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San Teodoro

San Teodoro

I’d read about this Renaissance church and seen a few photos of it, and I was so excited to finally see it in person. What a weird little church, tucked away in a small courtyard right behind the apse of the Basilica di San Marco. It mystifies me as to why they felt the need to build another church in this location!

San Teodoro was built in 1486 by Giorgio Spavento (an architect sometimes credited for the famous spiral staircase, Scala Contarini del Bovolo). The little church is behind San Marco, and its right side is attached to the back of the Doge’s Palace. The brick façade was originally covered with frescoes which are long gone, and the doorway is surrounded with some fine floral carvings. The mosaic above the door shows San Teodoro (St. Theodore) fighting the dragon; this mosaic was moved here from the demolished church of Santa Maria Nova.


In the 16th century, architect Jacopo Sansovino built a huge buttress to support San Marco; this thing runs right into the front of the little church. Embedded in the buttress is a fascinating collection of stone and marble fragments from various restorations of San Marco over the centuries. A stones of Venice collage.



In “Another Venice,” Jacopo Fasolo describes this little courtyard:

“The hotchpotch effect is a perfect example of the Venetian expression “andar per le fodere,” that is reaching hidden areas by following secret paths, thus heightening the visitor’s sense of discovery and expectation.” He speculates that this area was a secret passage for the doge and his entourage, perhaps for security reasons after a couple of doges were assassinated while on procession around the city. Perhaps the doge felt the need for a small and secret church too?

The Fasolo book is wonderful, by the way, full of info about lesser-known places along with nice watercolors by the author.



This little church of San Teodoro is not to be confused with the long-gone cathedral of San Teodoro, dedicated to the Republic’s original patron saint, a Byzantine warrior-saint who fought a dragon like St. George. After the Venetians stole the body of San Marco in 829, Theodore was demoted and his church was demolished to build the much larger basilica though parts of the original church ( a marble wall and some stones, perhaps) are preserved in the Chapel of St. Isidore in San Marco.

Anyway, this church wasn’t open, and I don’t know if or when it ever is. I did find a photo of the interior on Flickr and it looks pretty cool inside. Looks like someone is still using it as a church too.

San Teodoro

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Comments (11)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, what a wonderful post. I enjoyed reading about the historical background and that little courtyard with the stone and marble collection. How interesting. I love the beautiful design on doorway.

Thank you so much for sharing some of your beautiful new discoveries from your recent trip. You took a lot of great photos.


Fascinating -- the great buttress shoving itself right into the church is remarkable! Your photos are excellent, I'm now really interested in finding this spot.

I really enjoyed Fasolo's description of "andar per le fodere.” I hadn't really thought in those terms before, but it does seem so Venetian: secret paths and hidden sights!

Thanks for uncovering another such site for us!


Fascinating as usual Annie. Have a happy and blessed Christmas. Keep up the good work in 2011. Regards Andrew

Thank you everyone and have a wonderful holiday. All the best in 2011 too!

Hi Annie,
I was able to enter that place again : )
A few more photos to my collection.

I wish you a merry Christmas!
Talk to you soon,


That is so cool. I really want to search this out next time I am in Venice. I love how you showed the ruins and added the information about the history. We stayed in an apartment just across from the Scala.

Hope you have a great New Years.

AnnaLivia and Marta, thanks and happy new year to you both!

Yay! I found this hidden treasure in March, last year. Thank you for reporting on it. Not many people would know about it, and I'm still not sure that I should have been in that courtyard!

Yvonne, I wasn't sure either and kept expecting someone to tell me to leave. Several people walked out of the back of the basilica while I was there, but no one kicked me out!


My wife,Cheryl ,read this post recently and we chatted as I remembered coming across it. I think the reason it was built here was that, at the time, the Basilica was the Doge's private chapel. Maybe the local populace wanted their own place of worship.

Andrew, you might be right, that makes sense to me. It's interesting that there were so many churches clustered around the Basilica and Piazza San Marco at that time...San Teodoro and San Basso plus two others that were later demolished. It just seems like Venice has a lot of churches per square mile! Of course, the population of Venice was larger back then than it is now.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 22, 2010 10:51 AM.

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