San Giacomo dell’Orio
San Nicolò da Tolentino
I Tolentini
San Simeon Grande
San Simeon Profeta
San Simeon Piccolo SS Simeone e Giuda
San Stae
San Zan Degolà
San Giovanni Decollato
Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Mater Domini
Sant'Andrea della Zirada
Santissimo Nome di Gesù


 

San Giacomo dell’Orio
1225
 

History
Tradition says that the church was founded in the 8th century, but the first documented reference dates to 1120. The church is dedicated to Saint James the Greater, the apostle. The dell'Orio part is said by some to be a corruption of del lauro (of the bay tree) and to refer to a tree said to have been growing on the site when the church was founded. Competing theories suggest wolves, a contraction of Apostolo, the rio, a swamp (luprio) or the Orio family. The church was remodelled and enlarged in 1225, using funds provided by the Badoer and Da Mula familes. Further rebuilding following an earthquake in 1345 saw the addition of the transept and ship's keel roof. More rebuilding took place at the beginning of the 16th century, with some further restoration work around 1906.

The church
The main entrance faces the canal to the north into Campiello del Piovan (see photo right) with its back and apses into Campo San Giacomo (see below right). The statue of Saint James over the door dates from the 17th century.

The interior
A Latin cross plan with granite columns separating the nave from the side aisles each topped with very old, or ancient, capitals. The thick columns appear even chunkier due to the raising of the floor resulting in them losing height over the centuries. On the right-hand side is a
surprising second aisle, making for an asymmetrical space. This extra space contains the exposed wall of the old church and two unmatching columns, including the gem-like verde antico column said to have been sacked from Byzantium in 1204 which was later much admired by John Ruskin and Gabriele d'Annunzio (see below). Also surprising are the two sacristies and the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, a sudden burst of 17th-century decorative overkill and balustrades and a painted dome. There's also the 14th-century ship's-keel roof to admire.

Art highlights
Lotto's high altarpiece Madonna Enthroned, with Saints James and Andrew, Cosmas and Damian of 1546 was the last thing he painted in Venice before leaving in a huff. There's also a good Paolo Veneziano-attributed painted Crucifix of c.1350 above.  The old sacristy on the left is full of works by Palma Giovane - the church has 12 paintings by him.
Saint John the Baptist Preaching
by Francesco Bassano (father of the more famous Jacopo), in the new sacristy to the right of the apse, contains portraits of the artist's family and of Titian, on the far left wearing a red hat. There's a Virgin in Glory with Saints John and Nicholas of Bari in here too by the same artist, with an arguable amount of involvement by his son. The new sacristy also contains two works by Paolo Veronese, or his studio, on the ceiling. He also has a Saints Jerome, Lawrence and Prospero, painted for the Malipiero Chapel here, which has seen much restoration and is very 'workshop of' too. It originally had a predella illustrating the martyrdoms of the three saints. There are frescoes by Jacopo Guarana in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament to the right of the apse.
But the weirdest painting here, and maybe in the whole of Venice, is the deceptively innocently-named Miracle of the Virgin painted by Gaetano Zompini in the 18th century (see below right). (He also painted the dome fresco in the nearby San Nicolò da Tolentino below, but was best known for his engravings of hawkers.) What it shows is a Jewish high priest who has run up and attempted to overturn Mary's bier, only to find himself miraculously thrown to the ground with his hands ripped off and still attached to the coffin. This painting is ignored by most guidebooks but it features in David Hewson's novel Lucifer's Shadow, as does another bizarre painting in the church of
San Cassiano. Also odd here (on the left wall as you enter) is the painting of The Miracle of Saint James Resurrecting the Rooster, but the painting is a bit too dingy to easily make out what's going on. It's by Antonio Palma, who was Palma Vecchio's nephew and the father of Palma Giovane.

Campanile 44m (143 ft) manual bells
The original was demolished in 1220 because it was unsafe. The current tower dates from the 1225 rebuilding. It was seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1347 and was restored in 1360. Later work too on the foundations, well and belfry.

