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Sant' Apollonia (and the Diocesan Museum)

This is such a lovely and magical spot. The 12th century cloister of Sant’ Apollonia is the oldest surviving cloister in Venice and today is part of the Museo Diocesano di Venezia (Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art).

sant apollonia

The cloister was part of a Benedictine monastery adjacent to the now demolished church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo. The monastery was built for monks who originally resided on the lagoon island of Ammiana, which sank after the Christmas Day earthquake of 1223, and so the monks moved to Venice. Sinking islands and monasteries…it makes me think about scuba-diving archeologists and what all they might find in the waters of that lagoon.


The museum has a nice collection of paintings, sculpture, and treasure from demolished and deconsecrated churches, and also displays art from churches that are undergoing restoration. It has hosted various temporary exhibits including the great 1996 show Chihuly Over Venice (a photo of one of his amazing glass sculptures in the Sant’ Apollonia cloister is here).


The best work in the museum is a huge painted wooden relief of San Donato by Paolo Veneziano, dated 1310, and formerly in the church on Murano. There’s a whole room of gold and silver treasure (chalices and reliquaries and such), and the collection also includes the Marciano Lapidary, a bunch of very cool Veneto-Byzantine decorative stone fragments from the Basilica. But the main reason to visit the museum is to see this beautiful cloister with its ancient herringbone brick pavement and its nice vera da pozzo (well-head).


The museum is open from 10-6 daily. It’s right behind Piazza San Marco, along the canal behind the Bridge of Sighs. A great place to escape from the tourist crush! The museum used to be free but now charges 4 euros. But if you go to Torcello (and everyone needs to go there!) and buy a ticket for the Cathedral, you can return to Venice and use that ticket for free admission to the Diocesan Museum.

As I was leaving the cloister, I ran into this little guy! It seemed unusual to see a lizard in Venice so I took his picture. :)


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Comments (8)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, Happy New Year! I really enjoyed reading about the cloister of Sant’ Apollonia and also about the Museum of Sacred Art and all the interesting items housed within it. This is another fabulous find of yours that I will want to definitely visit next time I am in Venice!

BTW, that lizard has an interesting color and you're right I don't think I ever saw one while I was there.

Thank you for this great post.

That is a beautiful vera da pozzo! I saw many well heads last October but none had any particular interesting design. I missed going to Torcello and it is at the top of my list for next time.

The lizard sure looks out of place in Venice. The Chihuly chandelier is gorgeous!

Annie, I am amazed at the secrets you know! The cloister of Sant’ Apollonia looks so peaceful. Hard to imagine a place like this so close to the Basilica.

Never knew there was a lagoon island of Ammiana and when it sunk, how did all the monks survive? I guess I was imagining a quick sink, but now that I think of it that was probably not what happened. Interesting that it sank as a result of an earthquake. I googled it and read about a few major earthquakes with towers toppling. Scary!


Like Girasoli, I, too, am continually amazed at the fascinating places that you have found in Venice, Annie.

This cloister looks very cool, I love the vera da pozzo (with its helpful relief of a water pitcher!) And the blue chandelier is remarkable -- it must have been really striking, placed in such a medieval setting.

I wonder how long it takes an island to sink? Perhaps they were very fast-moving monks!

Maybe the monks were strong swimmers?! I wondered about that too as well as how fast the island sank. I also wonder if it shook their faith a bit to get hit by such a powerful earthquake on Christmas Day?

I would have loved to have seen that Chihuly show! I saw a documentary about it on PBS a few years ago, and it was so beautiful and fascinating to see his work in so many settings in Venice.

I went to this cloister on either my first or second trip to Venice and can't even remember how I learned about it. I was kinda bummed when they started charging admission because I used to go in there more often when it was free.

Funny, my first thought was also "Did they swim?".

I saw that documentary about the Chihuly. Amazing how he made them.

Girasoli, I just checked Netflix and while they don't seem to have the documentary we saw, they have a bunch of other Chihuly documentaries including one called "Chihuly with the Masters of Venice." Also one about a show he did in Jerusalem. I love his work!


Annie, this does sound like an amazing place! I adore cloisters, I would love to have a house that included an inner courtyard like a cloister. Really cool thought about scuba diving in the lagoon, I wonder if anyone has an eco-tourism package that includes scuba diving? (Although I doubt I'd go for it...too fond of wandering around the stones of Venice!)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 13, 2009 12:45 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Well (like a basket).

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