It’s hard to imagine what this part of Venice used to be like. At one time, this was the western-most part of the city, very quiet and undeveloped, and this church and its convent were surrounded by orchards and kitchen gardens. Sant' Andrea della Zirada is a Gothic church so, of course, John Ruskin loved it and he also praised the view:
“Well worth visiting for the sake of the peculiarly sweet and melancholy effect of its little grass-grown campo, opening to the lagoon and the Alps.”
What would Ruskin think today if he saw the view of the highway bridge with cars zipping across and all the modern buildings of Piazzale Roma that surround this little church now? We can no longer see the Alps, instead we see the People Mover!
The real name of this church is Sant'Andrea Apostolo but like many other churches in Venice, it acquired a nickname. “Zirada” means “bend” and refers to the curve of the canal in front of the church. This curve was at one time one of the important milestones of the historic Regatta; boats turned around here at a pole (paleto) in the canal.
The church was founded in 1329 by four Venetian noble-women along with a convent and a hospice for poor widows. The church we see today was built in 1475 and according to reports, still has an elegant barco or singing gallery for the nuns. At one time, the church housed a fine altarpiece with a painting by Veronese of St. Jerome, now in the Accademia. The convent is mentioned a number of times in Mary Laven’s "Virgins of Venice", which recounts various escapades of the noble-born Sant’ Andrea nuns (at one point, the bell tower door was locked by decree after the nuns allegedly climbed to the top and “flaunted” themselves to the neighborhood). The whole complex was suppressed in the early 19th century, and the convent was demolished. Recently the church was the studio of sculptor Gianni Arico.
2015 Update: see a peek inside this church!
And another peek with crazy modern art (thank you Yvonne!).
The lunette above the entrance has two reliefs; the lower one shows The Calling of Apostles Peter and Andrew (14th century) and above is an image of Christ (late Gothic, 15th century).
On the side of the church is this 14th century work which shows St. Andrew blessing a kneeling man.
I visited this church on a foggy morning in December 2008; things have changed since then as you can see below. The last photo came from Wikipedia Commons and shows the new People Mover light rail under construction. It's open now and moving people right by this little church.