Francesco Contino 1618-1639
Tradition has it that this church, dedicated to the
Archangel Raphael, is one of the oldest in Venice, supposedly having been
founded in either 416 or 650. The latter date attaches to the legend that
it was the second church founded by San Magno
(Saint Magnus). Another story says 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
dating from this time too, and said to be by Sebastiano Mariani.
restoration of the façade in 2004 left it looking like new but lacking,
some complained, that certain crumbling charm that it
possessed before (see above 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 them.
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.
The 18th century art
here holds little to surprise, and of course there's one by Palma Giovane.. 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
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.
35m (114 ft) electromechanical bells
Rebuilt with the 18th century's favoured form of the octagonal drum and
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
fans of that book. This possibly explains the much better chance
you'll find it open in recent years and the spate of sprucings-up after the book
Monday to Saturday 10.00-12.00, 3.00-5.30
Sunday and holidays
early 16th century
Founded in 1286 by the
Carmelite fathers, an order of desert hermits
Mount Carmel, and finally 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 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.
side entrance on Calle de la Scuola with its very projecting canopy (see
right) is the original 14th century façade and features Byzantine
palm-leaf detailing. It was restored in 2006 by
Venice in Peril.
The form of the interior dates from the original 14th
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. The church has no transept but
has 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
The second altar on the right has a 1509 Adoration of the
Shepherds by Cima da
Conegliano (see below right) which is one of his best, with the figures not looking
like plastic shop dummies, as his so often do. It's also unusual in including Tobias and
the Angel amongst the attendant saints. The dog bears a striking
similarity to the one in Titian's Tobias and the Angel Raphael, now
in the Accademia.
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 fourth altar, the Altare dei Compra
Vendi Pesce, has an early Presentation by Jacopo Tintoretto.
Behind the altar is a copy of the central
part of Titan's famous 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 Lorenzo Lotto's Saint Nicholas in Glory,
with Saints John the Baptist and Lucy, painted for the Scuola dei Mercanti
and still in its original Istrian stone frame. It was Lotto's first public
commission in the city of his birth. On a visit in October 1891
the art historian Bernard Berenson, his wife Mary, and their friend Enrico
Costa washed this painting 'at the invitation of the sacristan', it having
been 'invisible under candle-grease, dust and cobwebs' according to Mary. The effect of Saint Lucy's
eyes floating above the chalice at her feet is very odd and frog-like. Saint George
fights the dragon in the impressive Flemish-looking landscape below.
the right of this painting, over the confessional, is
the early, small and
quite-recently-restored Holy family with the Infant Saint John
by Veronese, which was previously in the church of
The cloister of the former monastery (see right), which was rebuilt in the mid-17th
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 made 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 right) 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.
has it's own entry now.
Opening times 12.30 - 7.00
Vaporetto Ca' Rezzonico or San Basilio
Built in 1694 by Giovanni Battista Lambranzini
(who was also responsible for the nearby
Santa Margherita and the
modernization of the interior of
Santa Marta) for observant Augustinian nuns, and
paid for by Santo Donadoni and dedicated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The widow of Doge Giovanni Corner lived here until her death in
1729. Relics kept here included a thorn from the Crown of Thorns (on which
it is said blood appeared on Good Friday), the hand of Saint Juliana and
several bodies of saints taken from Roman catacombs.
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, and they remain here. The complex has been used as a teacher-training college,
by various schools, for language teaching, and now as student and tourist
The church was restored 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.
Described as 'rich and
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
by Val de Furrentes
13m (42ft) no bells
Has an eight-sided
budino (pudding) shaped dome.
Opening times Always closed. Which after all that expensive charity-funded
restoration work seems something of a waste and a shame.
Giorgio Massari 1726-43
Monks from Siena
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, which was 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.
This was architect 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, 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.
This church is a
real treat for Tiepolo fans, with a fine altarpiece in the first chapel on the
right depicting the Madonna and Three (female Dominican) Saints
(see right) and some
Dominic-related ceiling paintings well worth the neck ache, or the easier
perusal using the handily provided (and precisely shaped) floor-standing
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
Maria della Visitazione.
Campanile 21m (68 ft) electromechanical bells
Also by Massari, with a matching parallel tower.
The church in art
The church dominates right foreground of The Giudecca Canal with the Zattere
The Giudecca by
David Roberts. Le Quai des Zattere by Léonce Cordier (1873).
