This is the first church in Venice that many visitors see because of its location across from the train station and also because there’s just no way to miss that huge green dome.
John Ruskin didn’t mince words about this one:
“One of the ugliest churches in Venice or elsewhere.”
I’m inclined to agree with him except for the fact that I’ve never actually seen this church except in photos; every time I’ve been to Venice, the façade has been covered over with scaffolding. The advertisements seem to change regularly and there was some controversy a few years ago when there was a fashion ad with a naked woman (that one didn’t stay up very long). I was lucky to get the marginally more tasteful kick-boxing ballerina in my photo above. :)
Ruskin’s rant about this church goes on to compare the church’s “black” dome to “an unusual species of gasometer.” At some point after Ruskin saw it, the dome was recovered with copper which turned green, though I doubt Ruskin would have seen this as an improvement. Everyone loves to bash this church – it’s probably legend, but supposedly Napoleon quipped that he’d seen churches without domes but he’d never seen a dome without a church until he saw this one. Pretty funny, whoever said it.
A view from the back, in the fog~
From the side~
The church and its history
There’s been a church here on this prime Grand Canal location since the 9th or 10th century. The actual name of the church is SS. Simeone e Giuda, dedicated to the apostles Simon and Jude. San Simeon Piccolo is a nickname that distinguished this church from the nearby and larger San Simeon Profeta (nicknamed San Simeon Grande). Even though this church became the “grande” one after its 18th century rebuilding, the nicknames remain.
This was one of the last churches rebuilt before the fall of the Republic and there was some drama involved when it was learned that the money to rebuild was raised by an enterprising parish priest who ran an illegal lottery with prizes that included plenary indulgences. Go figure.
The inside is surprisingly elegant with lots of marble and angels, and the church has an elaborate frescoed crypt, not so common in watery Venice. From Alessandra Boccato’s book about the churches in Venice: “There is a single octagonal room which leads to the burial rooms via four corridors whose walls are frescoed with devotional scenes, images of death and the Day of Judgment.” Sounds pretty spooky and cool; I’d love to see it.
The church has a campanile in back that I’ve never seen either. It’s only visible from a nearby courtyard and when I went looking for it, I couldn’t get there due to construction. It’s on my list…
A detail from Canaletto’s “The Grand Canal with San Simeon Piccolo” shows the church with the black dome. It does look better in green.
A late 19th century view~
To Visit This Church
The church’s portico was hit by a bomb during WWI, and I get the impression that restoration work has been ongoing ever since. Some books report that the church is deconsecrated and closed but it’s not – Mass is still celebrated there and at one time, the church even had a website that’s now disappeared. As far as I know, going to Mass is the only way to visit it; here’s the schedule~
Old Latin Mass every Sunday at 11 am to the accompaniment of Gregorian chants
Mass read Monday to Saturday at 8 am
First Saturday of the month: sung Mass and meditation at 18:30 (6:30 pm)