the Scuola. It is one of the few images with a miracle-working reputation to be attributed to a celebrated artist.

The church in art

In the early 18th Century the church had no façade (from 1727 to c.1760), this being the time from the demolition of the old and unsafe façade until the construction of the new, and so the view-artists of  the day tended to invent their own. The National Gallery's Canaletto of The Feast Day of St Roch has the authentic unfinished brick, but an earlier painting by him is embellished with an imagined façade, further jazzed up by Visentini when he came to engrave it. Zucci in 1740 and Marieschi in 1742 went to town too (see below left). The engraving of the church by Carlevarijs (see below) is of the original church.


Campanile
29m (94ft) manual bells
Originally built by Bon in 1494, but not shown on the De Barbari map (right).

Opening times 8.00-12.30, 3.00-5.00
 

Vaporetto San Toma

map

 

San Silvestro
Lorenzo Santi/Giovanni Meduna  1836-43
 


History
Founded in the 9th Century, this church was rebuilt in the first half of the 15th, being consecrated in 1422 and incorporating the nearby oratory of Ognissanti. There was a further rebuilding in the first half of the 17th Century and then again, and more completely, in 1837-43. A large part of the altar of Saint Joseph, including a cornice and three angels, collapsed on the night before Easter Sunday 1820. Subsequent surveys showed that the church was in danger of falling down. Rebuilding began in 1836 to plans by Lorenzo Santi, and was continued by Giovanni Meduna, following Santi's death. Reconsecration took place in 1850. Aside from the campanile no trace remains of the earlier structures, except for a column fragment with a capital of Veneto-Byzantine style built into the wall facing the Rio Terrà.

The church
The façade dates from 1909 and is the work of Giuseppe Sicher. A 17th Century statue of St Sylvester stands in a niche over the door. Through an iron grill to the right inside is the Scuola dei Mercanti di Vino, which has a chapel upstairs with 18th Century frescoes, depicting three episodes from the life of Saint Helena, by Gaspare Diziani, a pupil of Ricci. You'll need to ask the sacristan to let you in. The scuola of the mastellai (coopers) was once attached to this church too, but was destroyed around 1820.

Interior
A very unarchaic church mostly dating from the early 19th Century when it was rebuilt in a relatively unembellished neoclassical style. It's big and has a flat ceiling painted to imitate coffering.

Art highlights
A lot of the paintings the church once contained have been lost, but there's still Tintoretto's Baptism of Christ (restored in 2004) and opposite it an appealingly bright and Bellini-esque St Thomas à Becket Enthroned. It's by Girolamo da Santacroce from 1520, but with a couple more dingy flanking saints (John the Baptist and Francis) added in the 19th Century by one Leonardo Gavagnin. Each of these paintings is the wrong size and shape for the spaces they inhabit, suggesting that their reinstallation into the rebuilt church was forced on the architect late in the process.

Lost art

Veronese's fine 1573 The Adoration of the Kings, now in the National Gallery in London, was painted for San Silvestro (for the Scuola di San Giuseppe - it hung to the left of their altar, which already had an altarpiece) where it remained until the 19th century rebuilding, after which it was found to be too big, or so the official account goes. The fruits of more recent investigations have suggested that the decorative plans post-rebuilding never included the Veronese and it seems that the fact of money being sorely needed, and that ecclesiastical fashions had changed, may have had more than a little bearing on the sale. During restoration work on this painting prior to the big Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery in 2014 small holes were found in the paint in a strip along the top, which turned out to have been cause by splashes of bat urine.

Campanile 47m (153ft) manual bells
Destroyed by an earthquake on 25th January 1347, rebuilt 1422, restored 1840. Hear the bells

Local colour
Giorgione died in the house opposite (no. 1022) (the Palazzo Valier) during the plague of 1510. He was said to have painted frescoes on the wall to advertise his skills, of which traces were still visible in the early 20th Century. But Lorenzetti says that this is only the 'supposed abode' of the painter, who 'lived instead perhaps' at no. 1091 to the left.

Opening times
In 2010 the church closed due to bits of falling ceiling. Services were being held in the 16th Century albergo of the Scuola of the wine merchants on the campo (see right and below). The church still (March 2014) has the appearance of a building site, with barriers all around and the campanile sheathed in scaffolding.




