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October 2007 Archives

October 4, 2007

So how many churches are there in Venice?

San Zaccaria

Well, here’s the short answer: there are 149 churches in Venice and its lagoon.

But it’s not quite that simple, so here’s the long answer!

Continue reading "So how many churches are there in Venice? " »

October 8, 2007

The churches of San Marco

Carpaccio San VidalThere are 19 churches in the sestiere of San Marco (which includes the island of San Giorgio Maggiore).

My favorites in this sestiere are the Basilica, of course; San Salvador (a beautiful church with an amazing Titian Annunciation); and San Giorgio Maggiore (awesome views from the campanile and a gorgeous church with some great art).

I also like Santo Stefano with its leaning tower and wooden ceiling.

San Vidal has a painting by Carpaccio on the high altar (see left); the saint is riding a horse that was supposedly modeled on one of the four horses of San Marco.

Chorus Pass churches in this sestiere are Santa Maria del Giglio and Santo Stefano.

Churches in San Marco

Basilica di San Marco
San Bartolomeo (San Bortolomio)
San Basso
San Beneto (San Benedetto)
San Fantin (Madonna di San Fantino)

San Gallo
San Giorgio Maggiore
San Luca
San Maurizio
San Moise
San Salvador
San Samuele
San Teodoro
San Vidal (San Vitale)
San Zulian (San Guiliano)
Santa Croce degli Armeni
Santa Maria del Giglio (Santa Maria Zobenigo)
Santi Rocco e Margherita (Ss.Rocco,Stefano e Margherita)
Santo Stefano


Sant’Angelo (Oratorio dell’ Annunziata)

At the top of my “wish list” for this sestiere is San Fantin which is very close to the newly reopened La Fenice. I’ve been by this church many times but it’s never been open. It supposedly has (or had) a miraculous image of the Virgin that was brought to Venice from somewhere in the East.

Currently, there are three campanili (bell towers) that you can go in (and up) in Venice, and two of them are in this sestiere (San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore); the third one is on the island of Torcello. There are plans to open the campanile of the church of San Salvador soon, which will give us another view from above with a different perspective since San Salvador is closer to the Rialto Bridge. I’m psyched about this! I hope it's open in December.

Update, Dec. 2007: Learned that San Fantin is closed indefinitely for restoration. I also learned that San Teodoro is a church not an oratory so I've moved it into the church list.

A lady at San Salvador told me that their campanile project is stalled. Oh well, stay tuned.

Continue reading "The churches of San Marco" »

October 10, 2007

The churches of Santa Croce

CatenaThere are 10 churches in this sestiere which was named for an 8th century church that was demolished in the 19th century; a granite column and piece of that church’s wall can be found today in the Papadopoli Gardens.

San Giacomo dall’Orio is my favorite campo in Venice, and I love its church a lot, both inside and out. It looks so ancient from the outside but is surprisingly elegant inside with a nice collection of art. San Zan Degola is a sweet little church with some frescoes that might be the oldest works of art in the city; formerly Catholic, this church has recently switched to Russian Orthodox.

Santa Maria Mater Domini is one of my very favorites – a small and very charming church with some gorgeous paintings including the one on the right (The Vision of Santa Christina) by the mysterious Venetian painter Vincenzo Catena. More about him later.

Chorus Pass churches are San Giacomo dall'Orio and San Stae.

Churches in Santa Croce

San Giacomo dall’Orio
San Nicolo da Tolentino (Tolentini)
San Simeon Grande (San Simeon Profeta)
San Simeon Piccolo (Ss.Simeone e Giuda)
San Stae (Sant'Eustachio)
San Zan Degola (San Giovanni Decollato)
Sant'Andrea della Zirada
Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Mater Domini
Santissimo Nome di Gesu (SS. Nome di Gesu)

At the top of my wish list for this sestiere is San Simeon Piccolo (the church with the big green dome across from the train station). It was deconsecrated and closed for years, only opening for occasional concerts, but it’s now reopened and reactivated as a church, and it's the only church in Venice that celebrates the traditional Latin Mass.