Also watercolours by John
Singer Sargent and John Ruskin.
Santa Maria del Rosario, known as Chiesa dei Gesuati, by Rubens Santoro (see
below) has bizarre truncation of
the church and
the wrong campanile.
H.Taine wrote (in Italy: Florence and Venice 1869)
...on the ceiling a pretty piece of boudoir painting in the shape of
trim, rosy and bare legs; - in brief a work of frigid luxury and costly
magnificence. The Italian eighteenth century is still worse than ours. Our
works always show some degree of moderation because they preserve some
degree of finesse; but theirs plant themselves triumphantly on the
extravagant. As Taine was French the last statements provoke a wry
smile, at the very least.
Monday to Saturday: 10.30 to 4.30
A Chorus Church
Scaffolding watch July 2018 Since before
January 2017 there has been
fencing at ground level and a scaffolding canopy over the entrance.
This type of construction is
usually just to keep tourists away from crumbling stonework, and so it'll
presumably remain until some actual work finally gets going.
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
The church was rebuilt enlarged from 1505 to 1520 and consecrated in 1586.
The length of time taken was probably the result of the nuns' poverty
causing slow and often-interrupted work.
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.
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 nuns' gallery at the back (see photo below)
taking up almost half the church’s length, with two altars
each side. The apse and its two side chapels have frescoed ceilings, and
for these alone I'd recommend a visit.
Paolo Veronese's spectacular Coronation of the Virgin, from the high altar here,
in the Accademia. It's dating coincides nicely with the church's
completion in 1586. Attributions to Veronese’s workshop are common but
there are preparatory studies by the man himself at Christ Church Oxford
(Christ Church) and elsewhere. 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 city which Napoleon intended to make the capital of his new
Kingdom of Italy, primarily to annoy the Venetians.
The church in art
Rio e Chiesa degli Ognissanti by Mortimer Menpes (see right)
The church on TV
An episode of the German TV series based on Donna Leon's Brunetti novels,
Beastly Things, features the gateway pictured (right) as the
entrance to a fictional hospital.
Campanile 40m (130ft)
9.30-12.30 and 5.30 - 7.00(?)
Vaporetto San Basilio
Photo above by David Orme
Loco dei Catecumeni
Giorgio Massari 1727
Luigi Marangoni 1892
The Pio Loco was founded in 1557 and 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 patients 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.
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
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 had been 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
The church was closed from 1935-45 and then 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.
services, held every Sunday at 10.30am
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 old rivals 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. The pestilence 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 Saint Mary of Health - the Virgin was thought to have had a hand in
saving the Venetians. The presiding commission was prestigious and a competition
was held, among its conditions were 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 very 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.
An extravagant display, made up of eight Palladian façades, with the
grandest facing onto the Grand Canal, up thirteen steps. 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 relatively delicate campanili.
The interior is impressive but restrained, given the church’s exuberant
exterior – 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.
Many works by Titian, all taken from the
demolished church of
Santo Spirito in Isola.
Supposedly his first altarpiece, Saint Mark
Enthroned with Saints Sebastian and Roch and Cosmas and Damian, was painted
during the plague year of 1510-11. The Pentecost
altarpiece is later, having been commissioned in 1529/30 and installed
over Santo Spirito's high altar in 1541, it had to be replaced with a
second version is 1545-6 as the original's paint deteriorated rapidly.
The three ceiling
panels depicting Old Testament stories which are now in the sacristy
were painted for a commission originally given to Vasari. The skies in
all three date to 17th century repaintings of lost pigment, with added clouds. They depict
The Sacrifice of Isaac, Cain and Abel, and David and Goliath. The
last one was removed and restored in 2010 after water sprayed by firemen
tackling a fire at the Seminario next door leaked in though the roof.
Also eight portrait roundels in the ceiling of the choir depicting
The Four Evangelists and The Four Fathers of the Church.
also a huge Tintoretto
Marriage at Cana in the sacristy, dated 1561 it was painted for the
refectory of the Crociferi. It was recently restored, during which work
it was discovered to have been painted in egg tempera rather than oil, and
was returned here in November 2017.
A Byzantine icon of
The Virgin Mesopanditissa (see right) said to have been
painted by Saint Luke and to have worked miracles, from the 12th or 13th
century, was brought here from Crete in 1669 after the fall of the
to the Ottomans. It's set into Longhena's somewhat congested
Campanile 48m (156ft) electromechanical bells
Two towers, but only one of them has bells.
