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San Giacomo dall' Orio


An ancient and strangely charming church with much to see, including fossils! This is one of my very favorites; I love the church but I also love the campo, having stayed in a great apartment here on two of my trips. My favorite restaurant (La Zucca) is in this neighborhood along with my favorite wine bar (Al Prosecco), and I’ve spent many happy hours sitting in the campo drinking prosecco and watching the neighborhood while looking at the back of this great old church.


One of the oldest churches in Venice, dating back to the 10th century, this church is interesting in that the different styles of so many centuries have been combined so harmoniously. The church was rebuilt in 1225 and has been expanded and renovated several times since then. So in one place, you can see elements of the major periods of Venetian style from Byzantine to Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque.

The church is dedicated to St. James (San Giacomo), while the “dall’Orio” part of the name is a Venetian dialect phrase whose meaning is up for grabs. It might refer to a bay laurel tree (lauro) that used to be in the campo or to “Luprio” which is what this lagoon settlement was called before the creation of the Republic. Either way, it’s a reference to the location of the church and not to the saint himself.

The church and its art

sgdoI love the way this church looks from the outside. The back of the church faces into the campo of the same name, one of the nicest campos in Venice with a few trees and park benches, and real Venetians with their kids and dogs. There’s very little ornamentation on the outside of the church – it’s just stone, and it looks so….old. The apses look like huge stone barrels, all merged together, in various weather-beaten colors. The entrance to the church faces a canal, and there’s an outdoor pizzeria (Il Refolo) on the canal right by the façade. You get a sense of how a parish church like this one is such an integral part of a neighborhood. The 800-year old campanile is a nice stocky brick one with great bells that ring on a zany and inexplicable schedule that I’ve yet to figure out.

San Giacomo dall' Orio

While the church looks a bit rambling from the outside, the interior is surprisingly elegant with lots of art to see. But more than the art, it’s the quirky details of this church that are intriguing, like the floor. It’s red and white marble in a checkerboard pattern common to a number of Venetian churches, but this one has fossils embedded in it. Big fossils that look like huge swirly crustaceans – it’s great fun to walk around and find them!

And then there’s the gothic wooden ceiling (14th c). Many Venetian wood craftsmen began their careers as ship builders, and several churches in Venice have an ornately constructed wooden ceiling that looks like the inverted hull of a boat. Other churches with these ship’s keel ceilings include Santo Stefano and San Polo, among others, but this is one of the finest. There are also some nice carved wooden beams and cornices. There’s just something so beautiful about the contrast of wood and stone – too much marble can make a church seem coldly mausoleum-like, but wood warms a place right up.


And finally, the green column. The church has a number of stone columns, but only one made of green marble. It was part of the loot that the Venetians brought home from the raid on Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade (1204); before that, the folks in Constantinople may have stolen it from an ancient Greek or Roman temple. It’s certainly beautiful – Ruskin was fascinated by it and said that it was more jewel than stone, and poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio said, “It is like the fossilized condensation of a great green forest.” Fossils again! I’d love to know the story of how this one amazing column ended up in this rather homely parish church instead of in Basilica di San Marco with all the other plundered treasures that the Venetians hauled home.

San Giacomo dall' Orio

This church has a large collection of art that spans the many centuries since its creation. The Renaissance is well-represented with works by Veronese and Lorenzo Lotto (his Virgin and Child with Saints is above the high altar). My favorites include some of the older works, like the 13th c. painted wooden crucifix by Paolo Veneziano, and various Byzantine works scattered around, including a nice marble Madonna in a niche on the wall.

More photos of the outside of the church are here.

To visit this church:

San Giacomo dall’Orio is one of the Chorus Pass churches, so you can count on finding it open from 10-5 on Monday through Saturday.


More Churches:

Churches in Cannaregio
Churches in Castello
Churches in Dorsoduro
Churches in San Marco
Churches in San Polo
Churches in Santa Croce
Churches on the Lagoon Islands

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Comments (9)

Hey Annie - that was a fantastic read over my cappuccino this morning. :)
My favorite campo is Santa Maria Formosa. :)
That was fun to see your comment on the Harry Potter post - I was in the middle of popping the photo in when I saw your comment arrive.


How lovely this church sounds! I will have to make a point of visiting it if (WHEN) I return to Venice. Your post really brought it to life for me - thanks!

I stayed in an apartment in the Santa Croce Sestiere a couple of years ago and was thrilled to discover the Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio. I did not go inside the church however.

I also love La Zucca. All of my favorite meals have been eaten there.

Great photos.


Annie, this is fascinating! Your photos are beautiful, and I'm going to be printing out your blog for my fall trip to Venice -- it's a wonderful, thoughtful resource.

And maybe I can finally find La Zucca!!!!

I enjoyed this read very much! Was there a particular reason that you got so interested in the churces of Venice?

Thanks to everyone!

Chioccola, I wrote a bit about "why" in my first blog post (link below) but really, I don't completely understand why I developed this passion/obsession!

I'm so glad I'm blogging about it though because it's like my head was getting filled up with info and it needed to go somewhere.


I got an error message so forgive me if this comes twice - but thanks for pointing me to that link - I guess I should have looked around the site a little bit more! In any case, how cool that you have this "obsession" - it must make planning so much fun.


We just stayed at a new bed and breakfast near C. San Giacomo del Orio: Campiello Zen B & B, which is very charming, quite roomy, and pretty reasonable. We loved this church and campo. After our previous visit, we decided that C. Santa Margarita in the university area, was our favorite campo, but C. Giacomo del Orio has become our new favorite because it's so very family oriented. Did you ever try the little bar at the opposite end of the campo from Prosecco? It became a favorite for us for a quick prosecco and tramezzino.
I am enjoying your photos and descriptions so much. Yours is my favorite Venice website, hands down. Thanks for keeping it up and sharing your photos and experiences with the rest of the world.

Marie, thanks so much for your kind words about my blog. The best thing about blogging is meeting fellow Venice lovers!

And thanks also for the tip about the new B&B. I love that campo so much. I have not been in that other bar - I just got in the groove of going to Al Prosecco every evening but will have to check the other place out.

I love watching the kids play in that campo. Where did you eat when you were there? Some wonderful restaurants in that area...

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 12, 2008 2:38 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Cats In Venice.

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