Continue reading "The churches of Santa Croce" »

October 11, 2007

The churches of Castello

negroponte.jpgThere are 27 churches in this sestiere; only Cannaregio (with 32) has more.

San Zaccaria is a must because of its drop-dead gorgeous Bellini altarpiece, but there’s much else to see including a nice gothic chapel and a crypt that you can visit if it’s not full of water.

Another favorite is San Francesco della Vigna with its beautiful Madonna (see left) by the Franciscan friar Antonio da Negroponte, another mysterious artist. This is his only known painting. If you’re only going to bat once, you might as well knock it out of the park as he did. I also love Cima da Conegliano's Baptism of Christ that's on the high altar of San Giovanni in Bragora.

San Giorgio degli Schiavoni is a former scuola and church that’s now a museum; it contains some of my favorite paintings in Venice – the Carpaccio cycle which includes St. George and the Dragon and St. Augustine in his Study (the saint’s dog must be the cutest dog ever painted).

Chorus Pass churches in this sestiere are San Pietro di Castello and Santa Maria Formosa.


Cristo Re alla Celestia
San Biagio
San Francesco della Vigna
San Francesco di Paola (Santi Bartolomeo e Francesco di Paola)
San Giorgio degli Schiavoni
San Giorgio dei Greci
San Giovanni di Malta (Gran Priorale; San Giovanni Battista)
San Giovanni in Bragora
San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti
San Lio
San Lorenzo
San Martino
San Pietro di Castello
San Zaccaria
San Zaninovo (San Giovanni Novo; San Giovanni in Oleo)
San Zanipolo (Santi Giovanni e Paolo)
Sant’Antonin (Sant'Antonino)
Sant'Isepo (San Guiseppe di Castello)
Santa Guistina
Santa Maria dei Derelitti (Ospedaletto)
Santa Maria del Pianto
Santa Maria della Fava (Santa Maria della Consolazione)
Santa Maria della Pieta (La Pieta)
Santa Maria Formosa
Valdese e Metodista (Chiesa Valdese)


Beata Vergine Addolorata
Ca' di Dio (Santa Maria della Ca' di Dio)
San Gioachino
San Marco in Vinea (near Francesco della Vigna)
Santa Maria della Salute (next to Santa Maria Formosa)

I’d love to visit San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti which is inside the hospital complex (formerly the Scuola San Marco, with a gorgeous recently-restored façade). I’ve read that there’s a cat sanctuary in a courtyard inside the hospital which fascinates me too. But I’m not sure how easy or even possible it is to visit – do they really want tourists roaming around their public hospital? UPDATE 11/10: Visited this church!

I’ve tried to visit Santa Maria della Fava at least five times but never found it open. It’s another church with a miracle-working Madonna of some sort. San Zanipolo is one that I want to re-visit; I wasn’t that wowed by it the first time, but I’ve learned a lot about Venice since then so it might be a different experience. It’s an enormous church with the tombs of forty-some doges.

And I want to go check out Sant’Anna, not only because she's my name saint but also because I’m not sure this one is still standing.

Update Dec. 2007: Sant' Anna is there, crumbling and closed, but it IS there. I went inside three new churches in this sestiere: San Martino, Santa Maria della Fava, and San Francesco di Paola.

San Lazzaro remains on my wish list as does Pieta (I think it closes in the winter) and San Lorenzo (still closed but the cats are doing fine!).

I found out that San Giorgio degli Schiavoni is still a consecrated church! The nice man who works there told me that it's primarily a museum but that they do hold Mass there three or four times a year.

Sant' Antonin is deconsecrated and closed. UPDATE: it reopened in 2010 after 20 years of restoration. :)

Discovered two new oratories and added them to that list: San Gioacchino and Ca' di Dio. One source says that they are churches not oratories, but I've put them on the oratory list for now.

Update Dec. 2008. Went inside Sant' Elena. Found out that San Giovanni di Malta is closed for restoration but will re-open at some unknown time in the future.

