Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Basilica of Saints John and Paul), known in the Venetian dialect as San Zanipolo, is the largest church in Venice. The church is located in the homonymous square (Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo), in the Castello district (sestiere).
According to legend, the origins of the basilica are connected to a vision of doge Jacopo Tiepolo, who, in 1234, donated a piece of land to the Dominican friars, on which the structure will be built. The church was immediately erected, and dedicated to the Roman martyrs of the fourth century, John and Paul.
The Basilica was enlarged in the 14th century by two Dominican friars, Benvenuto of Bologna and Nicolò of Imola. The structure was completed in 1368, but it was solemnly cosecrated only on November 14, 1430.
In 1807, during the Napoleonic era, the Dominicans were removed from their convent, which was transformed into a hospital, and the church was deprived of numerous works of art.
The church has a salient facade in Gothic style, characterised by a large central rose window and two smaller lateral ones. The lower order of the facade is characterized by six niches, which house some sepulchres, and by the large portal, decorated with six marble columns, work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Bon.
The central part of the facade is crowned by three elaborate temple spiers, which house the statues of three major Dominican saints: Saint Dominic in the center, Saint Peter martyr on the left, and Saint Thomas Aquinas on the right.
The church has a Latin cross plan, with a transept and three naves divided by enormous cylindrical columns. The dimensions of the church are impressive: 101.60 meters in length, 45.80 meters in width in the transept area, and 32.20 meters in height.
On the walls, numerous monuments are leaning against the naves, and the chapels open to the right. In the transept, there are two chapels on each side, which flank the presbytery.
Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo is considered the pantheon of Venice, thanks to the large number of Venetian doges and other important people who were buried there since the 13th century. At least 150 tombstones and 37 monumental sepulchres are preserved inside, with 25 of them dedicated to the doges of Venice.
The most important monuments are the one belonging to the Mocenigo doges, entirely occupying the counter-facade of the Basilica, the one dedicated to doge Michele Morosini, located in the presbytery, and the one of doge Jacopo Tiepolo, founder of the church.
Among the most significant works of art in the church, stands the marvellous polyptych of Saint Vincenzo Ferrer by Giovanni Bellini, the Byzantine icon of Madonna della Pace, and the pictorial cycle from the Chapel of the Madonna del Rosario, work of Paolo Veronese.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of Saints John and Paul is located about 2 kilometers away from the Santa Lucia railway station. The closest waterbus stop is Ospedale, located about 400 meters away, on the vaporetto Lines 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2 and 22.