Ruskin wrote
A most interesting church, of the early thirteenth century, but grievously restored. Its capitals have been already noticed as characteristic of the earliest Gothic; and it is said to contain four works of Paul Veronese, but I have not examined them. The pulpit is admired by the Italians, but is utterly worthless. The verde-antique pillar in the south transept is a very noble example of the "Jewel Shaft."

Gabriele d'Annunzio wrote
He described tha verde-antique column as the fossilized compression of an immense verdant forest.

The church in literature
Just before the climactic confrontation in The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay the central character, Crivano, enters an unnamed church 'Looking at everything. The ship's-keel roof. Fossil snails in the floor. A green marble column taken during the Crusades. Paintings of the saints and the Virgin. One shadowy canvas - Saint John the Baptist preaching to a rapt and reverent crowd...' he then ponders the work and life of Francesco Bassano.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 10.30 to 4.30
Sundays: closed
A Chorus Church

Vaporetto San Stae or Riva di Biasio

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Photo of The Miracle of the Virgin by Gaetano Zompini taken by Christopher Martyn

 

San Nicolò da Tolentino
Vincenzo Scamozzi 1590-1671
 


History
A small oratory dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino was built on this site in 1528 for the use of San Gaetano da Thiene and his followers, the Theatines, who came to Venice following the Sack of Rome. The present church was commissioned from Vincenzo Scamozzi, who was awarded a salary of 50 ducats a year. Work began on the 7th of June 1590 and the foundation stone was laid on the 7th of November 1591. In early 1595 the fathers broke their contract with Scamozzi, accusing him of using expensive and unsuitable materials. Collapsing pilasters were mentioned. The architect in turn accused the fathers of breaking their contract. The squabble was resolved, the work was continued by the monks themselves, and the church was consecrated on 20th October 1602, although the interior construction and decoration was not finished until 1671. The great classical porch was added to the unfinished façade in 1706-14 by Andrea Tirali using money bequeathed by Alvise da Mosto at his death in 1701 to pay for a family memorial.
In 1780 the fathers gave all their silverware to a chap called Romano who claimed to have perfected a new method for cleaning silver. They never saw it, or him, again.
The church was suppressed in 1810, closing on the 12th of May, but reopened for worship on the 25th of October the same year to replace the closed parish church of Santa Croce, which was later demolished to make way for the garden that eventually became the Giardino Papadopoli, up by Piazzale Roma. The convent is now used by Venice University's Institute of Architecture  having been modernised in 1961-63 by Daniele Calabi, with an entrance by Carlo Scarpa added in 1984.

The interior

The hulking great classical exterior does not prepare you for the quiet baroque stucco riot inside - scrolls, cherubs and grisaille statuary cover the walls, all of this decoration having been added in the 17th century to a previously plain Palladian interior. The vault of the nave remains oddly bare. Latin-cross shaped featuring an aisleless nave with three deep and decorated chapels each side and a dome at the crossing. The dome fresco (and surrounding trompe l'oeil detailing) is by Gaetano Zompini. The high altar was built by Baldassare Longhena in 1661. On the left wall just inside the apse is the very baroque and Bernini-esque monument to Patriarch Francesco Morosini (not to be confused with the doge of the same name) by Filippo Parodi. It's a huge and frantic piece of work which has a carved curtain being pulled back by angels to reveal the reclining patriarch who manages to be lounging, surprised, and praying simultaneously. Most of the interior was recently restored.


Art highlights

Mostly from the 17th century and mostly from relatively unfamiliar names, but Palma Giovane is well represented - the second chapel on the left is full of his work, including a very putti-filled Annunciation. Saint Jerome Succoured by an Angel painted by German artist Johann Liss in 1628, two years before he died of the plague in Venice at the age of 33.
A couple of likeable paintings by Sante Peranda, one being of San Gaetano. The Charity of Saint Lawrence (see right) by Bernardo Strozzi is striking (and not just because it seems to depict a scene of the saint being sold silverware by an old geezer) and full of movement.





Campanile
47m (153ft) electromechanical bells
Early 18th century, it has an octagonal drum over the belfry with a parapet and a lead-covered onion dome.

Ruskin wrote

One of the basest and coldest works of the late Renaissance.

The church in art
Turner sketched the church in 1819, in a sketchbook now in the Tate. (The page linked to includes a link to this website too!)

