The Church of San Giovanni and Paolo
The church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo – sometimes also referred to as San Zanipolo – is one of Venice’s largest churches, and it was built to honor Sts. John and Paul. It is a parish church of the Vicariate of San Marco-Castello and is the principal Dominican church of Venice. The first church on this location was ordered by Doge Jacopo Tiepolo, who gave the land on which it stood to the Dominicans after he dreamed of a flock of white doves flying over the area, which was – at that time – swampland. The Dominicans opened the first church there in 1246. That structure was demolished in 1333 when the growing congregation prompted the need for a larger building. However, it took nearly a century to build the new church, which finally opened and was consecrated in 1430.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo is built in the Italian Gothic Style and is made of brick. Many noble families favored it as a burial place and about 25 doges as well as military commanders and other famous men of the Republic, including several artists, have assumed a final resting place there, housed in ornately decorated tombs. The many tombs of notables earned the church the nickname ‘Pantheon of Venice’. The artwork is plentiful. The main altar, dedicated to Vincenzo Ferrer, a Spanish Dominican saint, is decorated by a large polyptych by Giovanni Bellini and an altarpiece by Lorenzo Lotto displays the alms of Saint Anthony. The bell tower has 3 bells in D major.
The Church of San Stae
We do not know the exact origins of the Church of San Stae, in Italian Sant’Eustachio (Saint Eustache) , but it seems that it already existed in the twelfth century. Fundamental for the understanding of the early 18th century Venetian painting, the church of San Stae (Sant’Eustachio) is strikingly coherent as an architectural whole. The lavish external façade faces the Grand Canal, and was designed by Domenico Rossi in 1709, characterized by its rich decoration thanks to the contribution from sculptors such as Giuseppe Torretto, Antonio Tarsia, Pietro Baratta, and Antonio Corradini. Giovanni Grassi’s late 17th-century interior reveals a clear influence from Palladio. The single nave is flanked on each side by three open chapels; in the center of the church the flooring is occupied by a large tombstone that marks the burial place of the Mocenigo family. Passing along the altars on the right wall, you encounter significant works by Nicolò Bambini, Giuseppe Camerata, and Antonio Balestra (who decorated the chapel of the confraternity of tiraoro and battioro, adjacent to the church). The three chapels on the left host, in order, works by Giuseppe Torretto and Pietro Baratta on the Foscarini chapel, the “Assumption” by Francesco Migliori (further 1722) and “The Saints Caterina and Andrea” (1719) by Jacopo Amigoni. Furthermore, the presbytery has the most important paintings of the church: on the ceiling there is a broad canvas by Bartolomeo Letterini, “The Virtues and Two Brothers from the School of the Saints” from 1708, whilst on the two side walls – above and below, the two works by Giuseppe Angeli – “The Sacrifice of Melchisedech” and “The Fall of Manna” by Giuseppe Angeli (after 1770), are twelve smaller canvasses depicting the “Apostles”. Among these various artists, these works include the following masterpieces: “The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew” by the young Giambattista Tiepolo (1722), “The Martyrdom of Saint Giacomo” by Giambattista Piazzetta (1717), and “The Liberation of Saint Pietro” by Sebastiano Ricci (1717-24). In the sacristy there are also some interesting works like the “Crucifixion” by Maffeo Verona (XVII century), Giambattista Pittoni’s “Trajan ordering St. Eustache to Adore Pagan idols”, and “St. Eustache in Prison” by Bartolomeo Litterini (XVIII).
The Church of San Pietro di Castello
The basilica of San Pietro di Castello played a central role in Venetian history. From 775 to 1451 it was a Diocesan Church under the Patriarchate of Grado, then later became a Cathedral in its own right and the seat of the Patriarch of Venice until 1807. San Pietro stands on the antique island of Olivolo, now known as Castello, which was the first residential settlement and became the religious, political, and commercial centre in the lagoon. The first church here was built in the VII century and was dedicated to the Byzantine Saints Sergio and Bacco; whilst the new basilica, dedicated to Saint Pietro the Apostle, was part of a group of churches that Bishop Magno had constructed in the IX century. The present building is the result of work carried out at the end of the XVI century and during the first three decades of the XVII century: the renovation of the facade is the work of Francesco Smeraldi based on original designs by Andrea Palladio in 1556. The imposing bell-tower in Istrian stone is an elegant Renaissance structure designed by Mauro Codussi (1482-1490).
The internal part of the cathedral has a Latin-cross form, divided by three naves and surmounted by a massive cupola. The predominate decoration is from the seventeenth-century, realized after the fire that destroyed the furniture and treasure of the antique church. Noteworthy is also the high altar of inlaid polychrome marble designed in 1649 by Baldassare Longhena and containing an urn with the remains of the first patriarch of Venice, Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani. To reinforce the fascinating primigenie of this antique church, on the right nave is placed the so-called Cathedral of Saint Pietro, traditionally considered the seat of Saint Antiochia and vice versa the work originated from Antiochia, but probably assembled in the XIII century utilizing an ancient Arab funeral stele with inscriptions from the Koran. The main artistic treasures of the church are found in the right and left chapels of the presbytery, respectively, the masterpiece of Pietro Liberi (1660) “The Plague of Serpents” and the unique cross of wood and embossed copper, again an assemblage of Romanesque, Byzantine and 14th-century work.
The Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (St. Mary of the Friars), known locally as i Frari, is one of the greatest churches of Venice. It stands on the Campo dei Frari at the heart of the San Polo district of the city. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Assunzione della Beata Virgine) and is notable for its many masterpieces of Venetian Renaissance art and monuments to Renaissance sculptors and artists. The Franciscanswere granted land to build a church here in 1250, but the building was not completed until 1338. Work almost immediately began on its much larger replacement, the current church, which took over a century to build. The campanile (bell tower), the second tallest in the city after that of San Marco, was completed in 1396.
The imposing Frari is built of brick in the Italian Gothic style. The exterior is deliberately plain in accordance with the Franciscan emphasis on poverty and austerity. The interior is light and spacious. It contains the only rood screen still in place in Venice and many excellent examples of Renaissance art. Look for Titian’s Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro in the left aisle. The Virgin was modelled after the artist’s wife, who died in childbirth soon after. Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, over the main altar, was unveiled in 1518. It was not initially accepted by the church because of the innovative style and bright colors, especially the trademark red, but these features would later make it famous. Titian himself, who died of the plague in 1576, is buried in a monumental tomb in the church.
MUSICAL INFORMATION (Aldo Bova “Venice places of music”)
There are detailed news of the existence, from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century, of a vocal and instrumental ensemble with two organists and a choirmaster. On December 9, 1643 a solemn memorial service by Claudio Monteverdi was held in the Basilica. In November 1861 Richard Wagner was impressed by the painting Assunta by Titian “… it gave me an emotion full of extraordinary aesthetic elevation … I decided to compose the Meistersinger … in music there is nothing so accomplished “. The two singers’ galleries above the chancel were added in the eighteenth century: The organ on the left side has one keyboard and 11 registers and is the oldest and is attributed to Giovan Battista Piaggia (1732); the right one, one keyboard and 20 registers, is a Callido. The third organ, hidden behind the high, altar is a Mascioni (1928) with three keyboards and 20 registers. In the second chapel on the left of the main altar the Ark of the Milanese can be found, this is the place where Monteverdi was buried.