If my nephews were writing this, they’d tell you that this is, by far, the most important and most interesting church in Venice because of the fact that it was featured in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and they would also tell you that it’s not really a church, it’s a library, and that Indy found some important clues in the “norman numerals” on the floor and that when Indy came up from underground and realized where he was, he said, “Ah, Venice!”
Because of the Indy connection, my nephews have developed an interest in going to Venice with me someday and I fear they’d be sorely disappointed when they visited this church and found no trace of the great Indiana Jones anywhere…no statue of him in the campo, no photos of him inside the church. :)
This church was founded in the 9th century though the big white neo-classical building we see today dates back only to the mid-18th century. The gently leaning Gothic campanile is much older than the church; it’s one of the oldest bell towers in Venice (parts of it are a thousand years old) and is one of a handful of towers with a pine cone steeple or “dunce cap” on the top. There are some nice photos of this church on Maria’s blog ( and a great story about her son making the Indiana Jones pilgrimage!).
In the campo in front of the church, there’s a large 16th century vera da pozzo (well head) with a couple of weathered saints on the sides:
San Barnaba (aka St. Barnabas)
San Antonio (St. Anthony of Padua with a lily):
In one of his “Venice for Pleasure” walking tours, JG Links points out this church but adds, “There is no need whatever to enter it” and I have to agree with him unless you are very interested in “The Machines of Leonardo di Vinci” (an exhibit the church has been hosting for the past several years).
But the campo itself is well worth a visit…...to see the famous vegetable market in a boat, to see where Katharine Hepburn fell into the canal in "Summertime" (A Lover of Venice has a great page about that movie here), and also to eat at one of several wonderful and not outrageously expensive osterie in this neighborhood. Many of them have been reviewed on Slow Travel, and I really enjoyed having dinner at Oniga, La Bitta, and especially Osteria Enoteca San Barnaba (the place where I had dinner with the campo cat named Mustapha). These are the kind of places that have handwritten seasonal menus posted outside and last December, I went to this campo and wandered around looking at menus and ended up choosing La Bitta because of its potato, leek, and gorgonzola soup (another advantage of traveling to Venice in the winter is that you can roam around without dinner reservations; all of these places are pretty small and reservations are probably a must at other times of the year).
On my wish list for my next trip is a visit to Pantagruelica food shop which I recently read about in “Brunetti’s Venice” by Toni Sepeda who says that this place has the best bread in the city and identifies it as the store that Brunetti and Paola visited in Donna Leon’s “Blood From a Stone”:
"Ten minutes later, they emerged with an entire loaf of the Pugliese bread, a wedge of pecorino, and a jar of the pesto sauce the owner swore was the best in the city.”
Ms. Sepeda adds, “Pantagruelica gourmet store, so popular that bread is gone on Saturdays before lunchtime closing, also has excellent white truffles for the holidays.”
A view of the campanile, the side of the church, and Rio di San Barnaba in John Singer Sargent’s painting Venetian Canal.