Continue reading "The churches of Castello" »

October 16, 2007

The churches of San Polo

Titian Pesaro altar in the FrariThis sestiere has 10 churches, including one of the greatest of all. The Frari is one to visit over and over – I can’t imagine being in Venice and not going to see the Bellini altarpiece and those gorgeous Titians (Titian's Pesaro altarpiece to the left).

San Giacometto is a very charming little church nestled in the midst of the Rialto Market; this is probably the site of the first church in Venice, built around 421. San Cassiano has three Tintorettos which John Ruskin thought were among the artist’s finest works anywhere. The high altar of San Giovanni Elemosinaro has a nice Titian that was recently returned to the church from the Accademia.

Chorus Pass churches are the Frari, San Giovanni Elemosinaro, and San Polo.

Churches in San Polo

Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari)
San Cassiano
San Giacometto (San Giacomo di Rialto)
San Giovanni Elemosinario
San Giovanni Evangelista
San Polo (San Paolo Apostolo)
San Rocco
San Silvestro
San Toma (San Tommaso Apostolo)

I’ve been in 8 of 10 these; the two I’m missing are San Toma and Sant’Aponal which are deconsecrated and seem to be permanently closed.

The church of San Rocco is a blur because both times I’ve visited it, I’d just come out of the scuola next door and was in complete and utter Tintoretto overload. Next time, I’m going to visit the church first.

Continue reading "The churches of San Polo" »

October 17, 2007

The churches of Dorsoduro

Veronese Coronation of the VirginThe sestiere of Dorsoduro includes the island of Giudecca across the canal; there are 28 churches in this sestiere, seven of them on Giudecca.

The most visible and famous church in this sestiere is Santa Maria della Salute. I wonder how many zillions of photos have been taken of this church from the Accademia bridge? San Pantalon has one of the most amazing church ceilings anywhere, and San Sebastiano is beautiful, filled with paintings by Veronese (see right). My personal favorite in this area is San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, an ancient and lovely Veneto-Byzantine masterpiece. It’s not the easiest church to find but it’s so worth the effort.

Chorus Pass churches in this sestiere are Gesuati, San Sebastiano, and Redentore.

Churches in Dorsoduro

Angelo Raffaele (San Raffaele Arcangelo)
Carmini (Santa Maria del Carmelo)
Gesuati (Santa Maria del Rosario)
Le Eremite (Gesu, Giuseppe e Maria delle Eremite)
Salute (Santa Maria della Salute)
San Barnaba
San Gregorio
San Nicolò dei Mendicoli
San Pantalon
San Sebastiano

San Trovaso (Ss. Gervasio e Protasio)
San Vio (Ss. Vito e Modesto)
Santa Margherita
Santa Maria della Carita (now part of the Accademia)
Santa Maria della Visitazione
Santa Marta
Santa Teresa (Le Terese)
Spirito Santo
St. George's Anglican

Churches in Giudecca

Le Convertite (Santa Maria Maddalena)
Redentore (Santissimo Redentore)
San Gerardo Sagredo
Santa Croce
Santi Cosma e Damiano (Ss. Cosma e Damiano)
Zittele (Le Zittele; Santa Maria della Presentazione)


Oratorio Stella Maris
San Giovanni Battista ai Catecumeni
San Ludovico Vescovo (Oratorio dell Ospizio Pruili)
Santa Maria del Soccorso

On Giudecca:

Santa Maria degli Angeli
SS. Trinita

I’m intrigued by Sant’Agnese (which has just recently reopened after being closed for decades) and San Vio (Jan Morris says that it’s only open one day a year but I don’t know which day!).

Ognissanti, Le Eremite, and Spirito Santo are on my list for December, as I think that they’re still consecrated and visitable, but there are a number in this area that are “status unknown” for now. I plan to do a lot of walking in this sestiere in December.

Update: San Vio is now privately owned and not visitable. Santo Spirito is closed for restoration.

Update 11/10: visited Ognissanti and Sant' Eufemia. Le Eremite remains closed but might reopen?

Continue reading "The churches of Dorsoduro" »

October 19, 2007

The churches of Cannaregio

AgnesThere are 32 churches in this sestiere; most of them are Catholic but there are also an Evangelical Lutheran church and five synagogues.