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
thirteen steps of the Salute: 'One cannot even count all the young men who have
chosen to die there!'
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.
E. M. Forster wrote
...and then came Venice. As he landed on the piazzetta a cup of
beauty was lifted to his lips, and he drank with a sense of disloyalty.
The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of
Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was
placed wrong. ...but oh these Italian churches! San Giorgio
standing on the island which could scarcely have risen from the waves
without it, the Salute holding the entrance of a canal which, but for
it, would not be the Grand Canal!
A Passage to India
The church in art
Amongst the many views are all the usual suspects (Canaletto, Guardi, Marieschi,
perhaps the most famous are by Sickert and Sargent. They both had a thing
for oddly cropped views, like the one by Sargent (see right). Frank
Brangwyn painted the church too.
Andrew Hopkins Santa Maria della Salute - Architecture and
Ceremony in Baroque Venice Cambridge UP 2000
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.)
Daily 9.00-12.00, 3.00-5.00
Lorenzo Boschetti 1749-76
Founded in 809, the original church burnt down in 1105 and was rebuilt, and consecrated
on the 6th of 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 and with
even beefier columns.
A couple by Palma Giovane. Also a ceiling fresco by Constantino Cedini, a follower of Tiepolo.
A quite-recently restored Holy family with the
Infant Saint John (brought here from the Maddalena church in Padua in
which some, Bernard Berenson included, have attributed to Veronese, was
more recently moved to the Carmini, where it is now confidently labelled as a
work by Veronese.
Campanile 35m (114 ft) manual bells
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 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
The church in film
The church 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
and the shop where she finds the red glasses, and her 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 far right)
the painter father of the famed pornographer Tinto Brass. Sortie de messe à
San Barnaba by Julien Gustave Gagliardini (1912).
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 many years now and shows no sign of
ever leaving. (Find
here.) But there's a lot
of scaffolding and display stuff inside, which makes appreciation
of the actual fabric of the church pretty much impossible.
Vaporetto Ca' Rezzonico
Antonio di Cremona
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 Santa Maria della
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 below). Has a triple-apse
(see below right) 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, who had been 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 were turned into a metal-refining workshop for the Zecca (the
Mint) in 1818. It was later used as a hotel and a magazine. In 1919 it was 'restored by
an antiquarian', but fell into a sad state of disrepair in the
mid-20th century when plans were made to make the church into a concert
hall. In 1968 it was restored and became home to an art restoration
laboratory 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.
Palma Vecchio is said to have been buried here in 1528.
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 right) but
it has recently been spruced up and used for art exhibitions.
A late 14th/early 15th-century portable altar, now in the
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
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
The church in art
The Entrance to the Grand Canal... by Canaletto (see detail
right) shows the church 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
Who saw her
used by art restorers.
Two of the Tintorettos from the Madonna
(The Presentation of the Virgin is to
the left) getting
restored in San Gregorio in the late 1960s.
San Nicolo dei Mendicoli
The area around this
church is thought to have been one of the first parts of Venice to be settled,
being so close to the mainland, and tradition says that the first church
here, dedicated to Saint Lawrence, 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 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 Saint 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 adding weight to the one
about the church being built on the site of an ancient temple.
Peril carried out major restoration work from 1967 (see black and white
photo below right) including
re-roofing, damp-proofing, work on paintings and crucifixes, and the
raising of the floor, which was 30cm below canal level.
The creation of the present, somewhat baroque, Greek-temple-front
side entrance (see
photo below right) resulted in restoration work on the old 15th-century
porch (to the right in the photo above right) which was once a common feature but
only this one and those at
Torcello Cathedral remain. 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 (flanking the door).
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 sanctuary 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 are a
There's varied and attractive painting on all of the chapel
ceilings, though; 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 appreciate what you're looking at.
Even more of a mixture of periods and styles than usual, then, but a
pleasing effect nonetheless, supposedly based upon arcane numerical harmonies.
26m (85ft) manual bells
Dates from the 12th-century building. The clock was added in 1764. Damaged by a stray bomb in WWII.
Also benefited from the restoration work by Venice in Peril in the
The fresco upstairs
More than half of a Crucifixion with Saints fresco from the 14th century (photo
right) recently discovered. See my
The church in film
This is the main church that Donald Sutherland is restoring in Don’t
Mon-Sat 10.00-12.00, 4.00-6.00
Vaporetto San Basilio