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 8.30-12.00 and 4.30 to 6.30
Sunday: 4.30 to 6.30

Vaporetto Piazzale Roma

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San Simeon Grande
 Dominico Margutti  18th century
 


History
Dedicated to San Simeon Profeta (Saint Simon the Apostle) this church is known as San Simeon Grande to distinguish it from the larger church of San Simeon Piccolo nearby. (Although some say that the grande and piccolo refer to the size of their parishes.) This church was said to have been founded in 967, but the first documented mention is from 1073. It was rebuilt in the 12th-13th centuries and then again in the early 18th century by Dominico Margutti, with interior renovation 1750-1755. This latter work was said to have been ordered by the city's sanitation department who were worried about the plague victims buried under the floor following the 1630 epidemic and so ordered the floor to be relaid. Restoration work in the 19th century revealed that the old floor was still intact under the new. On 18th March 1795 a part of the ceiling fell on, and killed, noblewoman Lucrezia Cappello while she prayed. It is not unusual amongst Venetian churches in having a Greek temple façade, this one dating from 1757 and attributed to Giorgio Massari. It was further renovated in 1861, with work in 2015/6 too.

Interior
Has pleasingly rough-looking original columns, with Byzantine capitals probably dating from the 13th century,
an asymmetric layout - the right-hand aisle is much wider than the left - and round arches. Statues of the Twelve Apostles over the columns in the nave are early 17th century and by Francesco Terilli. The chapel to the right of the chancel has some nice (18th century?) frescoing on the ceiling that's considerably corroded lower down.

Art highlights
The Presentation in the Temple, with Donors by Palma Giovane and, in the sacristy, The Holy Trinity attributed to Giovanni Mansueti, a follower of Bellini, which was, in the early 20th century, thought to be by Vincenzo Catena. Also a Last Supper by Tintoretto, badly restored in 1935, that looks unfinished, and like studio hands were heavily involved.

Ruskin wrote
Very important, though small, possessing the precious statue of St. Simeon. The rare early Gothic capitals of the nave are only interesting to the architect; but in the little passage by the side of the church, leading out of the Campo, there is a curious Gothic monument built into the wall, very beautiful in the placing of the angels in the spandrils, and rich in the vine-leaf moulding above.

Campanile 23m (75ft) manual bells
18th century. De Barbari's map of 1500 shows a bigger and taller tower.


Opening times Monday-Saturday 9.00-12.00 & 5.00-6.30

Vaporetto Ferrovia

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San Simeon Piccolo
Giovanni Antonio Scalfarotto, 1718-1738
 


History

Tradition says the church, also known as Santi Simeone e Guida (Saints Simon and Jude) was founded in 966, but the first written reference is from 1138 and later to work after a fire in 1149.
This original church was demolished in 1718 - three floor levels were found, one on top of the other - and rebuilt by Giovanni Scalfarotto who was inspired by the dome of the Pantheon in Rome, it is said. The rebuilding is said to have been paid for by money from a lottery run by the priest, called Manera. Scalfarotto (who had Piranesi as an apprentice for a while) had his name carved into the architrave of the façade. This church was consecrated in 1738, and was one of the last religious buildings erected in Venice. This last rebuilding enlarged the church, it is said, so as to make it bigger than the nearby San Simeon Grande, but the names of both churches have stuck. Although some say that the grande and piccolo refer to the size of the parishes.
This is currently the only church in Venice to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass daily.


The church
The porch is in the form of a Greek temple. One of the four columns was replaced following the destruction of the original by enemy bombs on the night of February 26th/27th 1918. The triangular pediment contains a relief showing The Martyrdom of Saints Simon and Jude, the church's name saints, by Francesco Penso. The statue on the lantern on the dome is of The Redeemer by Michele Fanolli

Interior
Supposedly inspired by the Salute and built with the intention of being its equivalent at the other end of the Grand Canal. It's circular and unkempt with a domed central space with a big sheet for a ceiling (in 2015/17) and four altars with ordinary 18th century altarpieces. Pulpits to left and right. The apse is also domed, with semi circular wings with statues in niches and on the altar. There's an impressively realistic Pieta (although a full-sized chap on a woman's lap is never going to be comfortable) in a niche to the  left.
There had long been sparse and tantalising reports of an unusual octagonal crypt with four corridors of tombs radiating out, decorated with frescoes depicting images of death and the day of judgement. These rumours were finally confirmed in January 2017 (see below).

