There are over 250 churches in Venice, each one better than another. Even smaller ones were built by greatest architects and decorated by artists such as Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Bellini, Lotto.
The most famous of churches in Venice is Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica, a gem of the Byzantine period. The cathedral was rebuilt in the 12th century by which time it was already called by Venetians “Church of gold” (“Chiesa d’Oro”) for its opulent décor and mosaics. The entire story of Christianity, from the Old Testament to the life of Christ is depicted in the magnificent mosaics that cover more than 8,500 sq. m of surface area. The priceless treasures that have been donated to the Basilica over centuries by Venetian nobles and merchants brought from faraway lands are collected in St. Mark’s Treasury.
Another splendid church in San Marco district, on of Venice’s sestieri, is Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio, west of Piazza San Marco. Its impressive white Venetian Baroque façade is reminiscent of a palace more than a church: the exterior statues represent Honour, Virtue, Fame and Wisdom, with the figure of Admiral Antonio Barbaro, the chief benefactor, in the centre. Inside, you can see beautiful paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto.
For a fine example of Venetian Gothic architecture head to San Polo district to find the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Frari. Since its construction in the 12th century the church has played an important role in the religious and cultural life of the city. Due to its importance, some of the finest masters were invited to work in the Basilica: Bellini, Titan, Donatello created masterpieces that can be admired here today. The church has three organs and regular concerts of classical music are organised here.
The unassuming-looking 15th century Church of Saint Sebastian in Dorsoduro district hides a real treat for art lovers: numerous frescoes by Paolo Veronese and the altar that he designed. The famous artist worked in the church for a number of years and, on his death in 1588, was buried here.
The Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore is also worth a visit for its majestic Palladian architecture and the stunning Last Supper painting by Tintoretto. Make sure you climb up the Bell Tower, which is 20 metres lower than St. Mark’s Bell tower but has breathtaking wide views of the Venice Lagoon and less tourists.
Photos by: Steven Zucker, Bill Rand, Web Gallery of Art, Didier Descouens