So many great ones here, including the most beautiful Gothic church in town (Madonna dell’Orto), the most beautiful small church in the world (Santa Maria dei Miracoli), and the most crazy over-the-top Baroque church in the universe (Gesuiti).

There are Tintorettos galore in this sestiere (his Saint Agnes altarpiece from Madonna dell’Orto is on the left) as well as the second most famous relic in Venice (the body of Saint Lucy in San Geremia).

Chorus Pass churches in this sestiere are San Giobbe, Miracoli, and Sant’Alvise.

Churches in Cannaregio

Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta)
Madonna dell’Orto
Miracoli (Santa Maria dei Miracoli)
San Bonaventura
San Canciano
San Cristoforo
San Felice
San Geremia (Santi Geremia e Lucia)
San Giobbe
San Giovanni Grisostomo (San Giovanni Crisostomo)
San Girolamo
San Leonardo
San Marcuola (Santi Ermagora e Fortunato)
San Marziale
San Michele in Isola
Santa Caterina
Santa Fosca
Santa Maria dei Penitenti (Le Penitenti)
Santa Maria dei Redentore (Chiesa delle Cappuchine)
Santa Maria Maddalena (La Maddalena)
Santa Maria Valverde (Santa Maria della Misericordia)
Santa Sofia
Santi Apostoli (Ss. Apostoli)
Scalzi (Santa Maria di Nazareth)
Volto Santo (Santa Maria dei Servi)
Scuola dell'Angelo (Chiesa Evangelica Luterana)


Scuola Canton
Scuola Italiana
Scuola Levantina
Scuola Spagnola
Scuola Tedesca


Crociferi (next to Gesuiti)

I have a long wish list for Cannaregio: San Marziale (another church with a miracle-working Madonna statue, this one supposedly traveled to Venice on her/its own power); San Marcuola (the church on the Grand Canal with the unfinished façade, it has one of seven Tintoretto Last Suppers in Venice), and San Michele in Isola (the first Renaissance church in Venice, it’s out on the cemetery island which is traditionally considered to be a part of this sestiere). I also want to visit the synagogues, which you can do on a guided tour that begins at the Museum Ebraico.

At one time, San Marziale had a Titian Tobias and the Angel, but I’ve read that the painting’s been moved to Madonna dell”Orto so I want to check that out since I don’t remember seeing it the last time I was in that church.

Six weeks from today, I’ll be in Venice!

Update, Dec. 2007: Went inside San Marziale and San Marcuola, two of the churches on my wish list above. San Michele in Isola was closed for restoration but I learned that there are actually two churches on the cemetery island; I've added the beautiful San Cristoforo to both the church list and my personal list.

The Titian painting has been moved from San Marziale to Madonna dell' Orto; it's in the second chapel on the right.

Update, Dec. 2008: Found the Evangelical Lutheran church open. San Michele in Isola is still closed for restoration and remains at the top of my wish-list.

Update 11/10. Visited Santa Fosca. Beautiful little church.

Continue reading "The churches of Cannaregio" »

October 20, 2007

Churches on the Lagoon Islands

torcelloSome of the oldest, most beautiful, and most magical churches are out in the lagoon - the two ancient churches on Torcello and Santi Maria e Donato on Murano are among my all-time favorites. This photo of Santa Fosca was taken from the Torcello campanile - one of three campanili in Venice that you can go into and up for an aerial view. And this particular one does not have an elevator/lift like the ones in San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore do! It's not a bad climb though - you climb on ramps rather than stairs.

Go to Torcello! (That's what I tell anyone who asks me about visiting any of the lagoon islands).