Campanile 3m (10ft) above roof of church, manual bells
Dating from the Scalfarotto rebuilding and visible from the courtyard behind and to the left of the church.

Ruskin wrote
One of the ugliest churches in Venice or elsewhere. Its black dome, like an unusual species of gasometer, is the admiration of modern Italian architects.

Lorenzetti wrote
...a high ungraceful copper-covered dome, of a shape disproportionate to the size of the building supporting it.

Robert Coover (in Pinocchio in Venice) wrote
...misshapen little San Simeon Piccolo with its outsized portico and squeezed dome...the popping green bubble on San Simeon the Dwarf rising through the fog with the erotic suggestion of a Venetian double entendre.

Napoleon said
I have seen churches without domes before, but I’ve never, until now, seen a dome without a church.


The church in art

Canaletto’s The Grand Canal with San Simeon Piccolo from 1742 in London’s National Gallery shows the church with the dirty black dome that Ruskin so hated. It does look better, and less dominating, having been cleaned and gone green. The church had only just been completed when the view was painted - a builders' hut is visible by the steps. An earlier Canaletto view from 1726/7 in the Royal Collection in London shows the steps unfinished. Guardi painted a similar view in 1780 (see above) now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It also shows the church of Santa Lucia to the right, which was demolished to make way for the railway station. There's a watercolour of this church, called Three Green Domes, by William Russell Flint in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight.

Opening times Only for services (in Latin) usually, but see below.

Vaporetto
Ferrovia

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The Crypt

Walking past San Simeon one morning in January 2017 I noticed that it was open, which is very rarer. Getting inside we found that the famous and mysterious crypt was open too, which has never been known. I say famous but, although what I've read has been tantalising, it' s not often mentioned in guidebooks and the like, and if it is the details are sparse. We paid the sacristan in the church €2 each and were each given a candle. There is only one light down there, so another source is needed to explore properly, and I wished I'd brought a torch. It's a warren of tunnels, radiating from a central octagonal domed space, which has the light. The walls and ceilings are totally covered in painted decoration and images, with spooky niches and chambers leading off.  The painting is rough in execution and macabre in style, with reclining bodies, Passion scenes and skeletons featured.  The burial chambers would have been owned by wealthy families or confraternities. It is thought that Venetian families living locally, like the Foscari and the Gradanigo, would have been buried in the funeral chapels, but records have not been found. The original entrance was under the grand front staircase. It was reported a few years ago that there are 21 chapels, 8 of which remain walled up and unexplored. The wall paintings were partially covered at a later date and the chambers were desecrated and put to various storage uses in the Napoleonic period. It was at this time that the records where ransacked.

The sacristan says that the place is now open every day except Monday. I recommend the experience if you get the chance.

 

 





 

 

 

           

 

San Stae
Giovanni Grassi, Domenico Rossi 1678-1709
 


The church
Said to have been founded in 966 and dedicated to Sant'Eustacchio (Saint Eustace, the commander of Trajan's army, who is said to have seen the crucifix between the antlers of a deer whilst hunting) who becomes San Stae in Venetian dialect. The first written references to the church appear in the 11th century. This church, rebuilt in the 12th century following a fire, was side-on to the Grand Canal (see the detail from a map below) and was demolished in 1678.
The current church was then built by Giovanni Grassi, who realigned it to face the Grand Canal. The façade of 1709 is by Domenico Rossi, whose design was the winner amongst twelve designs submitted in competition. It was paid for by a legacy in the will of Doge Alvise Mocenigo and features the work of seven sculptors, the statues being of various virtues, saints and angels. The two reliefs are The lion lowers its head before St Eustace and
The Emperor Hadrian has Eustace and his relatives thrown in a red-hot bronze ox.
The church was restored recently by the Swiss Pro-Venezia Committee.

