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San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano

This is a “must see” church, and don’t let the fact that it’s been under-going a comprehensive restoration for many years stop you from visiting. Every time I’ve visited, something new has been unveiled, and the restoration work being done by Save Venice is fantastic. I look forward to the day when all the work is completed, and we can see this church as a whole. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the Venetian High Renaissance and the work of Veronese, who decorated San Sebastiano with over 50 oil paintings and frescoes.

San Sebastiano

This religious complex was founded in 1393 by monks who were followers of St. Jerome. It began with a monastery, a hospice, and a small oratory dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. In 1455, the oratory was rebuilt, became a church, and was rededicated to St. Sebastian in response to the plague epidemic of 1464.

It’s a mystery as to why they rebuilt the church again only a few decades later but they did, and that’s the church we see today, built in the early 16th century. Shortly after the completion of the church, the monks commissioned a 27-year-old artist from Verona to decorate the sacristy. They were happy with his work, and Veronese continued to paint in San Sebastiano for the next 25 years.

San Sebastiano

Paulo Caliari (Veronese) was born in Verona in 1528 and began his painting career there; he died in Venice in 1588 and is buried in San Sebastiano. There’s a story that he took refuge in the San Sebastiano monastery after killing a rival, perhaps as part of a love triangle, but most sources say that there’s simply no evidence that this story is true. Perhaps a jealous fellow artist started the rumor after the young artist from out of town received this commission? The real reason that Veronese got the San Sebastiano commission might be that the abbot of the monastery at that time was also from Verona. See his paintings in this church and elsewhere here.

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano is an easy saint to recognize – young, handsome, and half-naked with a bunch of arrows in his chest. This interesting article notes that, in the period from 1450-1530, St. Sebastian was the fifth most popular saint in Venice based on the number of times he appeared in altar paintings in churches (the top four were Mary, John the Baptist, Jerome, and Peter). His popularity can be attributed to his healing abilities. San Sebastiano is one of several Venetian churches dedicated to saints who were believed to be able to offer healing and relief from the plague; other “plague churches” are San Giobbe, Redentore, San Rocco, and Santa Maria della Salute.

San Sebastiano

The campanile is a nice one, and on its side is one of my favorite pieces of bell tower sculpture, an 11th century Byzantine cross with kissing love birds.

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano is Veronese’s church, for sure, but there’s also a lovely and sweet painting of San Nicolo by Titian in one of the chapels.

There are always things to look forward to seeing in Venice (next time!), and I can’t wait to see the restored ceiling paintings and the early 16th century floor of glazed majolica tiles in the Annunciation Chapel. The San Sebastiano restoration is supposed to be completed next year (2013).

San Sebastiano

continued below...

San Sebastiano

To visit this church:

San Sebastiano is a Chorus Pass church. Visiting hours are Monday-Saturday 10-5.

Mass Times: Daily 8:30 am; Sunday 11 am

San Sebastiano

From "Venice, World Cultural Guide" by Terisio Pignatti~

"One of the greatest pictorial cycles of the sixteenth century...is the marvelous series of frescoes and canvases by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) in San Sebastiano, a small church which is more or less his own personal museum and includes work from his youthful period (sacristy 1533) to his maturity (ceiling, frescoes of the choir, c. 1560) and canvases in the presbytery (1570). A visit to San Sebastiano makes up for many other works destroyed or carried off to the main galleries of the world.

Here Veronese's style found its perfect formulation. The aim of his painting was not the idyllic representation of reality...nor its visionary transfiguration, it was the exaltation of an abundance of energy and joy. One need only look at the ceiling to feel all the rapture of Veronese's world. The young Esther goes up into a colonnaded portico...dressed in the most joyous hues ever seen in Venice, in a bright, clear range of colour absolutely characteristic of Veronese.

Anticipating modern theories of the decomposition of light, Veronese instinctively discovered the increase in luminosity deriving from the juxtaposition of two complementary colours. In this way, his reds and blues, yellows and violets create on the canvas myriad faceted planes of light, with an extraordinary effect of unreality and intensity. Local colours take on reflections of the colours that are next to them: black is abolished, and the shadows are coloured so that luminosity is greater than that of reality itself."

San Sebastiano

Titian's San Nicolo (1563). I love the expression on his face. He radiates kindness.

San Nicolo

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Comments (11)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, wow this is a wonderful church. The paintings inside are stunning. I really like his style. It will be very exciting and amazing to see this church when the restoration is complete too. Your photos are really beautiful and I can understand why that wonderful bell tower sculpture is one of your favorites. Very cool.

Thanks so much for introducing San Sebastian to us. Have a wonderful weekend.

Annie, this is one of my favorite churches. Thanks for pointing out the campanile details, I am sad to say I never noticed this!

Thanks for such a wonderful post with gorgeous photos.


Such a beautiful church. And the majolica tile floor is stunning.


Fantastic post, Annie! Really interesting about the history of the building and the art pieces it contains. And your photos are gorgeous. No wonder you love this beautiful church.

Enjoy your weekend!! :D

Dear Anne,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful church! I must have missed where the church is. I am planning a trip to Venice in late November and look forward to scrolling though your fabulous blog.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Carol, I'm so happy that you have a trip in the works! At the bottom of each church post, you will see "posted to Dorsoduro" (for example) which tells you which sestiere the church is in. I'm going to leave a comment on your blog too.


Morning Annie.
This is a great post! I am a member of Save Venice's Boston Chapter, which is sponsoring the lion's share (so to speak) of the restorations at San Sebastiano. Four of us are currently working on a fund raising trip to Sarasota, Florida's Ringling Museum. There will be a major exhibition of works by Veronese there at the time. The museum and historic Ca' d'Zan are phenomenal! The trip is open to all even if you are not a member of Save Venice. The proceeds of the trip will be used for additional restoration works at this particular church. If anyone is interested in the trip they should visit the Save Venice website and contact the Boston Chapter for details! (Hope you don't mind the "plug" for the trip but I think you'll agree it's a fantastic cause!)

Christopher, you guys are doing such great work. The fund raising trip sounds fantastic! I don't mind the plug at all.

I'd love to know how much more time until the San Sebastiano restoration is completed?!


Thanks Annie!
Here's some additional information for you: http://www.savevenice.org/restorations/restoration-single-work?post=840


I love this church, and was hoping to attend Sunday Mass there when we are visiting in Sept. However, we also have to leave Venice around noon. So my question is... does "daily" Mass schedule include Sunday also...or is it just Mon-Sat? Was hoping there was an 8:30 Mass on Sunday besides the 11am, because the 11am will be too late for us :(

Hi Donna, as far as I know the 11 am Mass time is the only one on Sunday. But that came from a 2012 Mass Schedule and times could have changed. Maybe you can go by the church and look at the schedule on the door? Have a great time in Venice!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 19, 2012 11:34 AM.

The previous post in this blog was PhotoHunt: Glass.

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