This is a deconsecrated but still active church, easy to find because of its proximity to the Accademia bridge and campo Santo Stefano. Founded in 1084 by Doge Vitale Falier who dedicated it to his name saint (Vidal is sometimes spelled Vitale).
This 2nd century saint was a wealthy man from Milan, married to St. Valeria, and their sons, Gervase and Protase, became saints too and have their own church in Venice (San Trovaso). For years, the clergy of San Vidal would lead an annual procession over to Dorsoduro to visit the sons’ church, keeping it all in the family I guess. The most famous church dedicated to this Italian saint is the basilica in Ravenna.
Venice's church of San Vidal was rebuilt in the 17th century, and Canaletto’s painting, The Stonemason’s Yard, shows the reconstruction in progress. The church was closed along with so many others after the fall of the Republic.
There’s a sweet little note in Lorenzetti’s guide book (Venice and Its Lagoon) published in the early 20th century. He notes that San Vidal is closed but says that if you want to visit it, you can ask the nearby flower seller for a key. Simpler times in Venice…
In his 1985 book, Vidal in Venice, Gore Vidal reported that dozens of cats lived in the campo next to this church, supported by local ladies and doing well. At that time, the church was an art gallery.
Well, the cats are gone, alas, and today, the church hosts concerts by Interpreti Veneziani and has recently joined the Chorus Pass organization and is now the headquarters for its cultural activities.
This church is almost always open and is worth stopping in since there are several nice paintings inside, including an Annunciation by Sebastiano Ricci and a Guardian Angel with Saints by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta.
The best is over the main altar, a painting of San Vidal on horseback by Carpaccio (I say, never pass up an opportunity to see a Carpaccio!). Hugh Honour (Companion Guide to Venice) says that he’s sure that Carpaccio used the San Marco horses as models for the horse in this painting. Here's a video of Interpreti Veneziani performing a Vivaldi cello concert in front of the Carpaccio.
San Vidal has one of the prettiest bell towers in Venice.
Opening Hours (incredibly generous!):
Monday-Sunday 9-5:30. Admission was free in November; I'm not sure if that will change now that the church has joined the Chorus Pass org.
“The specific genius of Canaletto was his ability to record the vistas of his native Venice….it speaks a great deal for Canaletto’s genuine love of his city that such a potentially uninteresting view should become, in his hands, a great masterpiece.”
The painting shows the Santa Maria della Carita bell tower, which collapsed into the Grand Canal in 1744 and wasn’t rebuilt. The church of Santa Maria della Carita is now part of the Accademia museum of art. The painting is below but looks better on the National Gallery site.