Interior
A calm, pale and Palladian interior, and very light, due to the Palladio-inspired semi-circular windows, a feature of the Redentore. An aisleless nave with three side chapels easch side. The interior is as statue-populated as the façade with lots more angels.
A spooky bone-decorated tomb slab of Doge Alvise Mocenigo (in the middle of the pavement) who had paid for Rossi's façade. The Latin inscription on his tomb reads 'Fame and vanity are here buried together with the body'.
The chapel first on the left is dedicated to the Foscarini family and includes the tomb of Antonio Foscarini, reinterred here with honours after being exonerated of the charge of treason for which he had been executed in 1622.

Art highlights
The church is a bit of a who's who of 18th-century Venetian painters and the best are in the sanctuary on the side walls. These include The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, a dynamic early Tiepolo which is pretty famous, not least for being a highlight of the Glory of Venice exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1994. It's to be found amongst the seven works on the left hand wall, in the bottom left hand corner.
In the bottom left-hand corner of the right wall is the equally fine Saint James Led to Martyrdom by Piazetta.
In comparison the rest look a bit flat and bright and 18th century, despite being mostly martyrdoms.
The paintings in the sacristy, to the left of the apse, have a tendency towards 'studio of' but there's also an odd cornice from the earlier church depicting past parish priests, with a fair few dark blank spaces that are awaiting portraits still.

Art theft
In June 1990 the The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew was stolen by Stefano Frizzon. He was swiftly caught, by the police investigating a different theft, and the painting recovered in his house nearby. He later committed suicide with a drug overdose.

Ruskin
wrote
Ridiculous.

Campanile
34m (111ft) no bells
Rebuilt end of 17th century with an entrance surround of 1702 featuring a 13th century bust of an angel. Said to be dangerously unstable, despite the lower portion being lived in.

The church in art
There's a View of the Grand Canal at San Stae by Bellotto. The Church of St. Stae, Venice by John Singer Sargent (see below) is an oil painting. Two watercolours by him exist too.

The church in film
This is the church used for the funeral at the end of Don’t Look Now.

Local colour
The cute red baroque building to the left of the church is the former Scuola dei Battiloro e Tiraoro, the guild of drawers and beaters of gold, rebuilt in 1711.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday:
1.45 to 4.30
Sundays: 1.00 to 5.00
A Chorus Church

Often used for exhibitions and concerts.

Vaporetto San Stae

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The detail left from
the Merian map of 1635 shows the previous church, in the foreground, aligned side-on to the Grand Canal.







 

 









Interior photo by Robert Yates
 

San Zan Degolà
13th century
 


History
Named in the Venetian dialect for San Giovanni Battista Decollato (the Decapitated Saint John the Baptist) the church was founded in the 8th century, legend has it, but the first documentary evidence dates the founding to 1007, at the expense of the Venier family. Rebuilding then took place in 1213 (courtesy of the Pesaro family) and in 1703 when the current façade was built.
In 1358, on August 29th, the Venetian navy defeated the Genoese fleet off Negroponte. As the date was the feast day of Salome's dance the saint was credited with the victory and the doge vowed to visit this church on the feast day every year, but this only lasted a few years, as the church was too small, and the commemoration transferred to San Marco
.
The decaying church here was suppressed by Napoleon and closed in 1818 and put to use as a warehouse.
In 1945 extensive restoration work was undertaken to return the church to something like its original appearance. This involved the reopening of the circular window on the façade and the demolition of the stuccoed ceiling to reveal the ship's keel roof underneath and the small windows just beneath it. It was during these works that the frescoes in the left apse, Byzantine in style and amongst the oldest in Venice (see one of them below far right) were discovered.

Having then been closed for almost 20 years, and after more restoration work (which revealed the fresco of Saint Michael in the right apse (see right) the church re-opened in 1994. (A guidebook I have from 1972 says that the church was then closed but you could ask at the convent next door for a nun to let you in with a very large key).
On the wall facing the campo there is a relief of the just-severed head of John the Baptist in a basin being shown to Salomé. The relief was originally attached to a nearby building next to the bridge, but was later moved here.

The church is now used for Russian Orthodox services (see interior photo with iconostasis right).