Monday - Saturday:
7.30-11.30, 4.00-6.00

Vaporetto San Silvestro

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San Tomà
 




 

History

Dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, the church was founded in 917 with money from the Miani family, and restored in 1395. It was enlarged in 1508 with more work in 1652. The façade from the 1652 rebuilding, by Giuseppe Sardi, probably to a design by Longhena, was replaced (as it was about to fall down) with a classical façade by Francesco Bognolo in 1742-55.

In a city not unobsessed by religious relics, this church is said to have once had 10,000 saintly bits and a dozen intact holy corpses. It was a parish church until 1810 and taken over by Minorite friars from 1835-1867. Closed in 1984 for restoration and yet to reopen, although the scaffolding is long off.

Exterior
On the left side of the church there's a marble relief of the Madonna della Misericordia probably taken from church of Santa Maria della Carita (now part of the Accademia Gallery) at the end of the 19th Century. Above the side door on the Campiello del Piovan is the tomb of Giovanni Priuli  of 1375 (see photo below left) moved here from inside the church when the façade was rebuilt in 1742.

Interior
Broad aisleless nave with a vaulted ceiling and six side altars. Ceiling fresco The Martyrdom of St Thomas by Vincenzo (son of the more famous Jacopo) Guarana. The sides of the chancel have Saint Thomas and Saint Peter by Campagna.

Campanile
De Barbari's map shows a squat detached brick tower from the 14th Century. A 36ft high section of this tower remains, tilted and with its door below ground level. There's now a replacement Roman-style tower, restored in 1809.

Local interest
The 14th Century relief of the Madonna della Misericordia over the door of the Scuola dei Calegheri e Zavatteri (shoemakers and cobblers) opposite the church came from the demolished church of Santa Maria dei Servi.

Opening times
Never

Vaporetto San Toma

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This print by Carlevarijs is presumably of San Toma's previous façade,
but the caption says that the architect is Alessandro Tremignon.
 

Sant’Aponal
15th Century
 


History
Founded in 1034 by the Sciavola and Rampana familes from Ravenna, Sant'Appollinaire being that city's patron saint and Sant'Aponal being the Venetian dialect version of his name. The first documentary evidence dates from 1060. The current church dates from a rebuilding from 1407. Restored with interior remodelled in 1583, including the flat panelled ceiling, and again in 1791. A parish church until it was suppressed in 1810 by the French, who stripped it of its art and furnishings. It became a mill, a night refuge for the poor, and a prison for political detainees. The four ugly rectangular windows on the façade date from this period. Later it was sold by auction to Angelo Vianello who later sold it on to a group who had it reconsecrated and reopened for a short time in 1851 with five of its eight altars returned. Also the high altar, with the painting of The Martyrdom of Sant'Apollinare by Lattanzio Querena, was taken from the church of Santa Giustina in Castello, which had been turned into a school.

Restored in 1929 at which time the Renaissance doorway with sculptures by Antonio Rizzo that had adorned the church since 1841 was returned to the church of Sant'Elena. (It's still in place in the late-19th Century photo below right) Closed in 1984 and used as store for marriage registers by the Venetian Commune.

The church
15th Century Gothic façade with large marble relief of the crucifixion from the late 14th Century above the rose window. Reliefs below the window (which may have come from a demolished altar in the original church) show Christ with the Virgin and St John the Baptist under a Gothic arch and flanked by saints in spired niches (see below right). The Reliefs below the main figures are of The Agony in the Garden and Doubting Thomas and are dated 1294. The smaller separate relief is of The Enthroned Virgin and Child and is early 16th Century. This sculpture was all installed when the doorway mentioned above was returned to Sant'Elena, as was the 14th century cross in Istrian stone above the circular window.

Interior
Said to have a single nave with a flat coffered ceiling, side altars by Vittoria, and the Baroque high altar taken from Santa Giustina, mentioned above.

Art highlights?
Luca Giordano The massacre of the innocents and Christ's expulsion of the merchants from the temple.

Lost art
An altarpiece painted for the Stonecutters' Chapel by Andrea Schiavone is lost. The Madonna del Carmelo painted by Tiepolo for this church is now in the Brera in Milan.

Campanile 50m (163 ft) manual bells
Detached, Veneto-Byzantine and erected between the 12th and 13th century. Restored in the 15th Century, which work added the cornice with arches and the drum. The base is decorated with 11th Century bas-reliefs and paterae, which included one of the oldest representations of the Lion of St Mark - the so-called the crab-lion (see right) now in the Museo Correr.
Update: the whole tower was covered in scaffolding in September 2008, and remains so in 2013.

Opening times Never

Vaporetto
San Silvestro

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