Churches on the Lagoon Islands

Santa Maria Assunta (Torcello)
Santa Fosca (Torcello)

San Pietro Martire (Murano)
Santa Maria degli Angeli (Murano)
SS. Maria e Donato (Murano)
Santa Chiara (former church, now a glass factory)

San Martino (Burano)
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Burano)
Santa Caterina (Mazzorbo)

San Francesco del Deserto
San Lazzaro degli Armeni
San Clemente
San Servolo
Sacca Sessola
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Isola di SM delle Grazie)

Cristo Re (Isola di Sant’Erasmo)
Sant’Eurosia alle Vignole (Isola delle Vignole)

Santa Maria della Vittoria (Lido)
Santa Maria Elisabetta (Lido)
San Nicolo del Lido (Lido)
Sant’ Antonio (Lido)
Sant’ Ignazio (Lido)
Santa Maria Assunta (Malamocco)
Santa Maria della Salute Alberoni (Alberoni)

This list came from the Patriarch of Venice website.

October 23, 2007

San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo

The church of San Lorenzo is well-known to readers of the excellent mystery series by Donna Leon. Her hero, Commissario Guido Brunetti, often looks at “the eternally-scaffolded façade of San Lorenzo” from his office window and reflects bemused on the never-ending restoration “work” with motionless cranes and no workmen in sight.

“Venice is covered with active work sites….but there are also eternal projects, work zones without workers that persist for decades, producing nothing….The church of San Lorenzo is the most notorious….” (James McGregor, Venice From the Ground Up, 2006)

I haven’t been inside this church but I keep checking by “just in case” and on my last trip, I found a cat sanctuary on the front porch!

San Lorenzo cats with pigeons

Continue reading "San Lorenzo" »

October 24, 2007

Basilica di San Marco by Renoir

Renoir - Piazza San Marco

French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir visited Venice in 1881 and painted several scenes including this one of Piazza San Marco. He did a fine job of capturing the Basilica’s overall sense of color, I think. He even makes the pigeons look nice!

This painting is in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

October 25, 2007

San Giorgio dei Greci

Greci interiorThe Greek Orthodox cathedral with a leaning tower, this church is dedicated to San Giorgio (St. George), the charismatic dragon-fighting, princess-saving saint.

It’s kinda cool that there are four churches in Venice dedicated to St. George – two Catholic, one Greek Orthodox, and one Anglican (founded by the British). He’s a superhero/saint for all seasons, and there are images of him and that dragon all over Venice.

San Giorgio dei Greci

Continue reading "San Giorgio dei Greci" »

October 26, 2007

Introducing LuLu!


I was a confirmed dog person until this little creature showed up on my back porch about four years ago.

She doesn't like churches, Venice, or traveling, by the way.

October 29, 2007

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Miracoli in MayThis is the most famous of a number of churches in Venice that have or had legendary miracle-working paintings, icons, or sculptures of the Madonna. Santa Maria dei Miracoli is named for and was built to house its painting with legendary healing power.

When friends ask me for recommendations about what to see/do in Venice, I vary my answers depending on how long they’re going to be there and what they’re interested in. I realize that not everyone wants to go tromping around Venice looking for churches that probably won’t even be open when they get there! So my short list of “must-see” churches includes only three of them, and Miracoli is on that list (along with the Basilica di San Marco and the Frari).

Even people with no interest in churches should visit this one – for one, because they’ve never seen anything like it, and also because finding it will be an adventure. It took me a long time to find it the first time. There’s no view from afar of this church – you search for it, map in hand, and then all of sudden, it’s right there in front of you, and it’s so surprising and perfect and beautiful. It takes my breath away every time I see it.


Continue reading "Santa Maria dei Miracoli" »

October 31, 2007

San Giacometto


In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio asks, “What’s new on the Rialto?” Not this church, for sure - it’s ancient. It was probably Venice’s first church - legend has that it was founded in 421, the same year that Venice herself was born. It’s dedicated to San Giacomo (Saint James the Apostle) but known affectionately as San Giacometto.

The very small church we see today is essentially the same as the one rebuilt in 1071 which was around the same time that the surrounding Rialto market was established. In medieval times, the Rialto area was the world’s most vital marketplace. Banking was invented here, merchants traveled here from all over the globe, and San Giacometto became the merchants’ church as shown by the engraving on its apse: “Round about this church may the merchant be equitable, the weights just, and may no fraudulent contract be negotiated.”

Canaletto's SanGiacometto

Continue reading "San Giacometto" »

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