Interior
The church feels ancient, dark and bare, with a nicely weathered look. The nave has its wooden ships-keel roof and is divided from the similarly-roofed aisles by two colonnades of four columns of Greek marble with 11th-century Byzantine-style Corinthian capitals with later gothic arches above. It has painted walls and the lovely old fresco fragments discovered during the restoration and dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. Frescoes, especially this old, are rare in Venice as the city's damp atmosphere is not good for them.

Local colour
According to a tradition dating from the 16th century the carving of the head of John the Baptist mentioned above (and pictured right) is said to be a representation of Biagio Cargnio, a butcher who was beheaded and quartered as punishment for putting the meat of murdered children into his sausages and stews. His quartered body parts were put on display on the Ponte dei Squartai  (the Bridge of the Quartered Men) on the Rio del Tolentini. His house and shop stood in the nearby fondamenta named after him, Riva di Biasio, but both were razed to the ground. The carving could be found smeared with mud well into the last century, this being evidence of Venetians' long and unforgiving memories.

On November 21 in 1500 a whole family was murdered by a Franciscan priest who officiated at San Zan Degola. He was executed in the Piazza San Marco on December 19th, having first had his right hand cut off in front of the door of the family he'd robbed and murdered.

Campanile 20m (65ft) manual bells
The map of 1635 (detail right) shows a taller
detached tower with a tall spire which was demolished in the early 18th century and replaced by the current short tower, squeezed between the church and an adjacent house.

Opening times
Monday to Friday: 10.00 - 12.00

Vaporetto San Stae or Riva di Biasio

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Interior photo above by David Orme



 

Santa Maria Maggiore
Tullio Lombardo 1523
 


History

A wooden convent and church was built
1497-1504, by Franciscans from Sant'Agnese, on recently-reclaimed ground given by the republic. A miracle-working icon lead to the church being named Santa Maria dell'Assunta. Rebuilding, at the behest of Alvise Malipiero, probably by Tullio Lombardo, began in 1503 with the convent habitable by 1505, and the church built between 1523 and 1531. The design of the church was said to have been based on that of its namesake in Rome. Malipiero's patronage continued until his death in 1557 and his burial in the family tomb here.
Suppressed in 1805, with the nuns moving to Santa Croce, after which the convent was used as a barracks. The grounds became the Campo di Marte where Austrian officers exercised their horses, and civilians were allowed to ride and walk too. There was a fire in the convent in 1817 and demolition followed in 1900. The church was used as a warehouse for a tobacco factory. The attached prison was built in the 1920s, with prisoners transferred from the prison at San Marco which was still in use until this time.
This church is now crumbling away picturesquely as a seemingly forgotten corner of the prison named after it, but it was restored 1961-65.

Lost Art
All eight altars and their art have long been removed and/or lost. The paintings included a Giovanni Bellini and
Titian’s muscular John the Baptist (see right),
which was commissioned by a relative of Titian's landlord at the time, by the name of Polani, for a chapel flanking the high altar here. It was due to be transferred to the Brera in Milan but was given to the Accademia after local protest.
The
Assumption of the Virgin by Paolo Veronese, from the high altar and benefiting from a cleaning, is now in the Accademia too. It was given by Simone Lando, a ducal secretary in the Venetian chancery, who also donated in 1584 “to adorn the great chapel” the late and spooky night-time Agony in the Garden of 1582/3 also by Veronese, now in the Brera Milan, which for a time hung against one of the columns here. Ridolfi also mentions 'paintings of the Adulteress, the Centurion and of the sons of Zebedee brought by their mother to Christ' by Veronese hanging here. The latter is probably the Christ meeting the Widow and Sons of Zebedee now in the Musée de Grenoble, they certainly think so, and that it dates to 1565.
Also in the Accademia is the recently (2008) restored 16th-century Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Mark(?) and members of the Marcello Family (see further right), probably by Giambattista del Moro.
The Victory of the Inhabitants of Chartres (Carnutesi) over the Normans by Padovanino, is in the Brera. The subject is unusual and tells of a victory brought about by the display of the Virgin's veil (a pinkish robe in the painting), which came to Chartres cathedral after Charlemagne left it to his son Charles the Bald, who gave it to the cathedral. Also in the Brera from here is a noisy Mantegna Madonna and Child surrounded by singing cherubim heads.

