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San Geminiano

San Geminiano


This detail from a Canaletto painting of Piazza San Marco shows the Renaissance church of San Geminiano as it looked for 250 years before it was demolished by the French. It’s just so odd to see a church there facing the Basilica di San Marco.


San Geminiano


Today there’s a memorial in the pavement close to the entrance of the Correr Museum, with a drawing of the façade and an inscription that notes that the architect, Jacopo Sansovino, built the new church of San Geminiano in 1557, and it was demolished in 1807. It’s interesting that this memorial slab was installed in 1937, 130 years after the church was destroyed. Gone but clearly not forgotten.

Sansovino’s church was at least the third incarnation of this one. Legend has it that San Geminiano was founded in 554, making it one of the most ancient churches in Venice. I learned from Secret Venice that there’s another memorial slab in the Piazza that commemorates a different and older version of the church, which was demolished in the 13th century as part of a Piazza San Marco expansion project. We don't know what this church looked like but best guess is that it was Byzantine. Thanks so much to Bert for sharing his photo of this plaque which can be found in the vicinity of Caffe Florian.

San Geminiano (photo by Bert)


The church was moved further back when it was rebuilt and in de Barbari’s map of 1500, you can see that the next incarnation of the church had a free standing Gothic campanile. The Sansovino church had two small attached towers, not a free standing tower, as you can see in the 19th century etching below.

San Geminiano

Sansovino’s son, Francesco, wrote a history and guide to Venice in 1581; here’s how he described his father’s church:

“Perhaps the most ornate in the city, being faced both inside and out with precious marbles and Istrian stone, exceedingly rich, and perfectly conceived as a structure.”

In “A History of Venice,” John Julius Norwich wrote that San Geminiano was “one of the most spectacular small treasure-houses in the city.” When the Venetians stole the body of San Rocco from France in 1484, the holy relics resided in this church for a few years until the saint's own church was built.

So when San Geminiano was destroyed, its treasures and tombs were dispersed, and not all of them remained in Venice. Sansovino’s tomb was moved to the monastery adjacent to La Salute (he was later moved to San Marco), the tomb of John Law was relocated to San Moise, and the relics of San Geminiano himself (a 4th century bishop saint) were moved to the new 19th century church of Santissimo Nome di Gesu in the sestiere of Santa Croce.

The lovely Renaissance altar and its sculptures were moved to the church of San Giovanni di Malta; you can see photos of it on AnnaLivia’s blog.

The church’s organ doors by Veronese are now in the Galleria Estense in Modena. Here they are~

San Geminiano

The 19th century church of San Maurizio is supposed to pay homage to San Geminiano and perhaps the interior design is similar, but the facades are pretty different.

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Comments (8)

Andrew:

Thanks, Annie, for this follow-up.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, the history is so interesting. I really like the two quotes. Although the church was destroyed I'm glad that its treasures weren't and they were given to other churches. And its nice that they did a memorial for all to remember.

A wonderful post Annie. Thanks for writing it. Have a great week.

Andrew, you're welcome. Thanks to you for the motivation to finally get around to researching this one.

Kathy, thanks. I can't help but wish that photography had been invented before this church (and so many others) were demolished.

Sandrac:

It's helpful that Venetians have such long memories and commemorate their past. This looks like it must have been a very beautiful church; I wonder why the French destroyed it? (I suppose they were certain they had something better in mind!)

Hi Sandra, good to hear from you. Hope all is well in Roma.

The French had set up headquarters in the palazzo next to this church and wanted to expand it to include an Imperial Ballroom and more room in general. Not sure why they didn't take over the Palazzo Ducale when they conquered Venice!

Great post Annie. I'm taking note where the treasures went.

Anne:

Wow Annie, this is fascinating. When I first saw the title in my blog role I thought it was an alternate spelling for
San Gimignano in Tuscany! Thanks for this excellent post and for all your research efforts!

Daniel, thank you!

Hi Anne, I'm not sure but it might be an alternate spelling for the same saint. I'll check.

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