After the fall of the Republic, there were so many drastic changes to Venice’s churches and religious institutions. During the decades of the 19th century when Venice was under French and Austrian rule, many churches, convents, and monasteries were closed, some of them were demolished, and the number of parishes in Venice was reduced from 70 to 30.
So the church of San Luca is unique in that it’s been a parish church since it was founded in 1072 and remains one today. San Luca has changed in appearance since it was founded, however – it was rebuilt and expanded in the Gothic era, and then rebuilt again in 1581. That’s the church we see today, more or less –part of the façade fell off in 1827 and was replaced, and more restoration work was done to the interior in 1881. The church faces a canal and that might have something to do with the façade falling off – even today, you can see the rising damp on the front of the church.
San Luca must have had some status early on since some of the relics brought to Venice after the 1204 Sack of Constantinople were given to the church. San Luca (St. Luke) is the patron saint of artists, and for centuries, the Scuola dei Pittori (guild of painters) had an altar in this church.
The first time I visited this church was on a Sunday morning for Mass. Attendance was good and it wasn’t just elderly people, there were families with children there too. When the service was over, people lingered, talking to each other and to the priest. There was a real sense of community which was nice to experience as I walked around looking at the art.
German artist Carlo Loth, who spent most of his life working in Venice, is buried in San Luca. The church has a “Miracle of San Lorenzo Giustiniani” painted by Loth, as well as paintings by Palma il Giovane and Heinrich Meyring.
The church’s masterpiece is on the high altar, Veronese’s Virgin in Glory with St. Luke, painted in 1581. There's a lovely frescoed ceiling by Murano artist, Sebastiano Santi (1789-1866) who also worked on the decorations inside La Fenice and Museo Correr. See the San Luca ceiling here.
My favorite thing in this church is a 15th century Gothic wooden statue of the Madonna Enthroned. A wonderful piece of art (first altar on the right). I also saw fossils in the floor of this church.
A memorial plaque on the outside of San Luca, dedicated to the members of the parish who died in the first world war~
To visit San Luca:
Open daily 8.00-12.00; 4.00-6.30
Sundays 10:30 and 11:30
Weekdays: 9 AM
The campanile is a typical brick Gothic tower, built in 1457; this is the best I could do to photograph it! I'm sure there's someplace with a better vantage point but I haven't found it yet.
San Luca was the parish church of writer Pietro Aretino who was buried here in 1556. Lorenzetti (Venice and Its Lagoon) described Aretino gently, “a writer of brilliant mind but of debauched life."
This was taken from a sotoportego across the canal from San Luca. You can see how close the church is to the water.