Campanile 33m (107ft) no bells
Late Gothic and similar to that of San Barnaba, with its sugar-loaf spire and pinnacles.

Vaporetto Piazzale Roma

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A photo by Ferdinando Ongania taken in the 1890s

before the convent was demolished and the prison built.
 

 







 

Santa Maria Mater Domini
1502-1540
 


History
Tradition says that the church was founded c.960 and built by the Zane and Cappello families. Originally dedicated to Saint Christina, with the rededication documented as taking place in 1128. Rebuilt after demolition in 1503, possibly to a design by Mauro Codussi, but as he died the following year his involvement would have been minimal. (Giovanni Buora's name is also mentioned sometimes). This church was completed around 1512, maybe by Jacopo Sansovino, who is perhaps responsible for the façade (but Scarpagnino's name is also mentioned sometimes) and consecrated in 1540. Restored by Venice in Peril in the 1980s. This mostly consisted of work on the roof, but also restoration work on two paintings - the Catena mentioned below and Francesco Bissolo's Transfiguration.

The church
The Istrian stone façade is not the easiest to appreciate, it facing into a narrow calle off of the impressive campo named after the church. There is a 14th-century Byzantine-style half figure of the Virgin over the doorway.

Interior
A Greek cross, with a nave and two aisles, and even if Codussi's involvement was minimal it bears his hallmarks. Pleasingly plain and uncongested by art, with yellowy-buff coloured walls and grey stonework with some white marble and a simple dome. The church contains the tomb of Antonio Maria Zanetti, who was the librarian of the Marciana Library and the author of a 1771 catalogue of Venetian paintings.

Art Highlights

What art there is is pretty fine, including an early and therefore less dark Tintoretto, The Invention of the Cross (c.1561) (see below right).

Also the serene The Vision of Saint Christina (1520) by Vincenzo Catena, a mystery-shrouded pupil of Giovanni Bellini and friend of Giorgione who seems to have been a spice merchant who painted part-time. Few of his works remain, even in Venice. This is one of his best and was painted for the Scuola di Santa Christina. In the painting (see right) the Saint looks up at the Risen Christ as angels support the millstone which was tied to her neck before she was thrown into Lake Bolsena, one of the many unsuccessful tortures inflicted on her by her father for her faith.

Local colour
In April 1488 the porch of Santa Maria Mater Domini was sealed off with boards 'after the twenty-third hour' to 'stop sodomites using it as a meeting place'. The Rialto area seemed to be a centre of such activity - San Cassiano's entrance was also ordered to be chained shut. Pastry shops were said to be dangerous places for impressionable youth too, at that time.

Lost art

A precious silver altarpiece looted from Constantinople during the sack was lost in 1797.

Campanile
33m (107ft) manual bells
Rebuilt 1503 and renovated 1740-43

Ruskin wrote
It contains two important pictures: one over the second altar on the right, "St. Christina," by Vincenzo Catena, a very lovely example of the Venetian religious school; and over the north transept door, the "Finding of the Cross," by Tintoret, a carefully painted and attractive picture, but by no means a good specimen of the master... There is no wonder, no rapture, no entire devotion in any of the figures. There are only interested and pleased in a mild way; and the kneeling woman who hands the nails to a man stooping forward to receive them on the right hand, does so with the air of a person saying, "You had better take care of them; they may be wanted another time." ... If Tintoret had always painted in this way, he would have sunk into a mere mechanist. It is, however, a genuine and tolerably well preserved specimen, and its female figures are exceedingly graceful; that of St. Helena very queenly, though by no means agreeable in feature. Among the male portraits on the left there is one different from the usual types which occur either in Venetian paintings or Venetian populace; it is carefully painted, and more like a Scotch Presbyterian minister than a Greek. The background is chiefly composed or architecture, white , remarkably noticed as one of the unfortunate results of the Renaissance teaching at this period. Had Tintoret backed his Empress Helena with Byzantine architecture, the picture might have been one of the most gorgeous he ever painted.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 10.00-12.00

Vaporetto
San Stae

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Sant'Andrea della Zirada
1475
 


