This church is fascinating and I've got so many photos that it’s going to take more than one post, so here’s part one.
No one knows for sure when this church was founded, but it was rebuilt for the first time in 1009. So it’s an ancient church and one of the oldest parishes in Venice, though the current building dates only to the mid-17th century. By that time, the Venetian Republic was in full-scale economic decline which explains why this church and about six others re-built around the same time are unfinished; there were no wealthy donors to pay for marble façades to cover the bare brick fronts of these churches. The San Pantalon campanile was rebuilt in the 18th century.
San Pantalon was a 4th century doctor saint from Nicomedia, in what is now Turkey. You can see the saint inside the church in Veronese’s final painting, San Pantalon Healing a Child, as well as in the church’s most famous work, its incredible ceiling. Venetian artist, Giovanni Antonio Fumiani (1645-1710), spent almost 25 years constructing this ceiling which consists of 40 separate canvases combined to create an amazingly unified work that depicts the martyrdom and glorification of San Pantalon. A large interactive reproduction can be seen here that gives some sense of how extraordinary it is. Be sure to take some coins for the light box that illuminates this ceiling!
There are other paintings by Fumiani in San Pantalon altars, and you can also find his work in the churches of San Rocco and San Zaccaria. There’s a legend that he fell to his death from the scaffolding just as he was completing the San Pantalon ceiling, but historians don’t seem to agree about whether this story is true. I hope it’s not. Fumiani is buried in San Pantalon along with his great masterpiece.
As impressive as the Fumiani ceiling is, there’s some equally incredible art in a couple of chapels tucked away behind the main sanctuary. Coming up soon are posts about the "Capella del Santo Chiodo" (Chapel of the Holy Nail) and the "Oratory of the Madonna di Loreto."
To find San Pantalon, walk north from Campo Santa Margherita and you'll come to this bridge which will take you over to the church. This photo below was taken in 2008 when the campo in front of the church was being restored. Click "continue reading" below for the church's Opening Hours.
San Pantalon seems to be an active parish church; when I visited on one December afternoon, a group of ladies were putting up Christmas decorations and having a wonderful time. It always makes me happy to encounter Venetian church ladies!
This church has its own website and even a Facebook page! The visiting hours are limited; it’s definitely worth planning ahead and making time to visit this one.
Monday – Saturday, 10-12 and 1-3
Closed on Sunday. Mass times are listed on the church website.
A quote from Guilio Lorenzetti (Venice and Its Lagoon) about Fumiani’s ceiling:
“…with designs from his lively imagination, it constitutes his greatest glory, carried out on canvas with unusual skill because of its vast scale and is the only example of its kind in Venice and perhaps even in Italy.”