History
Called della Zirada from the Venetian word for 'bend', as the church stands at the bend formed by two canals. Another theory has it that it's named for being the turning point for regattas. Traditionally said to have been founded in 1329 as the oratory of a hospice for poor women, founded by four Venetian noblewomen, Elisabetta Soranzo, Marianna Malipiero, Elisabetta Gradenigo and Francesca Cornaro. The convent and church were rebuilt in 1475 and restored in the 17th century, acquiring a lavish Baroque interior with stucco decoration. Closed by Napoleon with the convent buildings demolished. The church was said to have been worth visiting before the building of the railway bridge for the views across the lagoon to the alps afforded by its then-grass-covered campo. The church later became the studio of the sculptor Gianni Aricò.

The church
The Venetian Gothic façade is all that survives from the 1475  rebuilding. It has a portal of Istrian stone with two 14th century bas-reliefs (see right): a Dead Christ and The Calling of Peter and Andrew, the latter with details that excite Venetian boat buffs.

Interior
There's a barco (nun's gallery) over the door from the 15th century, supported by columns left over from the 14th century church. The rich decoration on the barco was added in the 17th century. The baroque altar of 1679 is by Juste Le Court. Four side altars with 18th century marble statues. Jan Morris says that there is a plaque in honour of the Guild of Refuse Collectors which was mounted above the church door here (presumably inside) during the days of the republic. The crumbling interior photo (below right) was taken by poking a camera lens through a hole in the wood of the side door.

Art/Lost art
A Last Supper and a Crucifixion by Domenico Tintoretto from the presbytery here are in the Sant’Apollonia Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art. They also have a late Tintoretto Dead Christ Between Saint Charles Borromeo and Angels from the barco here.
Saint Augustine by Paris Bordone, was restored by Save Venice in 1990 but their website doesn't say where it is now.
A guidebook from the early 1970s mentions the Saint Jerome Penitent (see below) by Paolo Veronese 'which must once have been very good'. And so it is again, looking very fine now in the Accademia. It had been infested with mould and so was removed in 1971 and restored in 1988. It was originally sited to the right of the high altar here.



Campanile
43m (140 ft) manual bell action
Built in 1475, acquiring its present appearance (an octagonal drum and onion dome) during the 17th-century restoration.

From Virgins of Venice
In 1596, at the convent of Sant' Andrea de Zirada the campanile was sealed up after accusations that the nuns had climbed to the top of the bell tower and flaunted themselves before the neighbourhood.

Opening times
The church was quite recently the studio of sculptor Gianni Aricò, but in 2015 was used for an art installation, featuring 20 fridges “seen as icons, which will be the subject of reflection regarding issues such as the food and its conservation, art and spirituality”. OK? During this opening Yvonne T took the photo right.


Vaporetto Piazzale Roma

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Santissimo Nome di Gesù
Giannantonio Selva/Antonio Diedo  1815-34
 


History
A s
mall neoclassical church begun by Giovanni Antonio Selva, the architect also responsible for La Fenice and the (equally neo-classical) church of San Maurizio. Work began in 1815, when the demolition of old ecclesiastical buildings was much more common than the building of new ones. The church was completed strictly to the architect's plans, after his death in 1819, again as with San Maurizio by Antonia Diedo.
An adjoining convent was built in 1846. The remains of San Geminiano were transferred here from his name church which had then just been demolished. The church is now tucked into the corner between
the Autorimessa multi-storey car park and the flyover to Piazzale Roma. It is currently being used for services by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Interior

Very small and neo-classically clean. Tall ionic columns between the unusual barrel-vaulted apse with decorated domes, with a painted frieze by Borsato and sculptural niches. The tabernacle over the high altar is also by Diedo. The flat-roofed nave has a deeply coffered ceiling, with two side altars featuring a pair of paintings by Quarena.

The church in art
A print called Verduta Rimota della Laguna verso Santa Chiara by Andrea Tosini (1829) (see below) shows this church in the sentimental moonlight.

Ruskin
wrote
Of no importance.

Opening times Not displayed

Vaporetto Piazzale Roma

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A photo taken in 1933,
the year the car park was built.



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